5 Surprising Things About Transitioning from “Big-Tech” to a Start Up
Clearly getting laid off from work is not a fun experience, particularly if it’s a job you love, you have worked at a long time, or where you have developed close bonds with your colleagues and / or clients. Possibly the brightest silver lining for anyone who finds themselves in this situation, is that losing a job allows you to make big changes to your work life with minimal downside — whether it’s accepting a job in a new city, industry or function. Something bold that anyone recently laid off from Big Tech might want to consider is working for an early stage startup. I co-founded Sunstone Credit, a solar lending platform for businesses, in 2021 after many years working in “Big Tech”. Here are 5 things about my experience that I have found surprising.
1. Work / life balance does exist
One of the most common misperceptions of startup life is that it is all consuming. Forget about seeing your friends and family or taking that once in a lifetime trip — your company owns your schedule now! At Sunstone Credit, this could not be further from the truth. Yes, we work hard and sometimes we have to put in extra hours to deliver the best experience possible for our partners, but that is the exception rather than the norm. We understand that in order for our team to bring their best selves to work, they need the opportunity to have an outside life. Over half of our team are parents, which means taking time for school plays and soccer games. And, whether you are a parent or not, it also means trips to Tahiti and the Greek islands to unwind! I personally love to go on camping trips to enjoy my time off the grid.
2. Your attitude about work will be completely different
Something incredible about working at a startup is that it doesn’t always feel like work. You know the quote: “Do what you love, and you will never work another day in your life.” Working at a startup where you are passionate about the mission and the team is kind of like that. All the work you put in is oriented towards a common goal and it stops feeling like work. Goodbye Sunday-Scaries. A big part of the reason for this is you are actually working for yourself. Sure, you will still have a manager, but at Sunstone Credit every employee has equity in the company. Meaning that when we succeed, everyone shares in that success financially. It’s a huge motivator and will completely change how you look at Monday morning.
3. You can have a bigger impact supporting a bigger mission
Startups by their very nature set out to tackle big problems and disrupt stagnant industries. This provides employees with the opportunity to have a major impact towards an important mission. At Sunstone Credit, our mission is to finance the clean energy future for businesses, lending to businesses so they can install solar at their facilities. The brilliant thing about this mission is that it has many layers, each as inspirational as the last. First, we help businesses that are the backbone of the American economy save money and reduce their carbon footprint by going solar. Second, we support the businesses of our solar installer partners, unlocking the commercial segment for them which will fuel their future growth. And finally, we are helping to decarbonize the atmosphere. Electricity generation is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally, and assuming each panel on every commercial solar system we finance has the ability to produce 1.5 kWh of power per day, that is almost 900 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced each year per panel. This is a hugely inspiring mission to tackle the global climate crisis.
4. Its not an unstructured free-for-all
Working towards an important mission is great, but not if your company lacks the organizational structure to actually accomplish anything. This is another common perception of startups from the outside looking in: that startup management teams lack the professionalism and expertise to get things done and therefore these companies are free-for-alls with limited structure and process keeping the team on task. At Sunstone Credit, we strive to balance giving team members the flexibility to take risks and try new things while also maintaining order. At the end of the day, we are a fintech that partners with leading financial institutions to lend money, so we take process and structure very seriously — our partners’ regulators require it. Our team has a lot of energy, but it is comprised of experienced professionals. Our leadership team has decades of solar, technology and finance experience and we understand that you can’t grow a business without good governance.
5. You will work with people that inspire you
Startups are a great place to work when you are looking for a change of pace in your career because they enable you to bring your past experiences to the table while also forcing you to learn new things and get out of your comfort zone. Our team is only 25 people and those people have to cover a lot of ground. There are the basics of our core business like technology, underwriting, sales and bank partnerships and also the functions that are needed at any company: PR, marketing, legal and regulatory, partnerships, etc. This means that everyone on the team gets a lot of exposure to various areas of the business you might never encounter at a larger organization. And you also get exposure to different people who have had completely different career paths from your own who you can learn a lot from. It is very inspiring to work with people who have expertise very different from your own, especially when you are all working together in support of the same mission. Its like a band — everyone plays their own instrument and when you put the different pieces together the whole is much more amazing than just the sum of its parts!
Hopefully this has helped to explain some of the things that might be surprising in a transition from Big Tech to an early stage startup. When you are ready to come over, please check out our open roles at Sunstone Credit here or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!