Should I Work For a Small or Large Company?

John: Hey, John Sonmez from
I got a question about company size. I thought this would be an interesting thing to address.
I’ve addressed this a little bit in my Soft Skills book. If you’re looking for more
in depth answer than I’m going to provide in this video definitely check this out. I’ll
put a link below but I’ve got a chapter in there about different companies and different
sizes. This question comes from Tom and Tom says, “Hello, my name is Tom and I’m watching
most of your great YouTube videos. I am in the fourth of 5 years in university from majoring
in electrical engineering. I’m making a niche towards embedded systems in IOT. I wonder
what you think is best: Start working for a big or a small company in the beginning
of the career. Additionally, what would be the next job position to aim for to boost
my career/salary? Continue to develop software/hardware assuming that’s my entry job? Try to be
a technical sales engineer or something else? If this would fit for a video the topics could
be small versus large companies, strategic ways in careers by aiming for the next job
position. Best regards from Sweden, Tom.” So Tom, this is an interesting question. There’s
definitely tradeoffs between a small and a large company. You’ve given me some additional
information by asking about at the beginning of a career which sort of changes my answer.
If you’re just starting out, would it better to work for a small company or a large company?
I would say in general that you’re going to find that it’s going to be better to
work for a small company and the reason why I would say that is because you’re going
to have to wear more hats. You’re going to have to do more stuff and you’re going
to be more involved. If you work for a large company probably as a software developer you’re
going to work on this one small piece of the project and this one small area of code fixing
bugs in this area and not—you’re not going to see the whole architecture, you’re not
going to see the whole process, you’re only going to learn this one very specialized part
of your job which isn’t going to be very widely applicable to the rest of your career.
Now, there’s a caveat here which is if you get an opportunity to work for like a Microsoft
or a Google or an Apple and you’re planning spending the next 20 or 30 years there then
it would be obviously best to start out there because you can grow a long career from there
and go up the scales there. It’s better to do that as soon as possible. If you’re
not, and it sounds like maybe you’re not, then I would say a small company because you’re
just going to get a lot more experience. A small company you’re going to be more
responsible for the outcome and you’re going to see the business process especially with
the questions you’re asking me doesn’t sound like you’re totally married to the
idea of doing software development because you said, should I be a technical sales engineer
or something else? What’s going to be the best thing for your career or salary? Working
in a small company you’re going to get more sense of the business so you’re going to
learn a little bit more about how things operate and how things work and the whole process
of developing software. That’s going to be valuable to you.
As far as your second question here in terms of where to go with your career like strategic
ways in your career for aiming for the next job position, it really depends on what your
ultimate goal is. I mean from a financial perspective go and get a job in the financial
industry. Go work in New York City or London developing financial software. That’s going
to be the most money by far. You’re going to make more money doing that than anything
else but that’s not everyone’s goal. If you’re not interested in the financial industry
and you’re just looking at where you’re going to make the most money, unless you’re
in a company like an Apple or a Microsoft being a senior developer is not going to be
that. It’s probably going to be going into management or being—if you get your MBA
and join the executive team try to move yourself into an executive position that’s probably
going to be the best. But again, that might not be the most fulfilling
role for you so you have to balance that out. I would say though that in general it’s
harder to progress up the ranks as a senior software developer and make a large amount
of money past some point. There’s a higher or there’s a lower glass ceiling there than
there is for some of the other roles that might not be as appealing but could be more
profitable like an executive position. It’s rare to see software developers making as
much as a CEO unless they actually are the CEO because they own the company.
That’s what I would say as far as, again, to talk a little bit more about the small
versus big company. The other thing to consider if you’re not just looking at money is the
tradeoffs. A big company it’s going to be easier to hide under the radar and you’re
going to—but your work is going to be less impactful so you’re not going to actually
see the work, like I said you’re probably going to be working on a small piece of a
thing. That might be fun if you enjoy that. You’re probably going to get to work on
big projects that are going to be a lot bigger than something that will happen at a small
company. I mean if you could be part of Google working on a self-driving car you’re probably
not going to have a big role in that but you can work on something that’s pretty cool
so that’s something to consider as well. Then with a small company, like I said, you’re
not going to be able to fly under the radar. If you make mistakes it’s going to be known
but your accomplishments are also going to be known. They’re going to lead more to
the success or failure of the team and the company. That can be a good benefit and it’s
probably going to be a little less stable. To give you kind of the middle road the most
stable company that you could work for is a medium sized company actually because they’re
less likely to have massive layoffs and they’re less likely to go under like a startup would
but they’re probably going to be the most boring in general to work for because you’re
not going to–____[inaudible 00:06:44] working on cutting edge things and you’re not going
to be able to fly under the radar either. There’s definitely a lot of considerations
to take or a lot of things to take into consideration when you’re thinking about what company
to work for. It really depends on what you’re trying to maximize.
If you’re trying to maximize profit, like I said, go work on Wall Street, become a quant
or something like that or actually be a software developer that eventually goes into trading
and you’re going to make a ridiculous amount of money. If you care about the job satisfaction
then you’re going to want to consider more carefully the differences between the small
and large company and whether or not you want to stay in the technical field.
Anyway, hopefully that helps you. I can’t give you exact advice in this particular situation
because, like I said, it’s very dependent on what your ultimate goal is and that’s
what’s going to determine your course here. But just starting out, you definitely want
to start out on the right foot and think about this and determine where you want to go and
that’s going to determine where you should start. Hopefully you found this advice useful,
Tom. I wish you the best. If you have a question for me, just email me at [email protected]
and if you like these videos, subscribe.

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6 thoughts on “Should I Work For a Small or Large Company?

  1. I think real question is small or big team. Even in a big company, there are sectors with small team. I used to work for Verizon where I joined a team that does a lot of prototypes. Each prototype is assigned to one or two developers.

  2. Great advice, and you are spot on. After school I got a job working for a small company and I did wear a lot of hats. Now I'm ready to move on to a larger company.

  3. you said exactly what I was thinking but sadly people around me don't, they think join the big company you sill get that stamp on your resume or something like that, but all and all, I know my knowledge would be my only one true friend im career, and now I am starting out as a full stack JavaScript developer previously was a react native deveoper in this company which would never be possible if I went after that job offer which would hire me as a fresher and with one year bound.

  4. Great advice. Sometimes you interact with developers from big companies and only see their view for the only particular section they have have been assigned to as opposed to those working for small companies.

  5. Yes and no, depends on the role you want and get offered. I've worked in some not so good small agencies but still was grateful for the fresh experience.

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