If you work at a megacorp today, how do you know if you’re ready to make the big leap to the startup world?
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself:
Here’s the thing, even in well-run startups, there’s nothing like the command structure, hierarchy, and clear roles of a huge megacorp.
Big companies thrive on deep layers of people and titles and information.
Features aren’t in planning for months. There’s no internal handbook describing exactly how your role works. Every “first” has to be invented.
You kind of have to figure it out on your own.
It can be so fun to be at the earliest stage of building not just a product, but a company itself.
Be honest with yourself about how excited you would be to work in a more fluid, early-stage environment. It’s not for everyone (and that’s ok!)
By their very nature, big company roles tend toward specialization. As a dev in particular, you are rewarded in a megacorp for building deep tribal knowledge of labyrinthine internal code bases and technologies.
When I worked at Microsoft, often the entire stack from the pixels on screen to the compiler was all Microsoft-internal code.
Much more of the code you write will actually be building product value, vs. just feeding the internal engineering system.
Startup compensation works differently than it does at big company. The offer may look strange compared to what you are used to, and include unfamiliar components.
You need to evaluate a startup offer differently.
The stock component is often called “golden handcuffs,” because the megacorp has to handcuff you to your job to get you to stay. ☹️
As a result, the income is predictable and safe, with little upside but also little risk.
What you have instead is actual company ownership with a tremendous upside.
Startup equity upside is all about 100x growth, not 10% growth. It is exponential.
Or it could be worth nothing—hence the risk.
If your goal is to max out guaranteed cash earnings in your 1st year, a megacorp will almost always win.
Consider, though, why they have to overpay people so much to work there.
Startups are all about learning. Not book learning, like reading Plato’s Republic (usually), but about rapidly assimilating new skills.
Figuring out what you need to know to solve hard problems, and then turning around and doing that again and again.
I can’t predict accurately what skills you might need in 2 years. But I know if you are great at learning, you can pick up whatever you need to.
While adeptness at learning won’t necessarily work against you in a megacorp (though you might get bored), in a startup, it is absolutely required.
Not everyone does. As an extreme introvert, I have struggled with this in my career.
Yet, in a startup environment, true collaboration is frequent and necessary; people simply must work closely together or the company will fail.
I actually loved the first few years in which I often went for days at a time without a scheduled meeting, being able to just put on my headphones and code the entire day without interruption. That was bliss.
But, the work that you are doing relates directly to other people. Not just to a line item on someone’s schedule. You have to figure out each piece with others.
A high-growth startup means collaborative work.
Ask yourself the right questions (and be honest in answering) and you will be on your way! 💫