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Size matters – comparing corporate vs. startup life

(BUSINESS) There are tremendous differences between working at a corporation and working at a startup. Let’s discuss them in depth so you know if you’re on the right boat!

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large company vs. startup (image of two ships)

Where do you work? Take a second and answer that.

Did you feel that spark? Was your first emotion positive or negative?

I’ve been on both sides of the coin.

On one hand, it can be a delicate feeling that illuminates your life, where you just know you’re on the right path.

On the other, it could be a marathon with no end in sight. You could describe what you do, and be proud of your accomplishments, but you couldn’t very well explain why you do it (besides the money, we all knew that).

If you’re not on either end of the extreme, then you fall somewhere in the middle.

Our profession is a key part of our life. Its an identity or a person we become, and we spend over a third of our lives as this person.

Isn’t it worth it to evaluate how you feel about work? How to recognize what makes a good job good? How to work towards something we love?

It’s time to be honest about what work means to you. There is no reason to be apathetic about your place of employment.

You’ve heard the adage, “Mondays aren’t so bad, its your job that sucks.”

In this multi-part series, I’ll discuss the factors that can make a job invigorating, and provide you real ways to predict and measure satisfaction.

In this article, I’ll give you the hidden pros and cons of working at large corporations versus small companies and startups – using boats as a metaphor.

Size matters.

When joining a new company, a huge factor to your happiness will be company size and the organizational structure.

How large companies are different.

Large companies are like a capital ship cruising through the ocean. Outfitted with the a vast amount of resources and crew, the voyage is easy. A ship that large moves slowly, and life on board is not overly exciting. Each crew member has a specific, well-defined job, orders are followed to a T, and it becomes difficult to stand out. Crew members are regularly replaced.

large ship

Let’s talk about systems at large companies.

Despite outward displays of a flat hierarchy and fair company structure, it is the nature of large organizations to be bureaucratic. There are too many moving pieces to handle things case by case. In these organizations, there will be systems in place which serve the company at large rather than specific people or projects within.

This results in decisions you might find unfair or rules that seem to have no good reason behind them.

For instance, at large companies, you could be hired three days after a promotion eligibility cycle and be ineligible for promotion that year, even if you exceed all other performance criteria.

In the same vein, large companies inevitably have tremendous internal competition. There will be thousands (yes, thousands) of new hires like yourself looking to get a raise or promotion. It becomes hard to stand out, and politics can become a factor in your career trajectory, which is the norm for large companies.

Lastly, there is a lot of luck at play. It is common for the hiring managers and department heads to pick from the new stack of people. There is usually no hiring group that optimizes placement based on merit and skills, the first year of career can be dictated by your entry point into the company, a decision made by a stranger.

Its inevitable for large groups to develop power structures.

These structures often control the trajectory of the individuals underneath them – which can be very limiting to your career.

Unfortunately, you can be put in a position to pick people and alliances over the correct course of action; it is simply the nature of the game at a large company, and even this can be enjoyable for some.

As you move higher up the food chain, you will need to play this game in order to survive. The competition is simply too high, and the needs and wants of those within said power structures will always overshadow those not within a group.

You can tell I personally value career advancement from the negatives I perceived at larger companies. There are still a lot of positives, too.

One major upside is career stability.

It’s unlikely you will be laid off without knowing in advance at a large company. You can depend on a large company to employ you for several years, even when markets change and layoffs begin, you often get plenty of notice and can plan your exit.

Another (serious) upside is benefits.

The benefits are usually quite good, you receive nice equipment and can get reimbursed for extras. Health insurance and retirement savings options are seamless and setup quickly. Most companies also emphasize continuing education; there is no better way to keep your skills sharp at work, so take advantage of any resources you receive.

Networking is very different at large companies.

Any large company with a healthy culture has great internal communication. There are often groups based around each functional group (technologies, financials, design), and you are free to reach out to anyone.

You would be surprised at the people that would respond to an interesting email. Managers, even directors will typically make time to hear what employees think, even if its just to gather intelligence.

There is great ease in this environment.

There’s no doubt about it – working at large companies can be a lot more relaxed. All performance is measured proportionally to the group.

This is a double edged sword, it means you can coast or put in little effort and survive for quite some time. It also means it’s much harder to be promoted based on achievements.

There are 6 questions to ask yourself about working at a large company.

1. Is performance measured with respect to your experience level? Is there a quota or limit on the number of people that can be promoted?

2. Are there any rules or regulations regarding career advancement?

3. How easy is it to get transferred to another department, role, or project?

4. What are additional benefits aside from healthcare and retirement? What are the best ways to take advantage of them?

5. How open is the company to internal communication? Are there knowledge groups for your particular area? What extracurriculars can you get involved in?

6. How long do people typically work at this company? How long does it take them to get promoted from each level?

How working at a small company or startup is different.

Small companies are like a small warship. Agile and maneuverable, they avoid stormy weather. Each member of the small crew is invaluable, their job functions are crucial, and they often have multiple responsibilities. The ship moves a lot faster and consumes less resources, but could face peril in a storm.

speedboat

At smaller companies, we figure everything out together.

Depending on what stage the small company or startup is in, rules and regulations will be in development, or even non-existent.

This means although there aren’t as many resources for you to follow, and you could be the one to define your company’s processes.

If you’re a resourceful person, or you enjoy improving existing structures – you would enjoy the opportunities faced at a startup.

If you work better under well-defined and directive leadership, then you might fare better in a corporate role.

This means there are less obstacles between you and your work. There is a smaller hierarchy for you to consider when making decisions, and you will most likely complete work faster and can accomplish more.

You will have a better chance to take lead on projects, which often leads to quicker promotions as the startup grows.

However this also potentially means that things are being mismanaged by the lack of different perspectives. Beware of small companies in bad situations due to their past decisions.

It’s definitely more flexible.

On par with less regulations, there are less employee standards you have to live up to – this means you may be able to get flexible working arrangements.

But of course, there are sacrifices.

During intense periods at a startup, you cannot hide behind the accomplishments of your team – it simply isn’t big enough for that.

Everyone must do their part, and everybody’s part is crucial to the company as a whole. No coasting allowed – you will need to put in the hours to get the job done, no matter what, or risk consequences for the entire company.

This could be perceived as a negative to some people, or a learning and growth experience to others.

There may be a time where you will need to make sacrifices to ensure the company’s well being. This may mean staying late, putting off friends and family, etc.

Your life may revolve around work for more than 40 hours a week. At large corporations, you can get away with doing the bare minimum for quite some time.

I’m not trying to scare you, and a lot of this depends on the startup, but you need to be aware of the trying times that every startup goes through – when it’s make or break.

Within a small company, you will always be around the same group of people.

This makes the relationships between you and others paramount.

Negative sentiments between team members lead to a loss of trust and a failure of the business. This is why small companies will always hire culture-fit over experience.

I urge you to build one on one relationships with everyone at your small company – you will need this trust later on. At a larger company, you should definitely make friends, but know that you might not end up friends with everyone, and that’s alright. At a larger company, you can may end up being transferred or assigned to a new project.

One major advantage is the opportunity for growth.

You have tremendous opportunities, as most individuals in a startup are wearing several hats, especially pitching to partners or potential customers.

You will have the opportunity to pivot or take charge of the role you want, as long as you take initiative. Enjoy this freedom, and your help in these other areas will be appreciated.

If you take advantage of the opportunity, and become a valued and reliable part of the team, then there is no doubt your satisfaction will grow along with the company.

I would recommend you go above and beyond within the area for your role, establishing expertise and consulting for the rest of the group. You can eventually identify other areas that the startup needs help with and repeat the process there.

The elephant in the room is the risks involved.

Unlike large corporations, startups usually face formidable threats to their existence. There will be work that will be crucial for the company to become profitable, and failure isn’t an option.

This means if you show signs of being unable to handle it, you may be let go sooner rather than later. Even worse, if you end up flubbing a major project, everyone may be in jeopardy. That’s a lot of pressure.

There are 6 questions to ask yourself about working at a small company or startup.

1. How are you getting along with others?

2. What rules and regulations exist for your job function?

3. Can you recommend company practices; are they open to change?

4. How have the responsibilities of other people on your team changed over time?

5. What critical tasks does your team handle?

6. What happens if someone fails at their task?

7. What other areas of the company do they need help with?

No matter what ship you board, know that you always have the freedom to board another.

Do not settle for a trip in the wrong direction, at the wrong speed, or where you are not the captain – if that’s what you want.

Explore your available options, and you’ll then have the perspective to say: I have a great job.

Sarim Q, known as the tech.romantic, is a professional & creative coach for the tech, art, and entrepreneurial spaces. He shares personal strategy with ambitious readers, giving advice on productivity, networking, marketing/branding, technology, and startup strategy. After working with global consulting firms, startups, and running his own digital agency, he now offers his professional approach to personal pursuits. He is the Co-Founder of Socio, an experimental new social education platform, where you learn secrets of self, how to gracefully navigate social groups, and the process of building a legacy of your own.

Business News

Debunking ridiculous remote work myths (and some serious survival tips)

(BUSINESS) People new to remote work (or sending their teams home) are still nervous and have no concept of what really happens when people work from home. We’ll debunk that.

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remote work

With an entire nation (or planet) moving to a remote workforce in the midst of a global pandemic, we’re hearing some pretty wild misunderstandings of what remote work is, and how it functions effectively. Bosses are scrambling to buy up spying tech for some good ol’ hamfisted enforcement.

For those of us who have been remote for ages, it’s fascinating to watch the transition. And also offensive. People tweeting about getting to take naps and not wear pants. That’s not remote work, that’s just you being unsupervised like a child for five minutes, KEVIN.

I was chatting with my buddy Michael Pascuzzi about remote work (full disclosure, he’s a Moderator in our Remote Digital Jobs group) and despite cracking many jokes, we realized there is a lot of noise to cut through.

In the spirit of offering meat for you in these hungry times, Michael offered to put his thoughts on paper. And why should you listen to him? It’s because he has worked for several tech companies, both startups and enterprises including TrackingPoint, 3DR, and H.P. He currently works remotely for Crayon, a Norwegian Digital Transformation, and Cloud Services company. He holds an M.B.A. in Digital Media Management from St. Edward’s University and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Connecticut. He’s also wonderfully weird. And a remote worker.


In his own words below:

So you’re working remotely now. Cool.

At first, it feels.. strange. But, as you get into it, you’ll get comfortable with your routine.

I’m sure you have a preconceived notion of remote workers. You probably thought this type of work was just for Unabombers and nomads. Maybe you don’t think you have a real job any longer because you’re doing it in your Underoos.

While, yes, working from home does allow you the option to work in your underwear, you still probably shouldn’t. There’s a lot to working from home and getting work done. You’re going to get a crash course in the coming weeks. I’m going to give you a leg up on your peers by telling you what you really need to know and what nobody else is telling you about remote work.

The following is a cheat sheet to getting ahead of your peers – and maybe make a case for you to continue in this lifestyle after the pandemic has subsided.

1. Working remotely doesn’t mean playtime

Right now, you’re roughly one week into your new working arrangement. You’ve got your table, your computer, and your whole set up. You’re also taking advantage of:
– The creature comforts of home
– Nobody looking over your shoulder

Irish coffees for breakfast, no pants-wearing, and naps during lunch are all available to you now that you work from home. And let’s not forget about #WhiteClawWednesdays!

These are all terrible ideas.

Here’s why:

If you come to a phone/video meeting drunk, we’ll know. If you’re on a video call with bedhead and a wrinkled shirt, we’ll assume you’re unprofessional. White Claw Wednesdays are probably okay in moderation, but taking a shot every time Karen says something annoying on a conference call is a bad idea!

Working from home should be an enjoyable and comfortable experience, but it shouldn’t be fun. It’s still work; and work sucks.

2. Working remotely should give you a better work/life balance:

Initially, you’ll find it hard for you and for your employer to separate your work hours from your life hours. Staying working only during your work hours is VITAL to keeping your sanity. Microsoft Office 365 has a tool that measures your wellbeing in “My Analytics.” Below is a picture of my wellbeing for this month. It’s not good.

digital accounting of wellbeing

The leadership team and managers at my company stress wellbeing. We take that chart seriously, and failing to have quiet days doesn’t make you look like a hard worker. Hard workers get shit done 8-5.

3. Working remotely also doesn’t mean firing the nanny

Working remotely doesn’t equal additional family time. Your work hours are your work hours. The pandemic quarantine doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for families to coexist without overlapping.

And it’s okay to occasionally have a “coworker.” But, you need to create your own private workspace within the hustle and bustle of homeschooling going on around you.

Here are a few more best practices you won’t read anywhere else:

You’ll need to learn to distance yourself from “work” when no longer at your “office.” This means powering down at the end of the day. Having a work/life balance when you work from home tends to swing in the opposite direction than you probably assumed; work can take over your life.

  • You’re going to have to turn off mobile notifications 100% of the time. It’s a pandemic, you’re not traveling; you don’t need them on – ever.
  • Turn off your computer at the end of the day. It’s good for your computer, and it’s fantastic for your mental health.
  • If your manager needs to reach you or you need to contact a direct report, just follow the wise words of Kim Possible: Call me, beep me if you wanna reach me.
  • You must wear pants. (FYI guys, dark leggings look like real pants and are super comfortable) Get ready for your day as if it were a regular office. Take a shower, shave, comb your hair, eat breakfast in the kitchen, wear jewelry. Look like you give a damn.

  • You must turn on your camera for video calls (and please don’t take your laptop into the bathroom. no field trips). Nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of all communication. We need to see your face, your posture, your eyerolls.
  • All of your calls should be video calls. You’ll find you’ll miss humans if you do not see them daily.
  • Clean the room (or at least directly behind you). We shouldn’t see laundry and quarantine snacks in the background. We absolutely should never HEAR you opening a bag of chips.
  • Close your door. Kitchen, office, bedroom… whatever you’re using needs to be YOUR space. It’s your office. Your clubhouse. Only one Homer allowed.

And for the love of all that isn’t COVID, please wear pants.

More resources:

I’m on a team at Crayon that freely consults on working remotely and cloud technology. This isn’t a sales pitch. If you have questions or need productivity tips, you can always email my team directly at contact.us@crayon.com.

Meanwhile, here are some additional resources to dig into:

  1. 20 tips for working from home
  2. Guide to engaging a distributed workforce
  3. Top 15 tips to effectively manage remote employees
  4. How to make working from home work for you

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Business News

Will House Democrats pass the new Senate stimulus package?

(BUSINESS NEWS) A new stimulus package for the COVID-19 pandemic has come from the senate, the question now is will the House Democrats accept and pass it?

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Democrats house of reps

Congress can’t seem to agree about COVID-19 relief. Yesterday, the Senate and the White House came to an agreement on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package. The Democrats are now the hold-up. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publicly stated that the House will be reviewing the bill, but there is no commitment as to whether the bill will pass or not. The Hill reported that some House Democrats are concerned that they have not provided any input.

What’s in the measure?

According to CBS News, the actual text of the measure hasn’t been released, but they did get information from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about some of the contents:

• Expanded unemployment benefits to boost the maximum benefit and to give laid-off workers full pay for four months
• Direct payments to individuals making less than $99,000
• $130 billion for hospitals
• $367 billion in loans for small business
• $150 billion for state and local governments
• $500 billion for large businesses
• Creates an oversight board to govern large loans
• Prohibitions to prevent President Trump and family from getting federal relief

Will the measure pass?

Pelosi has said that this measure is a big improvement over the Republican’s first proposal. It seems as if she is working hard to move the measure through the House, but given the current state of politics, it’s hard to believe that anything will be done without some debate. Many Democrats have pushed for a food stamp increase, which is not in the current measure. However, the Democrats did win on the oversight board that protects the employees of the companies who are getting loans. Money for states was another Democrat victory in the current measure.

If the bill can pass the House unanimously, lawmakers won’t have to vote on the floor. If the House can’t agree, the House will need to reconvene and amend the Senate measure or pass their own measure. Under the COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine issues, it might be difficult to get anything done quickly. The urgency is real, but so is the responsibility. The Democrats want the money to do what Congress intends, not for CEO compensation or stock buyouts.

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Business News

MLMs under investigation for claiming they have a COVID-19 miracle cure

(BUSINESS NEWS) Guys, there is currently no cure for COVID-19 and it’s definitely not being sold by your friend in an MLM or whatever their company calls themselves.

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MLM miracle cure

It should go without saying that essential oils are NOT a cure for COVID-19, but unfortunately, the MLMs are at it again. Yes, that’s right, there are people trying to market their oils, pills…etc. as a way to stave off the pandemic that is currently upon us. So before we go any further, may I remind y’all that there is no miracle cure to treat or prevent the virus.

Do not use MLM products as a replacement for the actions laid out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), like social distancing and vigorous hand washing.

Don’t get me wrong, if you or your friends or relatives want to use MLM products on top of the advice given by doctors and scientists, go ahead. But advertising that these products can cure a disease that’s currently spreading across the world isn’t just irresponsible, it’s dangerous. Even if you don’t catch it, you’re still at risk of spreading the virus.

As of right now, the FTC is investigating seven companies over COVID-19 related claims, but you should be suspicious of anyone claiming they have something that will help. Do your homework. Sources like the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) are great places to start if you’re unsure about information that you see on social media or hear from a friend. Disinformation is everywhere, so it’s vital to keep track of sources.

If you do stumble across a friend or family member trying to slip in MLM sales during this global crisis, be civil in your rebuttals. Many people join MLMs because they’ve been struggling to make money elsewhere. MLMs are notorious for targeting immigrants and stay-at-home moms. With COVID-19 bringing a slew of job loss, financial circumstances for many are more precarious than ever, which could very well put pressure on people in MLMs.

In short: MLM corporations that advertise a miracle cure? I didn’t think these companies could be more evil, but I was wrong. Your friend on Facebook touting their essential oil as a miracle cure? Definitely not great, but there might be more going on than meets the eye, so be honest with them, but also be kind.

It’s no magic cure, but a drop of kindness could go a long way right now.

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