I often meet people – especially Techies who have million questions regarding Startups. What are they? Why should one work for one? What are the risks involved? Is it better than working for an MNC? And so on. In fact, there are loads of articles and blog posts on the Net where you can get quality information on lifestyle at Silicon Valley startups. Can’t say much about startup culture and lifestyle in London, and in India, cause didn’t come across many articles on the Net.
Before I do mention my top 5 Pros, here’s my list of favorites to read on this topic:
- The Truth About Working At A Startup, by Dylan Love
- FAQ: How to Get a Job at a Silicon Valley Startup
- I’ll never work for a big company again, by Ken Cochrane
- Ten realities of working for a startup, by Mark Evans
- The Startup You Want To Work At The Most Is Your Own, by Alexia Tsotsis
- What to Expect When Working With a Startup, by Celine Roque
- How To Get A Job At A Startup If You Have No Skills, by Justin Kan
- Whom Should You Hire at a Startup? (Attitude over Aptitude), by Mark Suster –> highly recommended read for all
Without proceeding any further, I wish to make one thing very clear. There are thousands of pros, and thousands of cons for working at startups. One can write a book of 10,000 pages on this topic… and still not cover a few points. I wish to cover the ones which I feel are significant from my perspective. Secondly, this ain’t free advice or anything – just the way I see it. Thus, read at your own peril.
Top 5 Pros:
1. Maturity: Whether you’re a star C developer, or the shy content writer, or dreamy Jony Ive aspiring Designer, or an Online Sales professional – there’s no place better on earth than getting your hands real dirty, and thereby learning the skills of the trade, than a startup. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a Tech startup. But does this mean, every Tom & Dick & Harry – who have been hired as a part-time or full-time intern at a startup – becomes a Bill Gates eventually? Technically, no. The reason here is – the validity of the first statement of this para eventually depends on the person’s, what I call – ‘Fire In The Belly‘. If the individual has it, and has what it takes – a startup provides the perfect, often chaotic environment, for breaking the mold of the person and making them into something – absolutely new and in most cases, as I’ve observed, better. Eventually, not only your technical skills, but also, man-management and soft-skills improve by multiple factors. One of the most important reasons for this – the absence of set processes, guidelines, policies and strict bureaucracy. Thus, by the time, you’ve moved on to another company, after 5 or more years working in a startup, you shall see – you’re not only a more mature person in nature, but better understanding, dynamic and an excellent professional as well.
At my first startup (which was my first full-time job after Uni) in the U.K. for a Financial firm, we had 1 person on a rotational basis to wash coffee cups at the end of the day, every day, out of 15 odd people or so we had in the company at that time. I felt extremely bad washing others’ cups/plates/saucers (when my turns came), thus, spoke to my boss, the CEO once about this. Told him – Mate, I studied for my postgrads at Oxford – I can’t wash cups and plates! I realize the folly today, after 5 years of work in many Startups, smaller firms, bigger firms and MNCs. A good boss needs to be able to roll up his/her sleeves and clean shit, when your client, and more importantly, time and/or situation demands.
2. Bonding: There are extroverts, and then, there are introverts. Which one you are – I do not know. But there’s no better place on earth, to come out of your cocoon, if you’re working in a startup. In bigger MNCs, yes, you do have parties, weekends galas, and dinners – but the bonding is at a more operational level, rather than, at a personal, or functional level. I have seen embedded developers becoming best friends with content writers in startups, but never seen this happen in bigger firms. Individuals tend to meet and socialize with other individuals – at a quintessentially, more operational professional level.
3. Experimentation: Definitely one of the most important reasons why highly skilled professionals, creative thinkers and ‘above-average’ individuals love working in startups. You can experiment – with data, datasets, processes, code, snippets, strategies, plans, and so on. In each and every startup that I’ve worked for till date, some went on to become successful, and some failed, but I would definitely rate ‘experimentation’ and R&D were at the heart of what most of the guys were doing. Besides, controlled R&D adds immense value to your work besides improving the already existing standards, policies and guidelines. It pushes the status-quo – which is excellent always. Besides becoming a star-performer, it provides ample opportunity of becoming and establishing yourself as an ‘exceptional asset‘ for the company. In the long run, this means – promotions, perks, higher salaries; and if all goes well, and the company goes Public, an excellent Stock options offer as well. Thus, don’t stop pushing. Keeping Looking for how to better standard processes, code and strategies!
4. Come As You Are: The most important thing for working in any startup is not which country you’re born, or which Uni you did your Masters or MBA at, but the overall attitude you possess about work, education, innovation and life in general. That is the core of getting hired for a startup and becoming a star performer throughout the years. Be open, and come with an open mind. Leaving a Fortune company and coming to a startup, how to know whether its a correct decision or not? Well, do the candle trick – I always suggest. Sit in a dark room, with no source of light at all, light a candle in the middle of the room, sit 5 feet away from it, and stare at the flame. Sit for 2 hours – and ask yourself the most important question that comes to your mind. You shall have the answer before 2 hours is over. Always remember – ‘Do what you Love. You’ve got to find what you Love. As with all matters of the Heart, you’ll know when you find It‘. So, be prepared to be tossed inside a burning pan, with no set rules, regulations, guidelines, bosses and supervisors to care and cuddle you – Just Come As You Are.
5. Stronger: Everyone makes or made mistakes. Steve Jobs included. You and I do as well. But to take responsibility of the decision that we took – separates us from a fool. The more work that one handles in a startup – chances are something or other – someday – sooner or later – will go wrong. Wrong subject line in an email campaign, that email to the Client which was never meant to be sent, or getting boozed up the evening before the most important presentation to the Investors. Shit happens! It will again! But to take responsibility of the decision is extremely important – say sorry, and move on. Maybe, this is sounding like a reiteration of the first point, ‘Maturity’, but it ain’t. Stronger here refers to – not growing biceps and triceps – but to grow the Strength of the Mind. I once read someplace, have never forgotten – “Strength is the quality of the Mind. Nothing to do with Muscles“. Same in a startup – more responsibilities you handle, you’re exposing yourself to more number of causal factors which can make the responsibilities, either obsolete or take wrong decisions, but that is where the fun is. It makes you – inherently stronger, better, and eventually, a successful person – both, as an individual and a professional.
Steve Jobs explaining the Rules for Success:
Rule #1: Have Passion for WHAT you’re doing
Rule #2: Find great people… A’s attract A, B’s attract C. So whatever it takes, and whatever the costs – hire exceptional people.