3 Reasons Engineers Choose Startups Over Corporate Jobs

Working at a startup is wildly different than the structure of a large corporation.

That’s music to the ears of many software engineers.

We spoke with technologists who currently work at startups.

They hail from diverse backgrounds – from government agencies to large corporations. Having been exposed to a variety of work environments, they’ve gained a unique perspective on the differences between startups and more traditional workplaces.

We asked them one main question: Why do you like working at a startup?

Here are three reasons why these engineers choose startups over corporate jobs.


1. They Get to Work with New Technology

The engineers we spoke with are seeking out new, innovative technologies to work with.

Their motivation? Personal growth.

To stay relevant in the tech world, they join companies with innovative tech stacks that align with their passions.

Startups are a natural place to find those technologies. They don’t have legacy systems or outdated technology to maintain. Newer technology enables them to innovate and move at a faster pace.

“[Working at a startup] is nice because you get to delve into technologies that are newer, instead of working with a legacy system or something that’s a little older and clunky,” said David Konigsberg, Software Engineer at PingThings.

For Christopher Rung, a Senior Site Reliability Engineer at Upside Business Travel, switching to the startup world meant he got to work with a specific technology he wanted more experience in: Kubernetes. He shared, “Many companies use Kubernetes in their dev environment, but are reluctant to run it in production, where all the fun happens! The prospect to work at a startup that was already running its production workloads in Kubernetes was exciting.”

Working with open source technology is another appeal for many engineers who choose to work in a startup. Mitch Pirtle, VP of Engineering at Morning Consult, shared: “To me, startups and open source are almost synonymous. I would argue that startups are what really made it take off. These companies just didn’t have the same resources, so they had to leverage open source.”

He also explained that when you’re in the startup environment, you’re constantly reminded to not take too much pride in what you’ve built as a technologist. Someone else can quickly come out with a newer, better version of it.

Working with new technology at a startup can empower you to build that better version.


2.They Get to Make an Impact

Startup software developers play an integral role in their companies; from building the culture to choosing the product tech stack.

Ian Lotinsky, the VP of Product Engineering and Design at Weld North Education, explained that he gets to form company policies and practices (instead of just inheriting a pre-established culture).

He explained, “One of my biggest joys at work is building an environment my engineers want to work in.”

David Konigsberg was looking for a place where he could build something new. “That’s the appeal of a startup,” he said, “It’s new and different. It’s challenging.”

David was excited to be a driving factor when it came to important decisions like choosing the tech stack. “You only get to build a product from the start one time. It’s exciting to be part of the team when it’s brand new.”

Being on the engineering team at a startup also means you have more skin in the game. There’s a tangible, clear connection between the work you do and the success of the company. For a lot of startup engineers, that means receiving equity as part of their compensation.

Sean Murphy, CEO of PingThings, noted that “At a startup, you’re held accountable to determine what’s actually going to move the needle. That’s where you put your time and energy.”

While that can feel scary for some, Murphy noticed that the engineers who thrive in a startup culture enjoy the fact that they can clearly see the impact of their work.

Murphy further explained that time is spent differently at a startup. He pointed out that at a big company, employees can spend a lot of time on tasks like emails, meetings, and dealing with company politics instead of actually building something. They have to deal with tasks that come from being at a big company.

Whereas he explained that in a startup, “The team can spend one hundred percent of their time actually creating. We want people to focus on building value.”

As a result, Murphy pointed out that a lot of startups attract people who are tired of bureaucracy and who don’t want to waste time. As a result, these engineers learn how to manage their time in order to thrive at the company.

Ian Lotinsky explained that moving to a startup satisfied his desire to constantly innovate.

When working at a large corporation, he found a lot of push back when bringing up new ideas. He felt like his hands were tied because of all the corporate procedures and the policies. He was ready to start working in more agile and modern environment.


3.They’ve Accelerated Their Career Path

The tech landscape changes so fast in a startup that you end up being in a state of continual learning.

Mitch Pirtle shared, “There’s an intellectual churn that comes with the job. When you come in at the beginning of every week, you have to be flexible and open… You can’t assume you know everything. It keeps you in a sort of self-regulatory, no ego zone.”

Pirtle said that there can be an existential threat with a very real deadline at small, early-stage startups (whether that’s getting a new client or preparing for an IPO).

That tangible deadline can serve as a potent motivator.

“It’s a very learning rich, growth rich environment.” He pointed out that many large organizations have a culture of avoiding failure and mistakes. While that can result in a safe place to work, it doesn’t incentivize you to learn. You’re not motivated to expand or get faster.

Ted Taliaferro, CEO at Tallycode, has spent several decades working in both the government contracting and startup spaces. He explained, “The government gives you stability, but the startup world challenges you more and provides a better learning environment. It helps you become a better developer and thinker.”

The startup environment also means that you get exposed to different things. Instead of working in isolation on one small feature, you could easily be in charge of a total project by yourself. There’s an increased level of ownership and control, and you get to have your hands in a lot more pots than you would at a large company.

In this environment, leadership opportunities come your way in abundance.

Ali Spittel, Senior Developer Advocate at AWS, began her career in the startup space. She explained that “You’re in the company early and as the company scales, you’re in a position to take on more leadership.”

Spittel further shared, “I got to accelerate my career really fast and be the lead engineer on projects before most people had graduated from college. I took on leadership roles, which is something that not very many people would be able to say at that age. I think that’s where working at a startup can be awesome for your career.”


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Author: Lauren Alexander

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