If you want to work in the tech industry, you basically have 3 types of companies to work for.
- There are the Tech Titans: The Amazons and Googles of the world.
- There are the High Growth Companies like Tapclicks.
- And then there’s the early-stage startups trying to prove their market fit.
As you might imagine – each category offers a very different work experience. So, I wanted to give an overview of each.
The Tech Titans:
If you’re someone who likes (relative) security, consistency, higher base pay, and creature comforts then these are the places for you.
The Titans can, by far, offer the highest average salaries, and benefit packages. Not to mention that many of their employees will be offered stock options as well. You can see the average compensation package (salary + benefits + equity) for the top 10 highest paying companies here, but the punchline is that the average package for each of the top ten is over $250,000.
It’s not just the money. Your job is probably safest in this category. Don’t get me wrong – layoffs can and do happen at every company. But, you won’t find yourself getting laid off because an investor decided not to come through – or that one big client didn’t renew. Both scenarios are possible and potentially disastrous for smaller organizations.
And let’s not forget the perks! A company shuttle bus at Apple. An on-campus health center at Microsoft. Free gourmet meals and massage rooms at Google.
Finally, the organizational structure of the big companies might appeal to you. Everyone has a defined role structure and responsibility, and there’s the opportunity to move through different teams and work on different projects. So, none of the “wear every hat” type roles that start-ups are so well known for.
On the other hand, the rigid structure of the Titans might make you run away screaming.
Make no mistake, these companies are massive bureaucracies. That means that they are relatively slow moving, there’s red tape for almost everything, and they tend to be task and process focused. The idea of “move fast and break things” does not apply.
That could also apply to the type of work you’re doing. Yes, there are interesting projects happening at these companies. But understand, that those interesting projects are the minority of what they do. You’re much more likely to find yourself working on low innovation tasks that aren’t nearly as satisfying intellectually or help you grow as quickly.
And finally, you’ll more than likely suffer from “cog in the wheel syndrome”. For some that doesn’t matter, but if you want to feel like you’re making a real impact at your company that will be very hard to achieve at one of the Titans.
High Growth Companies:
This category is the place to be if you want to work on a fast moving and innovative project!
These companies don’t have the red tape of the big companies, but they also have much more resources than the early-stage startups. That means they aren’t trying to scratch out an MVP, instead they’re quickly making their products better and better based on the customer feedback they’re getting.
Here you’ll have a voice, the company is small enough that you can influence the development of the project, as well as the direction of the company itself. It’s a perfect place to be if you don’t want to suffer from the “cog in the wheel syndrome”, but want something more mature than the early stage startups.
From a compensation perspective, these companies probably aren’t going to pay as well, have the same benefits, and not the same perks. But, they’ll be very likely to give out equity to their employees, which could skyrocket in a value after a successful IPO or sellout. So, you could theoretically make just as much, if not more, money working in this category as you could at the titan. But it’s not as certain.
Now you might think this category is the perfect in-between of the Titans and early-stage startups. In a lot of ways, you’d be right. But there are a few things you definitely need to consider before working in this category.
First of all, the company will experience some massive growing pains that can drive you crazy. The strategy could change, teams can be shifted around, the office location may be moved miles away, you could hire twenty people one day and lay-off thirty the next. At this stage, companies are trying to grow as quickly as they can above all else, which generally can lead to chaos. And remember, that could put your job at risk. They may decide they don’t need the project your working on, or may just have to shift the budget over to a higher priority.
Secondly – as we saw with Twitter – the company culture can go south fast. When companies are on a hiring spree, they really don’t vet for cultural fit as well as they should. They also tend to go on a promotion spree – sometimes this works out but sometimes it just leads to managers that are ill-suited and unequipped for the position.
And finally – even if the company is doing well that may not reflect in your compensation. A company doesn’t have to sell or go public, which means you can’t do anything with the equity you’ve been given. So, you could own a $100,000 in equity on paper, without ever being able to cash in!
Early Stage Startups
To begin with, the potential (emphasis on the word potential) upside is highest here. We all know the stories of the companies that took off and turned their first employees into millionaires and multimillionaires.
More than that, this is probably as close as you can get to the wild west in the business world. You’ll find yourself wearing many hats, working on every part of the product or business, and can have a massive say in how your company develops.
Moreover, these companies usually have no red tape whatsoever. The general attitude tends to skew towards “get it done”. So, if you want an opportunity to be creative, to try something new, and in general be in a less structured environment you’ll be a fan of the early stage startup.
Not to mention, your career could grow very quickly at these companies. If they grow, you might find yourself in higher level positions than most people at similar stages of their career, just because you grew with the company.
The main word to remember here is risk.
The company could just run out of money one day, leaving you jobless. Or, the founders could realize that the model isn’t scalable and shut the business down. Either way, you’ll have to find a new job and won’t see any benefit from the equity they gave you.
It’s also worth mentioning that salaries are probably the smallest here, though if the company succeeds the upside may make up for that in the long run.
And if you prefer structure and don’t like wearing many hats this is definitely not the place for you. You could be working on three entirely different projects all at once, and all of them mission critical for the company.
So, which category do you work for? Are you happy there, or do you want to go somewhere else? Join the conversation and comment at our FB Compass Group.
Author: Chris Bolte