Working for a startup can be awesome, if we decide to make it so.
Much of what I read in Catalina Astengo’s article on working in a tech start up resonated with me. There are some seriously good perks that come with working in this environment. However, a lot of startups claim it is too hard to focus on inclusivity and work-life balance, and so these ideals fall by the wayside. In particular, the small teams and pressure to make the business succeed is used as an excuse to promote unhealthy work habits. Plus the startup industry is well known for being rather discriminatory against women.
I have been working at Grok Learning for a few months now, and I can clearly see how their commitment to promoting a fair and supportive workplace has had a huge impact on the amazing working environment that I have had the privilege of experiencing. If a startup makes an intentional commitment to inclusivity and a work-life balance, then in fact their small size and get-up-and-go nature makes these ideals very achievable.
Grok Learning has done it, and other startups can do it to.
One of the most commonly discussed problems with the tech industry is the lack of women. The big tech giants are taking steps to fix the imbalance in genders, and unfortunately it is still an issue in the startup industry. Some, but definitely not all, startups are taking steps to fix this, and being smaller than the tech giants, this is an easier process. Grok Learning is focused on gender diversity and encouraging women in tech, in fact, the majority of the team are women. In our team of 11 people, 7 of them are female.
I returned from maternity leave when my baby was 8 months to take this position at Grok, and they have been incredibly supportive of the unique challenges this has presented. In the first few weeks, I had to work from home fairly regularly, as my baby was adjusting to daycare and picked up a few colds and coughs. Being able to work from home allowed me to keep up with my work but also look after my baby.
In addition to this, the flexibility in hours and days that I work has been amazing. I work part-time, 3 days a week, but I don’t always keep it to the same hours each week. There is no clock watching, as long as I get the work done, it doesn’t matter when I do it.
I am also still breastfeeding, and Grok has been incredibly supportive of helping me continue to do so. In the early days, I was able to leave work and head to bubs’ daycare to feed him. Now that we are in a bit more of a routine, and bubs has settled in, I express at work, which again Grok has worked to make as easy and as least disruptive to my day as possible (and I like to think I am doing my bit to normalise breastfeeding).
Discussion of ideas
One of the most interesting things I have found working for a startup, is that new ideas are always considered based on their merits. In my previous jobs in much larger organisations, more often than not, new ideas or suggestions were often dismissed with minimal consideration, because change was too hard to implement in such big organisations.
At Grok, everyone does a bit of everything, and this means that we get multiple perspectives on each task. This promotes free flow of discussion and stops the stagnation that can occur when one person takes control of a whole task.
Ownership of work and motivation
Working for a big organisation can make an employee just feel like a cog in the machine. This can make it a lot harder for an employee to take ownership of their work and feel like they are making a difference. Whereas, in a small startup, your work has a bigger, tangible effect on the company, which is immensely motivating. I find this makes me more willing to put in extra time and effort in my work, and it means I take more pride in what I produce.
What do you think? Do you think it is easy for startups to commit to inclusivity and work-life balance, or is it just too hard when they are small? Let me know in the comments.