Expectation vs Reality: Working at a Start-up

Christy Lee
Sep 23, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

You may have heard it before, start-up companies are the new “it” places to work. From Slack to Uber, start-up companies have gotten a lot of attention from job seekers.

Thanks to the RBC uOttawa CO-OP Entrepreneurship Program, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work at one of Ottawa’s up-and-coming start-ups. Since September, I have been working at Homicity, a home and real estate search engine. At this property technology (proptech) start-up, I manage all the marketing and communications activities. Our small team is located at Bayview Yards and is part of the Invest Ottawa Accelerator Program.

Going in, I had all sorts of expectations based on what I had heard from others and how start-up companies are portrayed in the media. So far, I’ve only been here for a month, but here are a few of the realities that I’ve experienced and how they compared to the expectation.

Expectation #1: The office space has slides, ping pong tables, catered lunches, dogs, etc.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Reality: Unfortunately, not every start-up can be Google with its own private playground. This is a common misconception because start-up companies tend to be more innovative than most workplaces. What I have learned is that every workplace has its own unique design and that the perks vary depending on the company. The reality is that these perks are expensive and most new start-up companies don’t have the extra money. Nevertheless, all the companies that are part of the iO Accelerator Program benefit from the Bayview Yards office space.

Expectation #2: You must have a tech background to work at a start-up.

Photo by Tim van der Kuip on Unsplash

Reality: In the media, you mostly see people with tech backgrounds creating apps, but in reality, it’s not just software developers and engineers who work at start-ups. Same as with any company, a successful start-up needs employees from various fields, including marketing, finance, sales, and more.

Expectation #3: You won’t have a good work-life balance because you’ll always be connected to your work.

Photo by Eea Ikeda on Unsplash

Reality: It’s simply the evolution of technology that keeps us connected to our work, whether it’s getting work emails at home or getting urgent calls from clients after normal business hours. This just seems to be more evident when working at a start-up because the company is still trying to establish itself, which may require more time to be put in. However, one of the biggest benefits of working at a start-up is having flexible work arrangements and being able to work from home. It’s important to discuss work hours and expectations with your manager to find suitable arrangements.

Looking forward

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Although the reality might not always meet every expectation, sometimes it can exceed them. In the few short weeks that I’ve been at my placement, I’ve enjoyed having the freedom to innovate and to do work that directly contributes to the company’s success.

In the next few months, I’m looking forward to where this placement will take me and what new challenges await me.

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