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Define your ideal company
Pros and cons of working for a startup and corporate
If you're reading this, most likely, you're targeting the corporate world of Big Tech. But is it what you are really looking for? In this guide, we'll step back and compare the pros and cons of working for a startup and corporate world.

Companies differ in size, work culture, hierarchical structure, and a myriad of other criteria. Your career is a set of stages. Each stage requires a different environment to support it. For instance, freedom to experiment is useful when you're unsure what role will be the best for you. In a startup, you have the highest chances to try different hats.

It is important to define your ideal company before you start looking for a job to narrow the search scope and, more importantly, reiterate your professional goals for the next few years.
Define your ideal company before looking for a job to narrow the scope of the search and reiterate your professional goals for the next few years
Different types of companies
To define your ideal company, we find it useful to break them down into buckets by the stage of growth.

On the far left, we have startups. Fun, agile, bold in strategy with a lot of role flexibility but most likely without the product that the market is ready to pay for. Corporates are on the far right side. Stable, well-known, usually well-paid with a well-established portfolio of the products.
In the middle, we have hypergrowth or, as some call them, breakout companies. Those are the ones that already found the product-market fit and are rapidly scaling. Those are the companies that have the highest chance to become the next tech unicorns.

Joining a company at a hypergrowth stage is beneficial from career and compensation perspectives. Here are a few reasons from Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape, a co-founding partner of Andreessen Horowitz):

  • You'll get to do lots of stuff, which means you'll gain skills and experience very quickly.
  • You'll probably get promoted quickly. Fast-growing companies are characterized by a chronic lack of people who can step up to all the important new leadership jobs that are being created all the time.
  • You'll get used to being in a high-energy, rapidly-changing environment with sharp people and high expectations. It's like training for a marathon while wearing ankle weights – if you ever end up going to a big company, you'll blow everyone away.
Criteria we used
Below is a list of criteria we considered comparing different types of companies. It isn't extensive. Take it as a base for your research and add criteria that are important for you. Use references from friends and Google search to evaluate each one to define your ideal company.

  • Freedom to experiment: do you want to have an opportunity to try yourself in different roles, develop your "generalist" skills?
  • Mentorship: how important is mentorship for you? Do you prefer learning from your own mistakes or learning from others?
  • Stability of income: do you prefer a "potentially" huge reward sometime in the future with a modest monthly salary or stability of reasonably high monthly income? Another question is, are you ready to take the risk of a startup that can go bankrupt at some point, and you'll lose the job?
  • Impact: do you prefer a big influence on a small scale product or a low influence on a large scale product? Or put it in a different perspective, do you want to be Head of Department for a whole startup or Team Lead for one product feature in a big tech company?
  • Decision making: how important for you is to move quickly from idea to production? Do you prefer to make decisions with a few peers or master the art of stakeholder management?
Note that not all corporates have roles strictly defined. At the same time, not all startups give great freedom to experiment. It is always a scale. Most of the companies in the category will be like that, but you'll have to validate your assumptions during the interview process. Ask questions, find references - make sure you know what you're signing up for.
Not all corporates have roles strictly defined. Not all startups give freedom to experiment... You have to validate your assumptions during the interview process
Case study: Vitaliy
GetSocial was an early-stage startup. For 5 years I've been working there, I had full flexibility in defining my role. Also, I had a great impact on the product, defining what we build next. On the other hand, GetSocial was an early-stage startup, and I never was sure if the company would exist one year from now.

GetSocial gave me a chance to understand what role would be the best for me. Now it was time to find better mentorship opportunities to grow in the selected area. The second goal was to have a more stable job and a better-paid job.

Initially, I was looking for a job in a late-stage startup that found a product-market fit and was in the scaling phase. Big Tech companies were a second priority for me, as I avoided rigidly defined roles and bureaucracy.
I landed at Facebook, which is on the corporate side of the scale, but Solution Engineering operates more like a startup inside corporate. We define what we work on, how much Product Management, Engineering, or client interactions do we take on but get the stability of a big company.

1. Defining your ideal company is important to narrow the search scope and reiterate your professional goals for the next few years.

2. Use the list of criteria as a guide to define your ideal company. Extend it to match your current needs.

3. Most of the companies in the category will match the pattern, but you have to validate your assumptions during the interview process.
Action items

1. Make a copy of My ideal company [Template].

2. Follow the guide in the template. Build your own definition of the ideal company. Draw where you are now on each scale and where you'd like to be in your next challenge. Seriously put it on paper.
In the next chapter, we'll help you define your ideal role, match it with the right job titles, and identify your essential criteria to narrow down your search.