Jerry Tegno on early career decisions

Stripe
Stripe
Jan 7 · 4 min read

In the summer of 2016, I found myself in a bind that computer science students entering their last year of undergrad sometimes encounter: deciding between SWE intern offers from two great Silicon Valley companies. One offer was from Stripe, the other from a much larger tech name.

At the time, I considered myself lucky for getting these offers because they were my top choices in each of their size categories. I considered the following when making my decision:

Variety of things to work on

While Stripe certainly had lots of teams available to work on, the other company I was considering had more variety at the time, with teams ranging from low-level systems work to machine learning.

Location

The opportunity I was considering at Stripe was based in San Francisco while the other company would allow me to work out of either their Seattle or Menlo Park office. Stripe had not yet opened its Seattle office and while San Francisco would be more familiar, Seattle was my preference if I really wanted to branch out.

Company size

The other company was much bigger at the time. Having just worked at a company with four full-time engineers, entering an environment with several thousand was intimidating. I was definitely more attracted to Stripe’s more reasonable 300 engineers.

Uniqueness

For me, working at Stripe would have been a much more unique experience. Going to school in the Bay Area and interning at a large, well-known tech company seemed to be a very common experience, and I felt like that opportunity would still be available in the future.

For me, internships were a way to explore the range of companies that Silicon Valley has to offer. This is particularly true given the fact that internships are temporary by definition, allowing you to sample a company for a few months and then move on. Things aren’t quite that simple when you accept a full-time offer. With this in mind, I decided to accept the offer at the larger company. Despite my suspicion that I wouldn’t realistically work there full time, I wanted to get as different an experience as possible from what I was used to, and this wouldn’t be an exploration opportunity I would get again. I satisfied my curiosity then so I wouldn’t have to later, and I left my internship knowing that I would prefer to work in a smaller and more intimate environment, despite the numerous tradeoffs in company maturity and resources required to make that choice.

It so happened that I would end up deciding between the same two companies after graduation. Again, I came up with a mental model of what I wanted to prioritize, but this time I prioritized learning opportunities rather than exploration. I wanted to kickstart my career with something that would build a solid base for the future, much in the same way my internships had built my confidence as a software engineer.

In the end, I chose to work at Stripe. Here’s why:

Talent

Many tech companies tout their engineering talent but, in my sphere, Stripe didn’t have any hype to carry it. Yet, everyone I talked to who had interacted with the company left impressed. I’ve found this especially true now that I work here and am consistently inspired by the attention to detail that’s present not just in our engineering culture, but in every aspect of the company. I knew at the time that this environment would provide me with as many growth opportunities as I could want.

Humility

Silicon Valley tech companies often develop a culture or focus on what they’ve accomplished, rather than focusing on the opportunities ahead. What I appreciate about Stripe was the lack of complacency, excess of humility, and general tenacity that everyone seems to embody.

Users first, truly

I found that Stripe constantly pushes the boundaries of Payments in order to better its users. Initiatives such as , , and Stripe’s acquisition of are clear examples of this. These are initiatives that, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with our business model. But they very much do, in the sense that they empower developers, online businesses, and entrepreneurs around the globe.

Internships are a unique opportunity to delve into what you’re looking for in a company so that you’re more informed when it comes time to choose a full time job. It’s daunting, but I definitely encourage taking risks that you otherwise wouldn’t when picking an internship. At best, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and find a new place you might want to work. And in the worst case, you’ll still learn a lot about what you value in a company.


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Life at Stripe

Stripes around the globe are working together to increase the GDP of the internet.

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Stripe

Life at Stripe

Stripes around the globe are working together to increase the GDP of the internet.