The idea of working for a small tech start-up conjures up images of open plan offices in Silicon Valley, working with your laptop on a bean bag or wearing a hoodie while playing table tennis with your colleagues.
While that’s not always the case, analysis has shown that 1 year at a start-up can provide you with the same variety, intensity and challenge as 7 years at an enterprise or larger company. I’ve worked in varying roles for a number of different companies ranging from large nationwide ones to being one of 4 employees, and I wanted to discuss the good points and sometimes not-so-good points of working for a tech start-up.
Babysitters and bramble pickers
My previous job list reads like the whiteboard brain storming session ‘Pauline’ from ‘A League of Gentlemen’ does with the “worthless dole scum” she’s trying to encourage back in to work. I’ve worked in retail (which I think everyone should do at least once in their career), as a personal trainer, as a design engineer, even for a funeral director, but the role I find myself in now is perfect for me.
Getting stuck in
If you’re one of those “that’s not my job” type of people (which is okay!), working for a tech SME probably isn’t for you. With fewer numbers of staff, start-ups and SMEs tend to require helping out colleagues in their areas, and mucking in for the company overall, where you normally wouldn't. Week one at Level for me consisted of diagramming business process flows, attending a social media training course, and lugging office desks up three flights of stairs. Being willing to be adaptable and work where required is almost a prerequisite.
One of the appealing things to me about working for a smaller business is the flexibility of the working pattern. As long as the work gets done, it doesn't matter when or where that happens. This doesn’t mean I’m always starting late and finishing early – if I’m up against it with a project I’ll find my daily routine consisting of ‘wake up, kids to nursery, work, home for tea, kids to bed, work, bed’. This doesn't happen often but, on the flip side, when things are quieter it can be a case of finishing early or taking a few hours out during the day, to then carry on in the evening. That flexibility is key to managing a good work-life balance. We’ve all heard the extreme stories of having to ask to go to the toilet in some larger corporations, where every minute is counted. Rest assured, you are unlikely to find that at a tech start-up – the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday work week seems to be a thing of the past.
The balancing act of staffing vs customers is the deciding factor whether any business is going to be a success or not. Too many staff and not enough customers will hamper cashflow, but too many customers and not enough staff will mean you can’t deliver what you're selling. That balancing act is often amplified for a start-up, which can bring along a number of uncertainties. Whether it’s job security or being paid on time, you should be aware of these risks before deciding whether a role is a good fit for you. A recent study shows that 50% of small businesses fail within the first year, and 95% fail within 5. Thankfully, Level Global has cleared those hurdles already and is well into its 6th year of existence, with no sign of slowing down!
Sense of achievement
Having been with Level Global for 3.5 years since there were fewer than 10 of us, until now when we are just welcoming employee number 40, being a part of the company’s journey along the way brings huge job satisfaction. Watching us grow, develop and bring on more and more customers who believe in what we are providing, and knowing that all of us, including myself, are playing a key role in the journey of the business gets me in to the office with a spring in my step.
The reality is, one person’s pros might be another’s cons. Evaluating how you work best, and what is best for your current situation should be the driving factor in where you choose to work, but with a bit of luck and hard work, you’ll find one that is just right for you.