Thinking about transitioning to a tech career can be intimidating! Leaving aside the technical learning curve, jobs in startups are often really different than similar positions in more traditional workplaces. I’ve worked in a number of tech startups, as well as in the public service, and I’d like to share a bit about why I prefer the startup environments.

In my experience, startups allow you to really stretch yourself and grow. You have the ability to identify areas you want to gain experience in and pitch projects that allow you to build valuable skills (and great interview stories).

I’ve always thought of startups as “all-hands-on-deck” environments - people are often stepping outside of what’s on their job descriptions, and lending their skills and expertise across the organization. For example, I’ve been able to help out on research projects, participate in product testing, and have even done some bookkeeping, even though those tasks aren’t something on my job description. In comparison, when I worked in the public service, I never had the chance to participate in a project spearheaded by a different department and there weren’t very many opportunities to expand my skill set with stretch assignments or tasks.

I think part of this is due to the transparent communication style that a lot of startups have; through daily standups, open Slack channels, and public project boards you get a very clear understanding of what each team is working on, and how that contributes to the growth of the company.

I’m always fascinated by the diverse education and experience my teams have. In tech startups I’ve met dropouts, people with advanced humanities degrees, comp sci graduates, people who have come out of bootcamps - and everything in between! With a focus on real-world results and experiences, many startups are actively trying to dismantle the idea that your educational background determines your ability.

Careers in startups can often offer more flexibility and autonomy than other positions - which can have its downside! You’ll need to be self-directed, manage your own time and tasks, and find a way to disconnect - all of which can be tricky in a remote role, especially.

The above are just a few points to keep in mind as you explore your next career move. If you’re considering startups, look into each organization’s values and mission (usually on the website) as these will spell out what drives day-to-day decision making and the way work is structured. You can use these clues to help write your cover letter, too.

Good luck!

About the author

Born and raised in Victoria, BC Alanna is a passionate community-builder and startup champion. A CPHR candidate, she has a wealth of HR experience, currently focusing on recruitment and talent at Dyspatch. As an organizing member of the People Ops group, Alanna encourages professional development and life-long learning - and a bit of fun. She's currently planning Startup Slam, a celebration of Victoria's tech community.

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