Working in a startup can be fun and exciting. They are usually hyper-focused on growth, and the energy around you is full of unbridled ambition to disrupt an industry. It can be a lot of fun!
But, there’s another side to this very specific kind of company. They are often started by young inventors, and don’t have a lot of corporate governance in place. As a result, they can often feel like the wild west of employers: there is a lot of opportunity, but there are almost no rules. To get the inside scoop on this type of employer, I asked women in tech what they wish they would have known before they started their jobs. Here are some of their answers.
1. Sometimes you can’t grow with the company.
Successful startups tend to grow fast. They usually start out with two founders trying to build a prototype as cheaply as possible. But when they are funded, there is suddenly an influx of cash to hire more people, and grow much bigger. It’s often the case that the employees who work with the founders in the earliest stages are good at very specific things that might no longer be relevant later on. When you are trying to figure out if you are the right fit for a company, make sure to think about the stage of the company, and whether you would enjoy working there as they grow.
2. You have to be scrappy.
Startups often don’t have the resources that larger companies do in terms of training programs and mentorship. Most of the time, you have to be able to figure out how to solve problems yourself. The women I talked to have used everything from Google and YouTube to finding mentors outside of their workplace to guide them through particularly difficult challenges.
3. You have to wear a lot of hats.
Most people who want to work in the startup world see this as a good thing. The broad nature of the work gives startup employees the chance to gain a lot of different types of experience very fast. But you might not be prepared for just how much breadth there is. One woman described her role as Product Manager, but her responsibilites included acting as scrum master and head of operations. That’s a lot for one person!
When you are interviewing at a company, you can get a sense of the culture, and how your role might expand by really paying attention during the interview process. If you receive an offer, make sure to carefully evaluate the company for the factors that are important to you before you make your decision.