10 Things I’ve Learned From Working At A Startup

Tarlon Khoubyari
   Web Content Manager


There is a startup fantasy that’s often depicted on TV where the walls are pink, there’s a ping pong table in the every room, and there’s an unlimited supply of coconut water in the fridge. My experience was far from that but overall, working with a startup has been one of the most rewarding, challenging and exciting experiences I’ve ever had. Having a team that is behind me 100 percent of the time is amazing, and having a female founder is inspiring.

Startups are scrappy and if you’re interested in them, you need to be flexible. They aren’t always pretty or glamorous but they are fun, and if you have the opportunity to, work with one.

Startup companies are smaller tech companies. However even small companies have the potential to go big; It’s crazy to think that the largest companies today like Google and Facebook started as small ideas in garages or dorm rooms.

The 10 things I’ve learned from my experiences working for a startup are as follows:

  1. You do everything, no seriously, everything.

At this company, I do a lot of different things. From user research to marketing to data mining. You need to be adaptable at any job but moreso at a startup. It’s the best way to see what it takes to make a successful business and you can even apply some of the things you learn to roles.

  1. Your task load is going to vary.

Feast or famine, people. In small startups and on some teams, you may have some days with no work or a lot of work. This is where you can get creative and come up with your own stuff to do. If you’re bored, ask yourself : “how can I help this business move forward? What research can be done?” And if you have too much to do make sure to manage your time accordingly.  

  1. Embrace change.

With any small team, things are going to break or happen so fast that it can get pretty overwhelming. With Startups, things change every single day but you’re hands-on with the product and the team so everyone helps each other out. If you decide to work with one, get comfortable, really really comfortable with change. It’s the only constant in any business.

  1. You’re going to learn A LOT.

Startups, to me, are the best and fastest way to get hands-on experience. Whether you’re a developer, in marketing, data analytics or anything else you’re expected to do a lot because there’s not a lot of people there. You learn as you go and if your team is as awesome as mine then they’ll be there to guide you along the way. You’re thrown into many situations where you don’t know the “whys” or sometimes the “whats” but you have to be able to adjust and give it your 100%. With that being said, if you really don’t know how to do something, just ask. Find one or two people you can go to for your seemingly “dumb questions.” They’re not dumb, and frankly, you never know if they could bring something up that no one else has really considered.

  1. The connections you build are for a lifetime.

Every team is different but mine has been super supportive. Working with a group of people to grow a company from the ground up is pretty intense, so naturally you form bonds with those people.

Remember, executive or intern people are still people. If you stay for a year or stay forever, connections are valuable to have for recommendations, networking and maybe your next job.

Sometimes, people who have been in the industry you’re in come on board and shake things up. Embrace and learn from them. You can learn from anyone, but especially someone who is a senior in their industry.

  1. It’s Exhausting.

Work hours for #startuplife are rarely 9-5. You work most nights and long hours during the day. There’s a lot that needs to be done but as your team gets bigger, the work spreads out. The initial stages are pretty intense. Startups aren’t for everyone; especially if you like to be out at a certain time of day. It’s long nights, early mornings and loads of coffee. This is different across the different startup cultures, but generally speaking, there’s a heavy time commitment. For my role in particular, I’m only obligated to work up to 10 hours a week depending on the workload for the week. Some weeks I have 10 plus hours worth of work, and on others I don’t; it all depends on what needs to be done. It’’s not consistent but it’s really rewarding.

  1. Resume booster.

If you’re a college student with a couple of years of past experience and you get a job working for a startup that experience looks really good on a resume or LinkedIn. People in the industry know how intense startups can be so if they see that you’re pushing yourself to work in that environment or even start a company of your own they value that. The experience you gain at working with small teams is more than if you worked at a huge company. You’re able to describe the actual impact you’re making to help this team or company grow. Try looking at ways to get involved with a Startup if you can or if you have a brilliant idea, can get money, and make a statement, then start your own company!

  1. Communication is key.

The chain of command is small when you’re working on a small team. There’s a few people between you and your founder, so your founder is going to be very hands on with your projects. She or he will have very high expectations because it’s their baby and they want to see it grow.  There needs to be clear, concise communication between you and your team. When you’re expected to present your findings or the latest project you’re working on, you should be prepared. Public speaking isn’t easy, but to be successful when working at startups, you  need to get used to it. This one was a tough one because I was kind of overwhelmed with people working around me. Here’s a tip on how to avoid that: practice what you’re going to say in your head. Find three major points and talk on those. Be prepared for questions, they’re going to be asked. Also, taking a deep breath before you speak can calm you down a lot.

  1. Enjoy it.

Embrace the rollercoaster that is #startuplife.  It may or may not be for you and that’s totally okay. Even when it gets tough, take time to appreciate what you’re doing or take a step back and ask yourself: “Is this really for me?” If not, leave and find something that makes you happy. If it is, then great! You’re in the right position. Work isn’t supposed to feel like work. Sometimes we don’t have a choice and we need the job, however, if you can get to a place that you’re happy doing your work, then you’re in the right position.

Milestones go by so quickly. Whenever something great happens within a company that you feel added value to, there’s a huge sense of pride and empowerment you feel. Enjoy those moments and the time you have with your team.

  1. Be behind the purpose.

This can be applied to any company but specifically for Startups because you don’t want to waste their time or yours by joining a team that you don’t really support. In order to be successful and happy with your decision of joining a startup, you need to firmly standby whatever the product, service and purpose the startup is trying to provide. Otherwise, you might in it for the wrong reasons. Take some time to reflect on why you’re joining and how valuable you can be to the team. As a college student, I was shocked when they wanted me to be on their team and I wanted to work right away. I did take a few days to think about whether or not I can make a time commitment like this with everything going on in my schedule; but ultimately, I found the decision to join a startup worth it.

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