How to choose a right startup to work for?

imageHi friends,

Last week I wrote a blog stating the positives of working at a startup. This time around I want to write about ‘the other side of this coin‘; I am hardly two years into tech & startup industry; I am still learning and evolving as a developer and as an individual. I will try to present my views with whatever limited knowledge I have.

Indian startup ecosystem is on adrenaline. It is booming day by day; funds are coming in from venture capitalists, angel investors and adventure seeking biggies.

The list of prestigious unicorn 1 billion club is increasing at a very fast pace.
Lots of Indian companies are making their debut in this list. From an overall perspective we can say that; this is a very good time to work for startups.

This morning as I was going through my Facebook news-feed, I came across this article; I was astonished to see that a promising startup with good funding had to lay-off hundreds of employees! Everyone may have their own perspective but, if we believe this article we can say that they made this move trying to make what they call a big structural and organisational change (basically trying to save few more bucks). May be the management was forced to do this thing; but I feel it is very bad and atrocious for those employees which are getting fired for no fault of theirs. I understand that in startups margin of mistake is very minimal; you are expected to perform continuously; sometimes employees get sacked due to under performance but laying them off without a solid reason cannot be accepted.

This raises a few questions…

– As a fresher or an aspiring developer should I join startups?
– What should be the minimum criteria of a startup?
– What things should I look forward to after I join a startup?

1) As a fresher or an aspiring developer should I join startups?

Hell yes, you should always look for such opportunities. A startup not only plays a crucial role in developing your technical abilities but also sculpts your attitude & approach towards a problem. It teaches you to handle pressure and perform under stressful environment. In bigger companies you won’t get to build something from scratch; but in startups you will probably get this chance. Building something from scratch gives you an insight in entire development cycle of that product; right from step 1 (step 0 in some cases!). You are the owner of that product and that product is your responsibility. It gives you immense technical prowess, exposure and satisfaction. You learn and adapt things very quickly. (You have to; you don’t have any other choice!)

Hell no, if you want a structured job with fixed and defined requirements. Most of the startups don’t define things clearly; their structure can be ambiguous. Working at a startup will always require a dedicated and passionate effort from your side. You can’t just log hours and chill around. You are expected to deliver in short deadlines. Sometimes you don’t have a road-map for navigation; you have to start and finish journey on your own; making mistakes and evolving from them and eventually learning a new lesson daily! Most of the startups provide good (industry-standard) salaries but they don’t provide important perks like health insurance, travel allowance etc. These things can be very important sometimes!

2) What should be the minimum criteria of that startup?

The startup should have a decent technology stack; you should not be working on outdated things. Your profile should reflect the type of work you will do in future (atleast a close estimate!). The startup should be well funded; atleast to a level where your monthly salary is guaranteed. Transparency is the key; you should be blatant in asking right questions in a right manner at right times and you should expect (honest) answers from the management. It is about your career; you should have full knowledge of what you are getting into. Most of the startups have a cool culture; but you should find yourself culturally fit among other peers. You will spent most of the time working your ass off over there; so it should be enjoyable for you and the people around you. You can’t ask for fancy things; but they should provide atleast a bare minimum (e.g., a good system to work on, office-desk essentials, public holidays 😛 etc.).

You should get whatever is promised (if not more!). In other words you should make sure that the terms of your contract are followed.

3) What things should I look forward to after I join a startup?

Get ready for one heck of a ride!!! It will be a journey of great learning and adventure if you have chosen a right startup. There will be times when everything may (and will) go wrong; you will have to persevere through all the insecuritiesand nervousness. It won’t be easy to work among coding-rockstars; you will face a great amount of peer pressure. Every one in the team will have a story to tell; you will wonder that when you will reach at their level. In the start, you may feel down or low in confidence (if you are joining as a fresher). It will be a big shift for you in terms work-ethics, ideology and routine for you. Suddenly you will be held accountable for anything that is not working or anything that is not built properly! You will find yourself working in stress sometimes but most of the times you will work passionately to kind of prove yourself (and others) that you can do better! Meanwhile there will be a lot of boozing, terrace parties and eating hangouts. In no time you will find yourself being recognized (if you work hard enough!).

Happy startup-hunting!

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What it is like to work at a startup?

Ahoy mates!

– Every day is a roller coaster ride.

– You are not a valued employee. You are a pirate or a jedi instead.

– You work with a great bunch of motivated, talented and coolest geeks who are not shy to use F*** word a bit too frequently.

– Action may speak louder than words but code definitely speaks louder than any action!

– You are always updated about the coolest technical stuff happening all around the globe; thanks to the crazy folks all around you!

– You are not just a developer. You are a scrum-master, a deploy-king, a tester, a code-reviewer, a recruiter, an interviewer and sometimes you even get to pitch for your company! (If you are lucky enough..)

– You may feel intimidated and nervous at times!

– You learn the meaning of ownership and accountability.

– You continuously learn a lot of things simultaneously. Sometimes in a hardest way possible!

– Your mind suddenly gets tweaked to engage itself in provoking new thoughtsand ideas.

– You are free to choose and explore new technologies. Start-ups don’t believe in legacy tech!

– Your ideas  and grievances are heard effectively and immediately.

– You are expected to work hard and trained to work smart.

– You might get addicted to caffeine and beer in long run. 😀

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