Xavi Ferro (Head of Engineering at Simply Wall St)
In a startup you are very close to the user. You will be working on a quick dev loop. If you are up for the challenge, you can learn about infra/frontend/backend. If the company is growing, you will be able to choose your own path if you are a consistent performer.
It is said 1y at a startup is 5y in corporate. That is not always the case, but in a good startup that is quite accurate.
On the other hand, resources are limited so you won’t have all the tools that you would have in a corporation. This is becoming less of an issue as some startups are very well funded and bring people with tons of experience of running big SaaS businesses.
Tim Tang (VP Engineering at Local Measure)
At a startup, especially one where the people all communicate and work well together, you can directly see the results of your hard work benefiting the company. When your sales and finance teams report on their successes with customers due to something you built or even had a hand in building it can be a real buzz. Just saying to yourself "somebody paid good money for this!" is a great feeling.
Stuart Totman (VP of Engineering, Campaign Monitor)
For me one of the most rewarding things about working for a startup is the fact you can have a big impact on the business as well as the fact you have exposure and autonomy across a vast array of technology. As someone who spent 16 odd years working in a large corporate it was refreshing to come somewhere that was a little more fast paced and where we were unbounded around what we can do.
Alexander Iskrenov (Head Of Engineering at Bluewater Control)
The thing I love most in startups is that you and your work matters. Regardless of your position, you make a direct impact on the company and often you can see the results straight away. If you join the startup early enough and get a good options or stocks package you are also investing in your future.
If you are successful, the company is successful and vice versa. Startup environment is fundamentally different from enterprises and one has to be honest with themself whether they are ready for something like this or not. Leaving a corporation is easy and often without consequences for neither the company nor the individual. On the other hand, leaving a startup after a few months is always a shock for the small business and it never looks good on your resume.
Vinny Lawrenson-Woods (Head Of Engineering at Prezzee)
In Enterprise organisations, for example, you can feel like a cog in a larger machine. Influencing outcomes can be a more complex endeavour and although processes are often more mature they can impact an organisation's agility. With a startup there’s a real opportunity to make a difference, influence outcomes and have a tangible input into the final product/solution.
Environments tend to be more agile (not necessarily Agile) and quick moving, which allows the business to pivot when required but can also lead to a more reactive workplace with more context switching. This can be challenging but can also be exciting, dynamic and rewarding (and fun!).
Roles in larger organisations are likely to have a more defined scope and associated responsibilities where startup roles tend to have a wider remit and less clear boundaries and, in my experience, can encourage a more collaborative environment.
Finally, the accelerated growth of a startup can lead to an increase in individual growth opportunities compared to more established organisations where development opportunities may be limited.
Adrian Groch (Software Engineer, Pendular)
Seeing the idea/business becoming verified by obtaining customers, and realising “hey you’re actually building something that is useful to people”. Seeing it grow into a grown up/mature company, and hiring people for the roles we were doing ourselves.
Dale Baldwin (Senior Software Engineer, Culture Amp)
I love getting to see products I’ve worked on coming to life and evolving as our customers use them. It can be a real thrill to see something you shipped getting used by millions of people.
I moved over from government and consulting two years ago and found that startups often lack structure, documentation and in a lot of cases a bit of a safety net so you need to think on your feet and be ready to fail at things and make corrections.
Khushbu Patel (Senior Software Engineer, Superhero)
The most rewarding thing is that my work is showcased, you can see the numbers of users, and you can proudly tell people what you have worked.
Of course, you have to adjust to align your skills and mindset with the startup. If there is any issue with your work, it is your responsibility to fix it and more often the mistakes cost a lot in early stages (like potential clients lost or compensation), so the accuracy of your work matters.
Artem Golubev (Dev Lead - Automated Retail at Hivery)
I like how I can be involved from the very beginning, to the release, to the customer and then hear their feedback firsthand.
Usually the atmosphere is much better too, there’s less politics and it feels more like a family than a job. The exposure is amazing, I have almost limitless potential for learning new things, be it business or technology or marketing. I can grab a coffee with our CEO and ask his thoughts on series B funding challenges he’s facing atm, no way you can do it in a huge company.
Technology stack is usually fresher and staying more on the cutting edge, which is fun to work with.
Jared Fraser (Senior Software Engineer, Mr Yum)
The most rewarding aspect of working in a startup is the direct impact you can make to a product and team.
The major challenges are usually the speed of delivery, balancing delivery timelines means shortcuts will be done adding technical debt to your codebase, remember perfection is the enemy of done.
Will Parker (Senior Software Engineer, Lendi)
Working at a startup is great when you want to be involved in business decisions and really have an impact on the direction of the business / product you’re building. As companies get larger these decisions tend to get passed down the organization’s hierarchy and by the time it comes to develop it it’s likely already got a fairly well defined scope giving you little input into the decision making process.
You’ll often be given a lot more freedom at a startup to help design the architecture of the system, the languages and frameworks you’ll use, and more.
John Wesley Salvador (Senior Software Engineer, Zeller)
Having worked for 5 startups, I think the most rewarding thing is that your efforts don’t go unnoticed, and you are part of the success of the company. Of course there will be ups and downs, and the pressure in the early stages. But by being proactive and not just thinking of yourself as a mere “employee”, it will definitely set your career in the right direction.
Alex Gurr (Head of Engineering, Cloudwave)
The best thing is the ability to work or be involved in every part of the business. Engineers in startups wear multiple hats.
And the challenges?
Unrealistic expectations. For a lot of startup entrepreneurs they’ve never done something like this before and are not inherently technical. This means lots of relevant decisions you’ll have to make will not make sense to others in the company. You’ll know how long it takes to build things, but there will be constant pressure to deliver, especially when the startup is on a limited budget/funding.
Paul Kelcey (VP Engineering, Longtail UX)
With high levels of accountability comes high levels of satisfaction. You can make a significant impact with a small business. You don’t stand out in a large organisation.
Alan Truong (Head of Engineering, EntryLevel)
Pratik Ghimire (ex-Software Engineer at Shippit, Senior Consultant - Developer at Thoughtworks)
The most rewarding thing in my experience is the relationships you form with the team, experience and most importantly growth. As the company grows, you would be able to grow with it.
And the challenges?
There will be lots of challenges in terms of maintaining legacy codes, building processes or toolings and scaling everything. The major challenge or adjustment that devs need to do is be open to the fast paced environment and deal with processes which are either non-existent or very primitive. I have also seen companies where a constantly evolving platform with a lot of tech debts and operational issues requiring manual effort on a daily basis. Depending on where the startup is, security and compliance is also a big change compared to established businesses.