The realities of working in startups

What is the article about?

Here I share my thoughts about working in startups and beyond. In my reasoning, I rely on my own experience in various startups. I believe that the more materials and different opinions, the more complete the picture will be.

Is it still topical?

Yes, despite the fact that in recent years there have been several key events that have affected the IT market. First COVID-19, then February 24th. Some companies have left Russia, the number of positions has decreased – there is still some choice.

So what is a startup?

First, let’s define what a startup is. This is a small company of up to 100 people. Usually such companies do not earn anything yet, are founded recently and live on the funds of investors. Startups try to test as many theories as they can as they search for a successful business model.

What do I have to do with startups?

My interaction began with a small new product within a large company. Technically, it’s not exactly a startup, but many features are similar. Then there was a period of work in a small company with a team of up to 10 people, but she was hit hard by covid-19 and lockdowns. Explosive growth has not happened so far. Now I have been working for several years in another startup, which has grown 10 times during this time.

At what level is it desirable to enter startups?

In my opinion, it is worth going to startups with a level of middle + and above.

Why not go with a lower level?

This is due to the specifics of startups. The main task at the first stages is to roll out a new feature as soon as possible. Therefore, it is assumed that you already have a solution or spend a minimum of time searching for it. The development team will be small and often you can rely only on yourself. Based on this, you will have to learn mainly from your mistakes. Due to the fact that your colleagues work in the same mode and have approximately the same level, there is a great chance to see enough of raw solutions. It should also be taken into account that the team will probably be very average, because a startup may simply not be able to pull a good signor and it is cheaper for a company to hire two middles.

Is it different in big companies?

In large companies, the chance to meet this is less. Firstly, they have already made many mistakes typical of startups and found better solutions. This also applies to technical solutions and processes. Secondly, the cost of a mistake in such companies is higher. Hence the attention to quality, which means that various tests, CI / CD, processes are being introduced, expert teams are gathering that are responsible only for ui-kit, optimization or a separate part of the application.

What will I do in startups?

If the startup is still young, then most likely you will have to combine many roles. That is, you will have to work as an analyst, and a full-stack developer, and a tester, and a designer, and a manager. From the point of view of technical tasks, everything is also very diverse – from the layout of forms to integration with payments. Moreover, solutions will need to be designed by yourself periodically consulting with colleagues. As the project grows, specialists are usually hired for positions and the developer’s area of ​​responsibility narrows.

Is a variety of tasks a bad thing?

On the one hand, such tasks allow you to work in different directions, on the other hand, they do not allow you to really deal with one thing. There are exceptions, but remember that development speed is key.

What else is good about startups?

You can gain product experience in various areas. It will be necessary to choose a stack, look for and implement solutions from scratch, install processes, fix bugs, and so on. The team is small and a lot, if not developed by you, then at least with your participation. In many matters, you can take the initiative and sell your idea directly to the person making the final decision. In addition, there is not so much legacy yet and it is much easier to switch to something new. All this is an invaluable experience, in order for it to be positive, it is desirable to have a good base acquired in already established companies.

Maybe you can implement your product ideas?

This is unlikely. That is, you can and somewhere even need to share your idea directly with the person who makes decisions on product development. But don’t expect to be hired right away. Small suggestions to improve UX or simplify development are much easier, but this was not a problem in large companies either.

And what about startups in terms of development processes?

You have to be prepared for raw processes. You will have to customize them by stuffing your own cones. Many roles are simply not provided, there are no instructions or documentation. Therefore, you will have to find out something by going in private, somewhere you will have to do unusual work yourself. Over time, of course, the most critical and recurring problems are covered by docks or individual specialists. There is a balance for holding various rallies. Quality improvement tools are introduced, such as tests, regression, CI/CD, and task release standardization. All this is largely the result of the growth of the company and the solution of problems in the past. Since there is only one team and all decisions can be made within this team, it is much easier to introduce changes and, for sure, the search for the optimal approach for the team will go through many experiments.

But in general?

The same. Vacation, sick leave, compensation and other organizational issues will have to be clarified by yourself. Perhaps you will be the first person to raise this issue and the process will build along the way. Of the benefits – startups are not inclined to bureaucratize the process and you can agree on something on an individual basis.

Will there be any goodies?

In startups, they try to direct funds for product development and save on the rest. As a result, there may not be an office, medical insurance, compensation for training/sports/nutrition, assistance with relocation. Also, you may be less protected by the law, because not everyone can draw up under the Labor Code of the Russian Federation and make out reservations from mobilization. At first glance, this is nonsense, but if a series of layoffs or a new wave of mobilization comes, this may turn out to be a very important condition. On the other hand, startups are flexible in terms of work location and schedule.

Perhaps this will all be compensated by salary?

Salaries in my opinion plus minus the market. It may be even easier for a middle-developer to sell himself for a senior and receive an appropriate salary. In general, a lot depends on how exactly you can sell yourself. If we talk about foreign projects, then a lot depends on the exchange rate of the ruble. In 2022, the exchange rate jumped from 50 to 100, respectively, the situation with receiving salaries in foreign currency changed a lot. It is not worth counting on any increased profits in the future due to options or increased bonuses. It is much easier to agree on a normal fix than to rely on a bunch of factors.

Are there any risks?

It should be remembered here that startups are companies that are only in search of a successful business model. They depend on investments, cash reserves are often small. Therefore, any crisis, investor withdrawal or wrong decision can kill the company. At the very least, you should keep this in mind.

Is there any way to find out about this?

The easiest way is to find out who the investor is, how much the startup earns, how profitable or unprofitable it is, what are the plans for the near future. This can be done at the stage of communication with HR or a recruiter. As a rule, those who are doing well with this themselves try to talk about it. But it happens that representatives of the company are very annoyed by trying to find out about the position of the company and this is rather a negative sign.

How to treat this information?

How to another opinion, another experience. This is the only way to get the most complete picture of anything. But we must remember that companies are very different. Much depends on the founders, managers, investors and direction of development. It also plays a big role at what stage the project is at.

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