The real-life differences between the cliche switch “from corporate to startup”.
About a year ago I switched from a corporate working environment to a startup one.
While deciding about the switch, I consulted our dearest internet about the positives, negatives, stories, the success cases, the failures, the flat hierarchy, the perks, the flexible hours, etc, etc. It all sounded so good-ish on paper, so I guess I would never know until I tried it, right?
I come from a consulting background, where life was wrapped around powerpoint presentations and spreadsheets. A miserable work-life balance featuring pressed shirts and ties. I can’t say that I hated it though. The impact on our clients was real and we had a saying: if you survive this, you can make it anywhere. Somewhat of a motivational je ne sais quoi for those late nights, I guess…anyhow.
Following my thoughts, prayers, and comments. This view is strictly personal and based on my experience.
If yours was different let me know.
tl;dr in the end
1. Work is still work
I switched from writing business and technical requirements to Jira stories with confluence documentation. You still need to put in the hours, create a foolproof flow, understand how everything works.
Given you do it in a MacBook rather than a Thinkpad, you use Jira instead of SAP and you have standup’s instead of meetings, but at the end of the day, work is work. You might want to vent a bit with an Xbox game, but you still need to get back to your MacBook and figure dat pickle out.
Other work-related issues remain and no matter how immersive and connected everything is, elements like feedback and communication are still a vital part of getting it right.
As such, my pro tip is: perks, were, are and will be perks. Focus on the actual job, the culture and the people.
2. Serious Casual
It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Wearing a t-shirt instead of a suit and tie’s promotes a relaxed atmosphere, but don’t be fooled. A standup is exactly as that daily report, and you gotta be on point.
Responsibilities are still there.
(note: on the t-shirt’s, for me, it’s still more like shirts. I really do not own that many t-shirts, but a hell of a lot of shirts…so I kinda oversold it)
3. Flexible with a dash of “I really need to get this out ASAP so I need to get to the office…you guessed it…ASAP”
The flexibility of a startup environment helps you handle personal issues (or your way of life) a bit better, but you still have the core hours and you still need to work with people. I expect everyone on my team to be part of the daily standup, one way or another as they expect me there as well.
Usually, a job features teams and for teams to work and be productive together, the core of it must be working together (time wise not location wise).
4. Xbox or beer?
I guess this is a moo point because people are different and they enjoy different stuff, but would you rather focus on getting stuff done and getting out of the office on time, or slugging around and basically spending all your life in the office?
I know I am kind of repeating myself as this falls under the perks, but I am not ready to switch after work gossip and beers with Xbox, sorry.
5. Lean is good but needs a lot of chicken fillet’s
Startups try to be lean, without beefing(get it..get it?) up the troops, automating a lot of processes and focusing on removing the human errors out of the operations, which is great.
Startups also need to get there. Most of these organizations are building something and usually from scratch, so till they get to the part where lean works and everything is automated, it will take some good ol’ time. As such, till then, you will need to be like the chicken breast, a versatile protein that can be a part of so many recipes while trying not to get bored and still reach the required calorie intake.
Note: I am currently very hungry, so I apologize for the food-related puns.
6. To succeed in a monkey business you need to be somewhat of a monkey
Based on Einstein's famous quote, sometimes change is hard. If you are used to a specific regime, a structured environment where everything is pre-defined, then it’s going to be hard to adapt. Now people have the added benefit that they are the same species, but you need to accept the fact that things are going to be a bit chaotic and you need to handle them.
This controlled chaos and somewhat of an uncertainty is not for everyone. You won’t know until you try it though. It’s like sushi, you either like it, or you don’t or you acquire the taste.
7. You must enjoy it.
Working for or in a startup is not a 9–5 job. It does not feature a monotonous approach to your working life! it is full of changing variables that you have to adjust and enjoy.
You must strive in the environment to actually get the sense of what is going on. If you treat it as a job, then why are you switching jobs in the first place?
- Work is work and no matter how collaborative and engaged it is, you still need to put in the hours, deal with the issues (as there are no problems!) and get stuff done;
- No more ties on most of the occasions;
- The hours can be a tad flexible, but it’s not the hours, it’s the job, as you still have to do it, so not really;
- The fun stuff are there (like pool, xbox, table tennis), but who has the time to deal with them? For me at least, the after-work beer with the colleagues did not change to orange juice and table tennis…
- Being lean means that the work-life balance looks exactly as a consultant’s life;
- It’s not for everyone, as you need to strive in a bit of chaos;
- I like it.