Work Experiences – From Large Corporates to Startups: To Each Their Own!

The work environment and choices in the technology ecosystem in India has opened up considerably over the past two decades or so and individuals today have plenty of choices to grow and advance their careers towards meaningful and satisfying engagements.

Start-up/seed ventures and large corporates are two ends of the spectrum and various organizations may fall somewhere between in that continuum. As you chart your career and consider choices across, you may want to keep some of this in mind.

In large corporates,

  • You work in generally structured environments and processes; and you go deep in to developing expertise in a particular business function (sales, development, product management, marketing etc.).
  • Because you go deep, you end up building your professional networks and ecosystem – and over course of time get recognized in industry circles for your functional skill.
  • As you become proficient in a functional area, you learn to manage cross team collaboration, to get the broader job and task done (e.g., product management and sales interlock).
  • For collaboration, you learn that effective communication – both verbal and written is critical;
  • And as you collaborate, if you do not like some people (challenging chemistry for instance), it is still Ok, because you learn that you can still get the job done (thanks to systems, processes and over-arching culture of the company to support you to do the right thing always).
  • Net-net, the ‘problem statement’ for your function and job is well laid out (KPIs!) – you need to be good/exemplary in your job to achieve/over-achieve it; the rewards are deterministic based on achievement at the end of specified timelines (quarterly or yearly for instance).startups

For start-up/seed ventures,

  • You bring domain expertise/skill and work in generally unstructured environments – you can quickly see the breadth and depth of teams across functions; it is a great time to learn the ropes in adjoining areas – and if you are good, you can pick up a different job function quickly; this provides you a lot of flexibility.
  • You are likely to be in the midst of so many things (‘unstructured environments!’) you generally do not have the time to build up your broad professional networks.
  • As you work with people in the start-up, you quickly learn about strategic decision making. Each decision usually has a high impact and associated cost; it is great learning to be at least part of those discussions that are weighing the options
  • You also learn that communication is important, but it is more important to make the point quickly (verbally and in action) than being politically correct!
  • You will learn that people relationships are critical – and if you do not like the team, it will be impossible to get by; the reverse is more important, if you do like them, you will absolutely enjoy the journey in the start-up.
  • Net-net, the ‘problem statements’ are generally open-ended, and need to be defined by you – so focus, self-discipline, prioritization and being a self-starter is key; rewards are open ended (no limits) and achievement is somewhat relative (timing etc. have a big stake there).

I am not alluding to one being better than the other. Working and experiences in each environment is just different. Make the best of both depending on where you are in your career, how you want to grow it and what drives you! I honestly believe that we are fortunate in India today that as a generation we have exciting opportunities across the spectrum abound in front of us!

[Srihari Palangala is the Country Marketing Manager at Adobe India. In the past, Srihari was the Director of Product Marketing at VMLogix, which was acquired by Citrix. Views expressed here are strictly personal.]

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