My first and current job lead me to a 3-person startup. I was a bit skeptical; I have always thought I was going to work for a huge company with hundreds of employees. But after almost 5 years now, I am grateful for such an opportunity! Working in such a small environment allowed me to learn and grow much more and more quickly than what I could ever have imagined.
Clearly, being in such a small working environment has its disadvantages: less coffee breaks, to start! Jokes aside, the stress can reach very high levels and the working schedule only exists on paper. In such a small team, nobody is replaceable, and the success of a project depends on everyone’s effort. Holidays are taken considering project deadlines, meetings and conferences. It often happened to me to find myself stuck with a problem and with nobody available to ask for help. And if you don’t get along with your colleagues... well, you need to find a way to improve the relationship, because there are no other people to spend your lunch break with!
All of this, however, comes with huge satisfaction and recognition! Working in a small company you will always be in the front line, following projects from their innception till their end. Your name will be the first or second author in peer reviewed papers and you will quickly build a reputation in your field. You will learn a wide variety of hard and soft skills such as solving IT problems, writing scientific and technical documents, submitting proposals as well as managing at best your time, hiring your future colleagues and managing a small team. You will have more flexibility, indeed, working schedule only exists on paper. This does not only mean that you will sometime work extra hours, but that i have a flexible schedule that i can adjust to fit my everyday commitments.
Based on my peers’ experiences, I’m confident that I would not have been able to learn and achieve so much in a different environment, with complex hierarchy. Job seekers often ignore smaller firms, aiming to work for a big company. However, according to a report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) of 2017, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are a key player in the global economy and they play an important role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SMEs often promote inclusiveness by providing employment and good working conditions for all, reducing inequalities.
I encourage young professionals to not be scared of the challenge of working in a small company! Sometimes working for a big firm seems safer because of its reputation, but both environments offer different advantages. I do believe that at the beginning of a career path, working for a startup can be good and speed-up the growing process, and it can be a much better entry level for joining a bigger firm later on. It’s fun, it’s tough, but it’s worth it!
With thanks - this article was written by Marta Luffarelli.