When people think of working in the software engineering field, they typically think about FAANG and various unicorn companies. These companies are very great given that they offer awesome compensation packages, great benefits, and a wide variety of connections.
They are usually the end game for most people, but startups also have their own set of perks that you may not realize. For this reason, I will go over six pros of working as a software engineer at a startup.
1. You Have the Opportunity to Build Things from the Ground Up
Joining a startup means that everyone at the company is likely very new, and whatever product you will be building is likely in its infancy stage. Trust me, this is a huge pro, especially if you are starting out in your career because you will essentially just be getting paid to learn. If you are a newcomer at bigger companies, you will likely not be put on a team that is doing something completely new.
Your team might start you off pretty slow, picking up bug tickets here and there, maybe implementing very small features, and this could go on for potentially a very long time.
As for a small company, you are likely just going to be thrown into deep water and told to implement some big feature, and you have to do it to the best of your ability. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a bad thing in certain situations, especially if you have no guidance. However, it actually can be better for your career because you will be able to learn a bunch of different things at a more rapid pace in the right setting.
2. You Have the Chance to Wear Many Hats
It is very likely that a startup will not have the funds to hire every single possible role in a typical engineering organization. Think of how many roles there are in a typical engineering organization. There are front-end engineers, back-end engineers, mobile engineers, DevOps, and many others.
A startup might not be able to afford to hire all of these people, and this is where you might have to take on the role of multiple people. This can be beneficial if you can learn things quickly because you will get to dive into roles that you may not have otherwise if you worked at a bigger company.
If you think about it, big companies have so much money that they can hire, for every single role, Ten times over if they wanted to. You are likely going to be pigeonholed into doing one thing for a while for the role that you take at a big company, which might be a good or bad thing depending on how you want to look at it.
3. You Can Climb to Higher-Level Positions Quicker than at a Big Company
When you are working at a startup, your contributions will make a huge impact on the success of the company. So, it will not be a surprise that if you are doing good work, that hard work will usually be seen when fewer people are working there, and you will be promoted to higher and higher positions. I know it goes without saying, but with each higher position comes more responsibility and more pay, which can only benefit your career moving forward.
At a large company, you are a small fish in a big pond, and your contributions may not be seen as easily. Now, I am not saying that you will not be promoted if you work at a big company, you definitely will. All of those companies are great, but I would argue that you definitely have more competition.
4. You Can Help Define the Standards
Now, this pro kind of goes hand in hand with building things from the ground up. In a startup, there may be certain standards that might have not been put in place because no one has taken the initiative on them. In that case, you can take the initiative to put these standards in place.
Let’s say, for example, you join the company and you notice that there are no coding guidelines or maybe your team does not do any code reviews, whatever it is, you can take the initiative to improve those standards, and that way, the next time someone is onboarded, they will have an easier time.
This pro supports the claim of climbing to higher positions quicker because if you are defining standards, it will be looked at in really high regard, and I’m sure that will not go unnoticed. Typically, somebody who is defining standards in an organization is probably more senior, but if you can take on that role, it could mean climbing to a higher position.
5. You Can Expand Your Soft Skills
I know you might be thinking that you can expand off skills anywhere you go, which definitely is true, but at a startup, you are likely going to get to know every single person at the company. These people could be other engineers, HR people, sales, investors, and maybe even the CEO. I see this as a huge pro because you are likely going to be talking to people that do not do what you do, and that will improve your communication skills.
At a big company, you are likely only going to have to talk to people inside your team. I am not saying it is not possible to make friends with salespeople or HR people in a big company, I am just saying that there is such a huge group of people working at these companies that you are likely only going to have the chance to get to know people in the engineering organization.
In a startup, you might be taken into sales meetings or even asked to present in front of investors, and doing those things will teach you how to talk to non-technical people about technical things without using any complicated jargon.
6. You Will Likely Have a Shorter or No Commute
This is something many people don’t think about when they get their first job or looking for their first job in the software engineering field. There are a lot more startups than there are established big companies. With that in mind, if you work at a startup, you likely have a better opportunity to work in an area that is not so densely populated, or it might even be remote-friendly.
Maybe you are not making as much money at a startup, but this could mean you get to live in a lower cost of living area, you don’t have to pay money on gas, or different car expenses. These are things you should think about if you have multiple offers and you are trying to do determine which one you should take.
Big companies are usually in very high cost of living areas, maybe dead center in some big city. This is just something to think about when you do take a job. Think about the amount of travel you are going to have to do. I know this is not really a strong pro, that is why I had it as the last one.
All in all, it comes down to hour choice. Working at a big tech company is very good. I just thought startups get less credit than they deserve. After all, the guys in the big companies usually end up branching out and starting their own thing, like Clement from Algoexpert. With that said, make an informed decision and remember that small steps matter too as long as they are in the right direction.