Why I Gave Up the Corporate World for a Career at Startup

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“TL, I can’t come to work today bec I’m not feeling well”

“Kat, can you make sure to have the presentation ready for our meeting later?”

“We have a system outage, can your team take charge ASAP please.”

It was a routine I held on for 8 years. Working for a big corporation used to be a dream of mine when I was fresh out of college: To have a fancy business life locked in a desk, a high-paying job where we are taught to be ideal slaves of, at top business schools whose degrees we are proud to hold. You see, I was the typical introvert who really prefers to sit in a desk all day and work in front of the computer. So taking on a corporate managerial role at 22 seemed the ideal career for me.

But then as time pass by, reality hit me. I was bored. I poured my heart and soul into my job and it seems like no one has ever really noticed. Sure, I get “appreciation awards” every now and then, but I feel like I have so much more to offer and the corporate setup just didn’t fit me anymore.

One weekend I spoke to my mom and just blurted it out.

“Mom, I’m filing for resignation tomorrow. There’s this startup company who contacted me and I am taking their offer.”

All my mom said was:

“Ano yung startup?? Are you sure about this??”

“Okay, I trust you anak.” 

From someone who have never worked for a startup before, my career suddenly took a 180-degree turn. In a good way. And while it can be a roller coaster ride (there are a LOT of process improvements that have yet to be in place bec they are still new), working on the ground floor of a new company is admittedly very rewarding as it allows people to shine, take responsibility of their projects and possibly reap the benefits of the company’s success in a form of equity, while simultaneously learning a lot in a fast-paced environment.

Having a career at startup is not for everybody. Truth be told, if you are generally lazy and do not like additional responsibility — then you can ditch the startup scene forever because you are never going to succeed (or even in the corporate world for that matter). If you, however, like the idea of wearing many hats, like challenge, and enjoy working with a small group of people, then a startup career may be suitable for you.

So why is working for a startup more rewarding than corporate? Let me count the ways:

1. The pay is generally higher in startup (if you’re from the Philippines). While most articles would tell you that working for a startup provides marginally less pay than in corporate, based on my experience this is not true if you are from the Philippines. For example, a support role in an established BPO can earn you an average of 20-30k a month, while the same role in a startup company doesn’t go lower than 40k. The reason is simple: you get paid the same rate (or at least close) as your foreign counterpart in the same role.

2. You will get recognized more often. As I’ve mentioned, you can bust your ass all you want in your corporate job and rarely will it get noticed — especially if you’re in an entry-level position. That is not the case in startup. Because you are a part of a small team, everything you do doesn’t go unnoticed and any accomplishments will definitely reach the CEO.

3. You learn from true innovators. Working in a startup has allowed me to meet the movers and shakers of the industry I’m in and it gave me the rare opportunity to soak up on their knowledge and experience. It is my dream to start my own startup someday and knowing the founders of several startups is a good start in building my future network.

4. Never a dull moment! Communicating with colleagues is generally informal even with the top management and a lot of times you get to chat with them on a personal level. The atmosphere is very relaxed, no dress code, no strict company policies. On my first day I was given a beer as part of their “welcome pack,” crazy!

5. You actually see your value in the company. Working for a small company means that nobody does what you do so people rely to you on certain tasks and responsibilities. You understand how vital your job is and if you don’t do it well, the business cannot operate as intended. This may not be totally accurate for corporate entry-level jobs where people can be easily replaced since 100 other people does exactly the same tasks as you do.

6. Everyone treat each other as adults. While you may have a direct superior, no one in startup will micromanage you and monitor your every move. You are expected to put in your best work without anyone holding your hand all the way because they know that as an adult, you have the common sense needed to figure basic things on your own. And also, no Internet-censorship! Facebook and Youtube all you want, just make sure that by the end of the day, that analytics report that is due today is done and submitted.

7. You learn new skills. As I’ve mentioned, working for a startup allows you to wear many hats and take on a variety of tasks along the way. In general, corporate positions tend to have narrower roles. If you’re a manager, you will manage, if you are a support agent, you will support. That is not the case in startup. You may be a manager but the job is so dynamic that by the end of the year there is a high chance that you’ve dipped your hands on development, support and design. So if you are like me who enjoys variety, then startup is definitely for you.

Startup is an entirely different ball game as compared to corporate so think clearly what your career goals are before making the switch. Does the “think outside the box”-type mentality appeal to you more? Or a structured environment is what you’re more comfortable with?

Good luck!

 

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