On Moving To A Startup From A Corporate Environment
When I joined Relink in Copenhagen, I met a team of great and friendly people, but I wasn't sure what to expect otherwise. I have been working for a few years in a corporate environment prior to that, so this experience was completely new to me. I'd like to share with you what I've learned so far about working in a startup.
Things are happening much faster and smoother. When there is a task that needs to be done, you just do it! There is no waiting for approval through the chain of command of a large organization, no walls you need to climb to gain sufficient privileges, no searching for a person who owns a specific piece of the product that you need to access or work on.
The obvious benefit is of course that things are happening much faster, which is somewhat a necessity for a startup company. However, an underappreciated aspect of this is the psychological one: feeling empowered and not trapped in one’s cubicle.
Being able to do things without much supervision is much more fulfilling to me as a worker. Just the fact of having to go through approval processes and having to wait for a “yes” or “no” changes the role an employee takes in the company. That is not to say that reviews and evaluation of peers' work is not needed. However, it seems that those are much more inclusive in smaller companies. Naturally, the work one does in a smaller company is a much bigger part of the final product. Just as someone once said, it's much more fulfilling to make a whole shoe than just a shoelace. In general, the problem large corporations are challenged with that smaller startups don't suffer from, is the one of balancing maintaining discipline and control while keeping the morale of the employees high. Having said that, there are many different systems of governance, and unfortunately many corporations resemble autocracies rather than democracies. While it might be a better way to manage a company for the owner, I'd say it's a less pleasant environment for an employee to be in.
Probably a lot of these issues have to do with challenges of communication in big groups of people, which large companies undoubtedly consist of. After all, the number of connections between any two people in the group grows "factorially" (which is faster than exponentially!) with the size of the group. This is something I can definitely feel working in a company that fits everybody in a medium-sized room. There's a big difference between collaborating with people you know and strangers that you've never met before because they work on a different floor or in a different department! Communication is simply easier in startups because most of the information exchanged happens in one room, and there’s no question about it. However, it’s not only about the efficiency of communication, which is very often the main point in this discussion, but also about the morale of the group that benefits a lot from the free flow of information in a small company.
This might be perhaps my favourite thing about working in a startup. I can work remotely from different places in the world, in different time zones and at different desks (not that I like fancy desks, just plain flat desks are fine). Flexible hours or working remotely is rarely an option working in a bigger organization. Of course such flexibility has its cost, with communication breakdowns being much more common to happen. However, if done right and in right amounts, it can even result in an increased productivity (I often do my best work while working undisturbed in isolation), and can be extremely important in certain situations.
So far, I am enjoying working at Relink a lot! To me it feels like a group of friends working on one project, which I always thought work is supposed to be like!