Why Wouldn’t You Want to Work at a Tech Startup?
A year ago, I left my job as a Process Engineer at a copper mine to become a Software Engineer at a startup, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. With the tech industry exploding and software engineering being listed as one of the top jobs, it was a no brainer. I was lucky to get a job at a fintech startup in Salt Lake City called Nav, and it is just too hard not to share how awesome it is. So here you go, my opinions on how fandantastic it is to work for a tech startup.
When I was working as a Process Engineer, my work-life balance was all off. I used to have to drive 1.25 hours to work, be there for 9–10 hours and then drive back home another 1.25 hours, turning my 9 hours days into 11–12 hour days, 5 days a week. It was absolutely exhausting. I’ve also heard similar stories from other fellow chemical engineers, working night shift and being on call on the weekends.
That hasn’t been my experience at Nav. When I first started working I asked my manager “What time do I have to be here in the morning?”, I couldn’t get a straight answer. “As long as you’re here during core hours, you’re fine,” he said. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but after a few days I got it. Some people get there earlier and leave earlier while others get there later and leave later. As long as you are there for important meetings and when your coworkers need you, it doesn’t matter when you get to work or when you leave. It is also extremely flexible when you have errands to run or doctors appointments, just let your team know you’re going to be late or leave early. And if you’re sick, just don’t show up. Nobody wants to be sick with you.
On top of the flexible hours, startups tend to be pretty generous with vacation time. One of the job offers I received for a full-stack web developer position offered at least 5 weeks of vacation. As a process engineer I only got 2 weeks, which is not nearly enough time to be young and travel. At Nav, we have “unlimited vacation.” Yes, you read that right. We can take off pretty much whenever we want. Of course, like our founders Levi and Caton always say, we have to “use our brains” when asking for time off. Since we are part of small teams we need be conscious of other people taking time off and coordinate with the projects we have going on so everything runs smoothly.
Work From Home (aka most amazing perk ever thought of, thanks telecommuting ❤)
Working from home was one of the main factors that drew me to software engineering and startups. I can work in my pj’s, avoid the commute, keep my dog company, look homeless, etc. Most startups offer telecommuting (joining by video) or working from home at least one or two days a week. I have even heard of some that are 100% remote so you could live in the Bahamas and as long as you have internet access you can work. If you are self-motivated and don’t need micromanaging then you’re set.
As an employee working for a small startup, the outcome of your work directly affects the product. We are in a continuous release cycle so anything we think of, design, or engineer is typically experienced by a customer in a matter of days. We also hold a type of “Creative Friday” every month, in which all employees are encouraged to share ideas to improve the product, build a team with the skills needed to complete it, and work on it every Friday of the month. Then, the feature is presented to everybody and most of the time incorporated into the product. Everyone in the company is given a chance to improve the product and make it their own, having an impact on the performance of the company.
Mission and Vision
At Nav, our mission and vision is to reduce the death rate of small businesses by educating them about credit and giving them their best choices for financing. Everything we are doing is for small businesses to thrive. Having a clear mission and vision is a critical part of a startup. It gives your work meaning and carves the road for years to come. Our founders deeply care about their customers and their company, and is not rare to see them shed a few tears when we get closer to our goal. It is definitely more meaningful to work with someone that has their heart in what we’re trying to accomplish.
The culture of friendship and hard-work at a startup is contagious. The individuals are filled with experiences, thoughts, and ideas that are truly enlightening. They say “we are a product of our environment” and I could not agree more with that statement. Since working for Nav, I have become more motivated, ambitious, and knowledgeable than I could have imagined. Meeting people with different backgrounds and doing amazing things, whether they are for the company and on the side, is inspiring and uplifting.Thanks to my co-workers, managers, mentors, and founders, their advice and their energy, I am becoming the best version of myself. I am not sure this kind of environment surfaces in a larger company but I am sure glad it happens here. Working for a startup has open my eyes to new horizons and showed me how the hard-work of individuals can make grand ideas come alive.
Startups grow fast and so will you
If you’ve been with a startup for a year or two, chances are that you are one of the veterans that knows the most about the product. Familiarity with the code base or knowing which features have succeeded in the past is irreplaceable. So when the startup hits its growth spurt and starts hiring, there is a high possibility you will get a leadership position over someone that’s new to the company, forcing you to grow into a new role and responsibilities very quickly.
Startups hire some of the most experienced, smartest people and they are there for you to take advantage of. No more googling endlessly for answers. They’re just two desks away.
Since things are fast-changing at a startup, you’ll see people come and go pretty frequently. Working with people that are moving around in the industry helps with networking. If you decide to changes job one day, you will already know some people that you can reach out to for opportunities. The startup circle is small and the more people you know, the better career prospects you have.
Some More Fan(dan)tastic Perks
Free catered lunches.
Fridge stuffed with soda, juice, and string cheese (maybe some beer, too?).
Coffee and fresh water.
Drawers packed with snacks.
Sponsored happy hours with the CEO.
Need I say more?
If you have the opportunity to work for a startup, do it. It could change your life. It sure changed mine.
Stay tuned for my next blog “Why Wouldn’t You Want To Be A Developer?”