I’ve spent my career working at big organizations. Deloitte is the largest professional services network in the world with over 200,000 employees. CNA’s size pales in comparison, but 7,000 employees is still a substantial figure. With my upcoming change in career fields, I’m hoping for my next job to be at a much smaller company, potentially even at a startup. Given my previous experiences in corporate America, I believe I’d find greater satisfaction working for a smaller company. Shaan Shah’s thoughts about the tech and startup scene is a great first-hand account about the positive aspects of those areas and was one of the contributing factors in my desire to change careers. While there are indeed many advantages to working for such large companies (benefits, stability, brand recognition, etc.), there are also distinct drawbacks, especially early in your career when you have to spend time moving up the chain to a position with greater responsibility. Granted, working at a bigger company in the tech field may be completely different from my experience, but I’d still like to work at a small company for a few reasons.
When I reenter the workforce after gaining invaluable skills at MakerSquare, I want to have a role that affects multiple parts of the company, not just one specific area. When working at a large company, your group is likely to have a relatively narrow focus. Big companies means there’s plenty of people to work in different groups focusing solely on specific business areas. Inevitably, your exposure will be limited in scope. At CNA, I worked in the statutory reporting group. There were other small projects I worked on, but the vast majority of my time was spent on one specific area: putting together the financial results of CNA’s insurance companies. Because of this, I didn’t have the opportunity to influence areas outside of that group.
I also want to be an integral part of a team that has a positive influence on the business. I want my contributions to be valued and unique, not the same as what another person would have brought to the table. One of the downsides I experienced at a big company is that you are eminently replaceable, especially at a firm like Deloitte. If somebody leaves the company, they just plug another body in. There’s always someone who can take on your roles and responsibilities and, at a minimum, perform at roughly the same level. It really doesn’t make you feel as if you’re valuable to your employer knowing you could be gone tomorrow and the machine would keep on humming along.
Going hand in hand with being integral, I want the opportunity to be innovative (granted, my previous career field of accounting is definitely not one associated with innovation). Most large, well-established companies are big for a reason. What they’re doing usually works so they don’t need to be at the forefront of innovation. They look for improvements to their current processes, not wholesale changes. In accounting, you often have to follow certain established procedures in order to complete a task. There usually isn’t a role for creativity which isn’t the case for coding. Startups often need fresh ideas and approaches to become successful. That’s a major reason I want to work in the tech field. Having the chance to shape the course of a business or a significant aspect of the business is really appealing.
The combination of these reasons leads to what I believe is the biggest negative of working for a large company – not having the opportunity to have an immense impact. In my last two jobs, even when working on small project teams, I felt like what I was doing would not have a notable impact within the context of the organization as a whole. For example, even if you’re working on a minor project at a company with 25 employees, what you do in all likelihood is going to have a relatively greater effect than if you’re one of a thousand. I want to be able to look back and reflect on what I’m doing at work and truly believe that I’m having a significant impact. Without that, I’ll continue to feel like I’m not getting what I want out of my career. However, I believe that working at a small company will give me that satisfaction.