“Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because they are looking for ideas” – Paula Poundstone
About 2 years ago, I decided on a professional target: By 2020, I would have completely rotated through the experience of working in both a Start-Up and Corporate Organization before deciding on a full professional path. And on several occasions over the last couple of weeks, I have been asked by a couple of people (mostly friends who know about this target)
Kingsley, Start-Up or Corporate?
My default response has been: Honestly, I don’t think I have gained sufficient experience yet! Although I assume this to be quite true especially when I consider the amount of time I have spent in both organizational environments, I began asking myself:
“How much experience would really be sufficient?”
With this piece, I am hoping to share from my “insufficient” experience, while also aiming to add value and provide some insights for someone on a similar journey. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present to you:
The Start-Up Experience
“If you are confused about life, you are not alone. There are seven billion of us.” – Timothy Ferriss
My first role after completing my graduate studies in 2017 was for a Start-Up in the heart of Berlin, Germany. If I recall correctly, my actual job wasn’t quite clear to me on day one when I stepped into the office and received that brand new work computer. But I eventually became tasked with researching about the key business players and opportunities for partnerships in a sector the company was working to diversify into.
At the Start-Up, my primary co-workers were two large computer screens. And for most of the time I spent in the office, I would usually sit alone facing those screens with no debates, team meetings or brainstorming sessions that are typical of large corporates (#independence #result #fast).
Okay, maybe I am exaggerating too much here. I did have interactions with colleagues and there were also the occasional check-ins with managers (which were mostly informal). Very important to point out also, we often went out for ice creams a couple of times in the summer period and did play “Tisch Tennis” (table soccer) in the office area – the usual Berlin Start-Up style.
At the end of the day, work in the Start-Up environment was mostly done independently and I only had to report to one or two individuals – who reviewed results and made recommendations where and when needed.
In this environment, the daily challenge I saw for myself was: striving to get results as fast as possible to match up with the evolving expectations. Here, speed and independence were crucial drivers for success.
The Corporate Experience
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates
Fast-forward to a couple of months later – I had taken up a new challenge in a larger Corporate Organization in the southern part of Germany. I became part of a team that was roughly the size of the entire Start-Up Organization I had previously worked for, and realized that in a large Corporate, the working dynamics can be entirely different.
For some projects, one would need multiple individuals from various functions, areas of specialization and expertise to provide their input, influence and opinions to drive a single project from point A to B (#appointments #meetings #alignments #repeat).
Almost every project or task requires varying amount of contribution from someone else to succeed or fail. And to be quite candid, I didn’t anticipate the vast complexities that existed transitioning between both organizations and roles. But as I reflect on the experience today, I begin to appreciate the value that working in both kinds of environments has afforded me.
For example, like many young professionals, I think that I was by default programmed with the Start-Up Mindset – independently striving to create new things and achieve new results at speed. But in a large corporate organization, you WILL learn that producing tangible results and outcomes sometimes require much more time, effort and consensus-building between and among several stakeholders and teams.
Start-up or Corporate?
At the end of the day, I think the decision to settle for an organization or a role should first be based primarily on one´s interests and passion, while also considering the best opportunity to learn and develop oneself. And quite frankly, it wouldn’t necessarily matter if it is in a Start-Up or a Corporate Organization.
And at this point of my journey I have realized that being able to combine the best of both worlds can be the ideal recipe for professional success. But again, we are still in 2019 and “honestly, I don’t think I have still gained sufficient experience – yet.”