Startup syndrome: What you learnt from working in a startup you should never use in your corporate job

Oksana Ivanova
Jun 13, 2018 · 5 min read
@ Startup Buzz

In this world where everyone is trying to start their business and be their boss, you may notice how many startups appear here and there.

And you probably think that it’s a good idea to work in a startup for a while, especially if you are at the beginning of your career.

I have to say it’s a good idea.

You will love the vibe of like-minded people and a team, support from each other and passionate dreamers with plenty of ideas and almost no resources (especially in the beginning).

You will love it. For sure.

However, startups have their downgrades if you decide one day that you want to work for a huge corporation.

What’s the difference? Let me break it up for you.

Nobody wants to “take over the universe”

I’ve heard that in startups people are literally on fire. But, to be honest, I’ve worked in startups, and it’s true.

People here want to have the profit, want it fast, and they usually are on the cutting edge of everything, including technology.

Although 70% of a startup team can be a non-technical staff, it doesn’t mean that nobody knows what’s going on in the world of technologies.

Usually, it’s just the opposite.

When you come from a startup to another company, even a small business company with just a few team members, you will have to switch to the different “frequency.”

Yes, the company wants a profit, they want to succeed and make their employees happy. But they don’t want to change the world overnight or “take the universe.”

On a scale from one to ten, a startup will be one, and small business — ten. In everything, including the strategy, mission statement, long and short-term goals.

You can’t just say that you are not going to do this. Or eliminate a line of products. Or even just a product if you think that it’s not a great fit for you.

It’s especially challenging for Product Managers. Product Managers who started their careers in a startup.

Usually, you can eliminate the idea you don’t like or don’t see as a feasible one. Just because it’s not working or nobody wants it or any other reason.

In a company, or especially a big corporation, you cannot just say that “ No, we are not doing this anymore. Because it’s lame.”

The product has been built. The people have put the work in it. The money has been spent already. You have to make it work. You don’t just say farewell to it.

If a company has this very UX unfriendly product, which is not very popular and cool, you still have to think about how to deal with it.

Yeah, you are. You have to know now how to make this thing working.

Not just letting it go.

It’s not temporarily

It’s probably a reason why some people advise you not to work in a startup. You are just going to spend a few years doing multiple actions, being various personas and performing multiple tasks.

Especially if you decide to be in charge of something, lot’s of things fall into your laps.

You do research, you code, you design, you present, you speak, you connect, you network, you do everything. But not for a long time. Otherwise, you’ll just burn out.

But it maybe also over overnight. Just as people in startups quickly reject the ideas, they can quickly reject the idea of existing. As a startup, of course.

So when you join a startup you have to know it’s not forever. It’s just for a while, and you probably are going to get various experience in various fields.

In a company or a corporation, you know that your position is stable and has fixed set of tasks you need to perform. Which leads me to the next point.

No need to wear multiple hats

And I’m serious. Although the smaller a company, the wider your responsibilities will be, you will not be able to do everything.

As I mentioned before, you don’t need to do everything. If you are a Product Manager, for example, you have to deal with your responsibilities. Which may be very different and vary depending on the project you are currently working on.

And yet, no one will ask you whether you have an idea for a new product or a feature, just because you think it’s right or the next “big thing.”

You don’t need to code. You have programmers for this.

No need to design things. You have designers. Just give them the outline and make sure they follow it.

Your responsibilities are limited. And maybe it’s not a bad thing after all. Just don’t expect it to be this way in a company.

Don’t experiment

That’s another reason nobody asks you to think or shoot ideas on the spot.

When it comes to well-established, and even to not so well-established products in a company, you have to understand a few things:

  1. You are not the only one working in the project. Some people depend on their jobs here. Let’s be honest. All of them.
  2. You can’t just throw an idea out if you don’t like it.
  3. You have to follow and keep in mind multiple stakeholders and their interests.

Although you might have a team in a startup with whom you had to discuss whether it’s a good idea or not, it’s completely different with stakeholders.

You will usually have a stakeholder map and will have to keep in mind not only your fresh ideas and unlimited potential of them but also the aims and desires or multiple stakeholders interested in their products’ success.

And you are just a tool in making it happen, after all.

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Starting your career in a startup is neither good nor bad decision. It’s entirely up to you which path you want to take. But if you started as one of the startup members, be ready to adjust your way of thinking and working, when it comes to real, corporate job.

Have you ever had to transition from a startup to a company/corporation? Or maybe your story is in reverse? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Oksana Ivanova

Written by

I'm working closely with CX and UX activities. I love implementing gamification when it's necessary and defend old school games as a hobby

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