The joy of bigger companies

I love working in bigger companies, and I want to explain why. This week a blog post popped up on my radar which expressed very well why people love working in tiny companies like startups, so I thought it would be good to add a “yes, and…” for larger, more established, companies.

The background

Victoria Song, former VC, wrote about her experience working in a startup — actually, as the first person in its NY office. She expressed her perspective very effectively in the final sentences of her blog post, and I think it captures the feelings of many I know in similar situations:

…I’ve never felt more energized. I’ve also never felt more connected to my work. There was a moment I had doubts that I’d be able to make the impact I want in only 6 months, but boy was I wrong. 1 day in startup life is equivalent to 200 days in a big company. Shit just gets done.

That’s great! And I work with a couple of startups, so I know it’s true. Working in startups is great. And…

Bigger is beautiful, too

One of the reasons I love working inside bigger companies is that they’re just more complex. There are more people, real revenue streams, long-standing relationships, talented specialists, and more. If you want to make change (and from where I tend to stand, change is the norm) then you can’t do it by yourself, you have to do it with other people. And you don’t have any choice about which other people they are — they’re the people who already work there.

On the one hand that makes the job harder. On the other hand, it makes the achievements greater.

I can code, but I can achieve more with a professional software developer or twenty. I can think through actions, but I can achieve more with half a dozen professional QAs. I can co-ordinate things, but I can do it much more effectively with a project manager or two. It’s no longer down to me — it’s down to us. I need to justify things not just to myself, but to other real people with their own perspectives and their own commitment to the organisation. And often their perspectives are more valid than mine, and when the stronger idea is recognised and wins out we become more than the sum of our parts.

All this takes more time, it’s true. Working with colleagues in a real business requires empathy, a bit of psychology, open-mindedness, a commitment to long-term relationship building and respect. I like to think I’m pretty effective at my job; but I know I’m more effective with help.