Why working at a start-up makes me happy

Well, to begin with, I am not an entrepreneur. I started my career with big names and stuck with bigger names in the due course of time. And then I stagnated. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, basically for two reasons.

One, I was dispensable. I was just one more cog in the wheel. If I left, the place could easily be filled up by someone.  Everyone in a big system is. The CEO and CIO are as dispensable as the janitor. Nothing stops, no one looks back and laments. ”How much” value can one add to become indispensable? No measure. And as rightly said ”what cannot be measured cannot be managed”. Performance appraisals…well they are like batman, there but not there. Let us not even hit on that now.

And two, I don’t know about guys into coding and testing, but for someone whose living is on words (read writing), creative thinking and originality are killed slowly under the blanket of corporate uniformity, standardized templates, and client mandates. I am an economist by vocation and have a questioning and analytical mind. But in business, all you need to follow is templates and formats, (and yeah topped with some boss-pleasing exchanges and networking) to survive and swell (read get promoted). Logic and analysis? What’s that? I was doing the same thing for years and then I was trying to speak jargons while supervising others (read leading a team) who did the same.

With ongoing EMIs and financial commitments, I didn’t have the courage to quit. And also, ‘quit and do what’ thought bogged me down? Same thing for some other company? Didn’t make sense.

As if well planned and timed, I was introduced to a tech start-up, by a well meaning friend. I did have some reservations about my pay package initially but we agreed on a ‘minimum acceptable’ figure and joined hands.

And I haven’t looked back since then. It was almost like we both (the start-up firm and I had been waiting to meet each other! The chemistry has been amazing, the learning immense and job satisfaction, nothing like I have had before.

I am going to list down why working for a start up makes me happy. What I will also do is list the cons of it for people who might be on the verge of a decision and are confused. I owe it to many of my friends who are in the same shoes.

Things that a start-up offers:

1. Identity: You are someone who plays an important part in the skit and without you the skit will not be the same. You and your work make a difference, and this is what makes you accountable.

2. Creative freedom: Enough room for debate, discussion, disagreements, and dialogues. No rigid format or structure that can kill and idea.

3. No bosses: Sure, there are layers but not the rigid hierarchy that can suffocate an employee to death. People who lead are cool fellows who work as hard as they party. And yes, they are also learning.

4. Learning: That never stops at a start up. In fact, in most start-ups, everyone can do a bit of everything. This is the real multitasking. There are pressure and lots of it, but with everyone working as a passionate team, it becomes manageable. No watertight profiles and swanky titles, but the learning is unparalleled. Each one emerges a winner.

5. Culture: Being a small team, employees bond well. They are usually not focused on the rat race (promotions/increments). No bitching, water cooler gossips (many will not even have a water cooler!), office politics and other crap that demotivates even the highly motivated guy.

6. Informal set up: No ties, suits, and pigeon holed desks, a formal HR facade. Each one is committed to just one thing – The company. No boss-pleasing is needed. If you try becoming a yes man, chances are the boss will fire you! No one works for the boss. The boss included, everyone works towards a common goal, and that is taking the baby to new heights.

7. Swanky title: You can choose your title. If you want your signature to read CEO, the real CEO will not mind! I was asked to choose my title. Seriously no one is bothered what you are called. Your only identity is your work.

8. Flexi hours and policies: You will not be crucified if you reach office late or have to leave early some day. And surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone abusing these perks.

Things that a start-up may fail to offer:

1. Pay packages: With Flipkart and Snapdeal this is now proving wrong. But most startups are hard of cash and fail to offer attractive packages. Many will even fail to match your current draw. Join a start up only if you are passionate and committed, and of course ready to field questions from parents and relatives.

2. Erratic timings: You may have to log long hours or maybe on weekends, but mind you, the harder you work the harder you will party.

3. No insurance and medical coverage: With healthcare costs rising, this may pinch a little to those who have vulnerable dependents.

4. Corporate infrastructure: For a swanky office, glass doored lifts, colorful cafeterias with a live counter, a library, cab pick up and drop….Consider yourself lucky if you have a chair that’s not broken.

5. Offsites and lavish parties: You may not go to Macau for an offsite but may go to a nearby resort, but you will have much more fun in other ways. Believe me.

My journey with a start-up has been anything but boring. I still work long hours. And yes, I make less money. But for a change, I am happy with what I am doing.


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