Why do people love working for tech startups - because they sound terrible.

Well…“interest” is a strong word.

“structure” is also a strong word. Most consulting firms are organized as loose pools of resources to be assembled for specific projects.

Unless you want to keep doing the same exact job with the same exact responsibilities for 40 years, EVERYONE is interested in some sort of career progression.

Unless you work for Mckinsey doing pure strat work, much of management consulting is technology related. Especially at firms like Accenture or IBM. In fact, that’s how I got my foot in the door, because my grades weren’t so great.

But yes. I would say my interest and experience lies in increasing businesses performance. Putting a bunch of smart kids in a room and having them figure out problems is not a sustainable and scalable business model in the long term.

I don’t think that’s entirely true. The “drop out of college and join a startup” thing is largely annecdotal. Most people I have met in the high tech startup space are highly educated and many do have experience with big companies.

Blowing really hard can affect the course of a toy boat in a kiddie pool. An aircraft carrier on the ocean, not so much.
I can’t make my case to the CEO of my big company. I can to the VP who is down the hall, and who has more people and budget than almost any startup I’ve heard of. Now, I do have a good track record. Management should listen to the ideas of everyone, but letting them influence strategic direction? Not hardly. Unity of direction is very important - a company which zigs and zags based on input from just about everyone is not going to get very far.

I am on my 5th startup, plus time at two global companies, one management consulting firm, and a stint in academia.

It is a different world, and each stage of the startup is also different. I have been with heavily funded companies twice where we were simply an aggressive small company. I have been with an Angel funded firm where we burned through $1 million and they pulled the plug. I have been with another firm that wanted to grow, but had gotten there by bootstrapping and the co-founders did not want to take on VC funding and lose their control.

So there is not a single model of startup - they are in different stages and different fields. I have always worked in B2B - Business to Business software products. It is a lot of fun, great culture, hard work and hard play type stuff.

My corporate days SUCKED. Way too long to get anything done, or to make a change, or to respond to market needs. However, it was nice to know that those firms would be around forever.

Or some execs get their jollies telling their reports that they suck. A company with a large number of employees rated unsatisfactory had better look at its rating or hiring policies - or both.

Even worse, people work like hell to do what they get rated on, and neglect the stuff that might really be important for the success of the company. I’ve been there - but not for long.

I have several friends who work or worked for startups, and the story is always the same. None of them did it for the “culture,” and none of them did it for the potential payoff. One of my friends left a well-paying job, working with people he liked, at a medium-sized software company. The products his company produced were solid, and lots of people depended on them. I wouldn’t say it was even uninteresting work, especially compared to the boring schlock I do for money. But, as he put it, “[This startup] has the potential to change the way the world works.” Might seem like hyperbole, but he made a good case. He wanted to be on the forefront of computing history. My other friends similarly wanted to work on the sort of cutting edge products that larger companies wouldn’t risk working on, because they were also dreamers.

Now, I know there are plenty of startups that are basically just investor scams, and all they want to do is rip off venture capitalists with a song and dance about being the next Facebook or whatever, but I’d guess that the people at the bottom of those companies, on some level, believe that they have a chance to do something first, to do it excitingly, and to change the world in the process.

Eventually they’ll all get old and have babies and work for CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet, formatting reports and whatnot.

No but it’s easier to be in a position to do that than it is at a large company for exactly the reason you’re hinting at in your question. It doesn’t matter if you have 100,000 employees or 30, you can only have so many people influencing the company’s strategy. If it’s vital to you to feel like a part of the company and contribute to where it’s headed, the smart move is to work for a smaller company. It’s not just influencing direction either, your work inherently matters more.

You can be one of 5 customer service reps and know that your dedication to doing a good job really helps build the company’s reputation for offering great service. Customer service reps at AT&T don’t get to make that impact.

Maybe, but I wouldn’t suggest it to anybody.

You definitely had a bad boss but he could’ve worked anywhere. Obviously there are good and bad executives all over. Maybe it’s on you for picking a startup with a bad management team? The IT problems are a good point.

I’ve never personally observed that in the slightest but I’ve never been a part of silicon valley either. East coast start-ups definitely have a different culture.

But anyway, I don’t think you’re weak or flawed for needing structure, but that kind of career has never appealed to me.

It’s not universal, but it does happen, and that is a sharp contrast to industries where it pretty much never happens. I’m in an industry now that, if you do not have a post-graduate degree from a well-regarded school and a selective internship, you have basically zero chance of getting into a mid-career position with a large organization, no matter what your technical skills are.

In tech, going to a top-tier school will probably help out, and interships are great, but it’s not as much as a prerequisite. The emphasis is on building skills and responsbilities, and startups are great for that. My startup hired a lot of UC Berkeley whiz kids, but also a pretty random assortment of eccentric characters with lots of talent but few credentials to their name.

It’s worth noting that most people working at startups don’t intend to make that their life plan (unless, of course, they get lucky and the startup makes it big.) In most cases it’s something to do for a few years after college before you move on to something else. Startup workers are not as concerned if the company is stable and well-managed or not. Everyone knows that at any time there is a chance the whole thing could crash and burn. But a shaky and poorly managed company doesn’t neccessarily inhibit you from building your technical skills.

It’s like someone who does lighting for movies- being the assistant to the assistant of the lighting director for the Best Lighting Oscar movie isn’t worth half as much as being in charge of lighting for a terrible money-burning B movie that had gorgeous lighting and has given you some great shots in your demo reel.

I think it has less to do with the size of the company than it does the culture. I always liked consulting firms because you have the resources of a large company, but your work usually consists of being part of a small, high impact team working at a client site, solving some big problem for their senior management .

They looked good on paper. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

Some structure is good. Like having working phones or having someone to call when your laptop breaks.

That says something pretty sorry about businesses’ priorities today, if problem-solving isn’t considered relevant to improving performance. Then again, reality doesn’t drive the numbers anymore - the numbers drive reality.

That’s not really what I meant. The trick is to make the solution repeatable.

I’ve worked in multiple startups, in various stages of the startup process. Two of those companies were bought out by large, established, household-name companies.

Of your list, the only thing that rings true was the long hours. The rest, not so much. I didn’t experience the cult thing. The compensation was comparable. And the large companies I ended up at were horribly managed. The multiple levels of managers at established, larger companies had more experience making bad decisions than the some of startup management teams did, but when they actually did make decisions, the decisions weren’t any better. The management teams at the larger companies also seemed to spend a lot of time not making decisions, while the startup management teams would at least do things - sometimes the wrong thing, but they did make decisions and implement them. I have a very small sample size, so it may very well be that the large companies I ended up at were just incredibly incompetent companies and their problems are not indicative of the problems at most large companies. Still, it seems the benefits of those companies were not that they were run that much better but that they had enough capital to weather their mistakes.

My favorite job ever was with a company with a great product idea and a horrible business plan; the management team had no idea how to make money. They did create an environment where my co-workers and I could collaborate, work through problems, and get things done. There were long hours, but I could see the results of the long hours I was spending at work. The company fell apart because they ran out of money, but it was great while it lasted.

And the problem in some large companies is that once they found a solution which worked for a case, and they insist on applying it to every other case. I’m sure you’ve run into the confusion between robust and straitjacketed more than once.

Some of my clients were startups; there was for example that one where their reaction to “we’re going to examine your processes, learn your corporate culture and then come up with the way to use this program that fits you best” was “oh, but we don’t have a corporate culture!” “Yes you do, you just don’t have it on paper. Promise. You don’t work together for three years without developing a corporate culture.” They had repeatable solutions, but also the ability to recognize when a case had not come up before, and processes for dealing with these. Too often, established companies have lost that mental flexibility and have grown into a mindset where the unforeseen becomes unseen.

It’s pretty you should ask, msmith537, since most people would rather stab themselves in the face than do what you do. Swooping in at the behest of seagull managers to piss everyone off, then swooping out again once you’ve done your damage. Spending all your time in Corporate HQ shitholes like Midland, MI and Omaha, NE. Traveling all the time to see people who hate you. Partying with the bros at the same crappy mall bars all over the country.

You’re going to say, “but my job is nothing like that!” Exactly. Every job looks shitty if a)it doesn’t appeal to you to begin with and b)you only see the worst examples of it.

I’m in Computer Science, so I’ve known a lot of people of the years who’ve gotten into startups. (Including the ground floor of some quite famous ones.)

There’s a spectrum of outcomes, of course. Almost all end in failure for the usual reasons. A few people did well. Actually made it to the stage where they could cash in their stock options and buy 2nd homes and such.

(Note: All too often, even once a company is sold or goes public, employees with stock options and such are limited in what they can do and when. Some people actually end up owing the IRS big taxes on stocks they can’t sell and later turn out to be worthless.)

Those people I know who keep going back for more after being burned seem to have the “gold rush” mentality. The next site is going to be the big one, if they can just hold on a bit longer, the mother lode will be hit. Just a little longer, it’s really going to happen this time.

Key repeated scenario: The suits start firing people. Round after round. Especially when they get to the “we need to find a [del]sucker[/del] buyer now” stage. Some of the founder suits end up with no employees under them. They still draw salary and benefits and do no work. The suits never fire themselves. You’re either a suit or meat.

Sadly…I’m not. Most people who do what I do would also prefer stabbing themselves in the face.:frowning:
Technically I don’t do management consulting anymore. I’m an independent contractor working as a project manager for the program management office of a large Wall Street insurance company.

It’s not so much the job itself I question. A computer programmer at Dropbox.com, Accenture and Walmart’s corporate HQ is essentially the same “job”. But their work environments are radically different.

Heck, I have what is basically the same “job” at my current company as I did at my last company working for some crazy startup-ish tech firm. The difference is now I can go home at 6pm, I don’t get calls after hours, and I have a sweet-ass view of the Brooklyn Bridge out my window instead of a shitty roach-infested loft in Tribeca with plastic wrap over the vents for climate control.

One thing that soured me a bit on the whole “startup” culture is how there is that gold rush mentality. Maybe it’s an East Coast / 90s dot com thing, but to me it felt less like a bunch of kids starting a company in their dorm and more like Ivy League investment bankers, strategy consultants and trust fund kids playing a shell game with VC funding, “incubators” and “exit strategies” for questionable business plans in order to get rich quick and avoid working real jobs. I mean we actually had alumni speaking in my classes in 2000, saying how you have to really think hard about whether you want to stay in B-school vs starting your own company. Which seems to echo your own observations.

I’ve worked at both. There’s nothing magical about tech startups. To address a few points from my perspective:

People who go into there know the odds, and don’t expect any big payoff.

Hours & crunch time are really a by-product of management, not of necessity, and in that regard, I haven’t found that startups are worse than corporations. shrug

Amount of direction, influence, etc., and a lot of other mentioned issues are really all also culture/management, imo. I’ve had plenty of all those benefits at big corporations.

IMO, they aren’t really that much different. The thing I like most about tech startups is the relative lack of crusty, bitter engineers. Not being around depressing influences is worth the pay cut to me.

I’ve not really worked for a tech startup or a fortune 500 company but I can see them both having their pros and cons. A lot of the cons mentioned about startups aren’t necessarily intrinsic to them, a good startup could probably provide decent work-life balance and etc. They probably won’t match the pay of more established companies, but they do have some potential for pay above and beyond that and advancement into positions of higher importance faster.

The big thing I’d watch out for is, even the the worst Fortune 500 company you know more or less what you’re getting, or at least you should. In this day and age any really big employer is going to have tons of reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com and etc. You can at least get a feel for the company, further, almost all of the Fortune 500 is publicly traded and even the privately held ones are so big you can get decent research on them. This means you can really do some due diligence and see what the company’s business model is, how viable it is, how likely they are to lay everyone off in an economic downturn and etc.

With a startup, you have no such guarantees and can easily be lied to by the person recruiting you. Something mentioned upthread is the startup designed just to attract enough venture capital to get the founders rich and then bought off or folded up is something I’ve seen a little bit of…and something to watch. I don’t know how common it is but I’ve known of a few in my area that basically followed that mold (and a few business partners of mine invested in on a personal level), there are also startups that don’t intend for that to happen but get too deep in and realize their business model is untenable but keep asking for more and more money from investors because they think one big deal or contract will save the day and reverse all wrongs. Being an employee at a company like that can turn out badly.

Isn’t there an old saying that goes, “Consulting: If you aren’t part of the solution there’s good money to be made prolonging the problem.”?


Come on. You always need to have at least ONE crusty, bitter (perhaps even crazy) engineer who just happens to know everything about everything.
I’ll admit, the opportunity to be part of a rapidly growing company where people have a positive outlook about their careers and the future of the company is certainly appealing. And I think when you are young and right out of college, you should be working 100 hours a week, traveling all over and gaining the practical experience that will jump start your career.

**Martin Hyde **- I don’t know what to make of the Glassdoor.com reviews. That sort of prompted my starting this thread in the first place. When you look at some of the “best places to work” like Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Mckinsey, Accenture, Google, any of the Big-4 accounting\consulting firms, tech startups and whatnot, they all sort of say the same thing, regardless if it’s one or five stars:

Great being part of a group of smart, hardworking people working on the latest and greatest whatnot.

Work life balance sucks. Pay isn’t that great. Lack of upward mobility unless you know someone.

Stop treating employees like meat to be ground up and spit out.