With the tech industry projected to reach $5 trillion by 2021, many professionals are starting to look towards tech for their next career move, and those already in the industry are constantly presented with new opportunities to evaluate. Currently, the industry is made up of startups, ‘Unicorns’, and big tech companies such as FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google). In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for applicants to choose between these types of companies due to the perpetually changing landscape inherent to the tech industry. It’s important to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages of each and determine which model fits your career and personal goals.
The big tech companies within FAANG attract many applicants based purely on reputation because the brand recognition holds weight. That can be huge for a new grad or anyone entering the tech industry. You often hear other companies boast that they have five ex-Googlers on their team, or three ex-Apple engineers. Having one of the “big five” on your resume opens a lot of doors. Yet, there is an existing rigorous interview process at these companies. Google currently has an offer rate at 0.67% annually. In comparison, this is approximately 4% lower than Harvard’s acceptance rate. After receiving an offer letter at a FAANG company, employees can expect to have a focused role where they specialize in a specific task.
On Blind, an anonymous professional network, one poster states, “FAANG moves slowly and safely. You’ll work on a tiny thing that admittedly affects many users. Usually in a big team. Non-trivial features will involve cross-team collaboration.”
FAANG employees are competitively compensated for these specialized roles and also have access to unique amenities (like Google’s famous ‘nap pods’) that allow for their workforce to feel invested in.
The robust structure of companies of this size isn’t without its disadvantages. Netflix aside, approximately 50% of surveyed FAANG employees reported that they are unhappy in their current roles. Amazon tops the list, with 58% of employees saying they are unhappy in their role and have the question: How much is the prestige worth?
In contrast to startups, FAANG companies can provide less of an opportunity for career growth based on company size alone. By virtue of being a far more established organization, they have more mature processes, access to resources and fully developed departments and leadership. Naturally what happens in larger organizations is that employees’ work becomes limited in scope due to the amount of projects going on. Typically, as a new college grad or new employee, you don’t have much ownership over the overarching project you are working on. You’re working on much smaller tasks in the grand scheme of things, rather than owning an entire initiative.
The main appeal of working at a startup is the opportunity for rapid career advancement. In a startup environment, employees are often required to wear multiple hats, which provides them with more professional exposure. In many instances, this can be a means to find out what they are most passionate about. You’ll get the chance to figure out what you enjoy focusing on and what excites you about the job. As the company grows, you’ll quickly discover whether you want to be on the front end of things or whether you prefer a back-end job. Where do you ultimately want to go deeper? You can figure these things out with more ease at a startup than when you’re a candidate at an established company. This fluidity also happens to have the greatest impact on whether an employee is happy in their role.
Startups are beginning to offer similar perks to FAANG (company sponsored meals, fun work spaces, etc.) and there is an unprecedented focus on work/life balance (inclusive policies such as family leave, mentorship, etc.). Additionally, startup employees often get to see projects from start to finish and truly feel the impact they are having on the success of the company.
The same poster on Blind, in contrast to FAANG, states, “Startup(s) truly move fast and break things. You can work end to end and have ownership of a huge piece of software. You can wear more hats, e.g. UX or PM and make decisions.”
Larger percentages of equity are often used to incentivize employees not just to join, but to stay with the company. Equity is used as a means of demonstrating the business’s long-term goals, often including an IPO. For those employees that stick with their small startup from inception to publicly traded company, total compensation can skyrocket in a very short period of time. With the opportunity to try different roles and projects, new hires at startups may end up performing tasks that fall outside of their traditional wheelhouse, but end up discovering new talents or passions in the process. Even still, startup environments typically require a preferred work style. They have the tendency to be incredibly fast-moving, so people who aren’t afraid to “lean in” and take action will get the most out of the experience. Some employees often worry about stability and longevity, and also wish their company came with the prestige of a FAANG-like organization. Startups, even if they don’t work out, lead to tremendous personal growth, and the experiences will reflect in your professional life as well.
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