Startup vs. Corporate: Finding your career in engineering
Aug. 4, 2017
by Elena Lucas and Serena Xu
On August 2nd, four engineers gathered to talk about their career path and how they've navigated or chosen between startups and corporate jobs.
Marie Washer, Product Engineer & Service Engineering, Tesla
Yesh Mahadev, QA Engineer at FreeWire Technologies
Katherine Elliott, Software Engineer at kWh Analytics
Lauren Long, Software Engineer at Google
Moderator: Elena Lucas, Co-Founder of Treviso Partners and UtilityAPI
Here are the takeaways: Making the decision between startups vs. corporates
|Startups||• You can wear many hats, doing many different types of tasks
• Lots of individual responsibility
• Enormous room for growth
• Speed at which you learn is like drinking from a firehose
• Constraints on time and financial resources stretches your creativity
|• Customer driven deadlines and focusing on features can create pressure, may lead to low quality code/product
• Limited formal training on the job
|Corporate||• The ability to surround yourself with domain experts
• Resources for training - inside and outside your field
|• Slower pace due to corporate bureaucracy
• Limited variability in day-to-day tasks
Subject matter expert (SME) vs. management - Value the time spent executing as a subject matter expert. People may ask you to move into management early, but stay a SME as long as you need because it will lay a solid foundation for management later in your career. Management will inevitably force you to become a generalist. However, the deep knowledge you acquire on one subject will enable you to identify patterns in other areas that you may have to manage.
Yes, the company matters, but the team you’re in matters, too. During the interview process, ask questions that will allow you to assess how the team works together.
Sometimes the biggest factor in your job making decision is the impact your work can have. Whether it’s taking part in the endeavour to transition into a clean energy future or just an app that brings a smile to a consumer’s face, find the impact that drives you.
Be honest with yourself. At the end of the day, choose the job opportunity for what and how you need to learn at the time. Sometimes startups can be too deadline driven and there is no one to show you the ropes. However, this is a prime opportunity to hit the ground running and learn on the job - a highly marketable skill all in itself.