04/10/2019 12:00:00 AM
Corporate or Startup Career? The Paradox of Choice in Today’s World
While at the Egypt Career Summit last March, I was part of the age-long dialogue between students, fresh grads and junior executives on whether one should join a “well established multinational corporate” or a “newly established startup”?
Over 2000 bright eyed ambitious young professionals were discovering new industries and career paths, they were seeing first-hand the many options an “employee” can now have and they were beginning to get terrified.
The main question was “Do I start/join a startup or start my career at a corporate first?"
I have personally worked fruitful careers on both sides and I am here to tell you; when making this kind of choice you need to be informed first.
Trends worldwide point towards the startup career path as the career of choice for 60-70% of fresh graduates while the rest opt for a corporate career instead.
If you are contemplating a corporate job, it can always be beneficial for your career on the long run especially if you are keen on learning and managing your self-development.
Pros of a Corporate Career:
Stability & Good pay: very self-explanatory. Your pay check will always arrive on time.
Stable Positive Learning Experience: working at an already established company means that the board has had ample time to set the corporate’s mission, vision and strategy for the short and long term, giving you a perfect environment to learn, develop and build according to said vision.
Rules are set: With a clear mission and vision, a company will have already established running system and processes books across all functions within the company. This sets employees at a good-to-go mentality while working within already set parameters and processes. In a corporate environment, you don’t have to second guess yourself, your boss or your co-workers, the process is already in motion.
Vertical Learning: This allows you to become an expert in one area or one field in a shorter amount of time as opposed to stretching yourself across several verticals.
In my experience, if you choose a corporate job you need to make sure of the following:
- High Growth Industry.
- You are comfortable with the size of the organization.
- You know your career path.
- You are good with their training budget and policy.
- You are aligned with the company’s purpose.
- You have a good chemistry with your boss.
William Raduchel, the famous angel investor, once said: “Don’t pick a job. Pick a Boss. Your first boss is the biggest factor in your career success. A boss who doesn’t trust you won’t give you opportunities to grow.”
Pros of a startup career:
- The Pleasure of getting your hands dirty and execute things first hand from scratch.
- The Ability to learn first-hand horizontally across various functions and departments.
- The Space to make a positive and meaningful impact within your job, my millennial friends, this one is for you.
- The ability to totally be in control with your career, hours, space and deliverables.
Note: it might pay less at a startup but pay, while important, isn’t the only factor for choosing a job.
To be honest, there is always risk with whatever career path you are choosing:
Startup Career Risks:
- 80% Failure chance.
- More likely to be a zombie product. Learn more about Zombie Products here.
Corporate Career Risks:
- It is hard to level up and takes a bit of time to actually climb up the corporate ladder.
- Workplace competition. Corporate life can easily turn into political cold wars.
What I would recommend:
1- learn as much as you can at the corporate world then start your startup when you are ready for it and feel you have acquired enough expertise.
2- Don’t rush, the average age of startup founder is much older than you think.
In a new paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, it came out that the average age of a startup founder (at the time of founding the startups) is about 41.9 years of age. So where is the rush?
This has taught us at A15 to prefer founders with previous corporate experience when investing with them. The prime example is Sahar Salama, CEO of TPAY, one of our portfolio companies and MENA’s first dragon exit. Sahar had an extensive corporate experience in both telecom and payments verticals before starting TPAY.
Still Confused? There is always option number 3. Become an entrepreneurial employee.
The Entrepreneurial Employee
The entrepreneurial employee is basically a member of a promising startup team and have shares in this startup. Entrepreneurial employees need to be eager, smart and driven people with more vision and risk tolerance than a typical employee, but have more patience and humility than the typical entrepreneur.
To become an “entrepreneurial employee” you need to be:
- Working hard as if you are a founder or a shareholder in the company, have an extreme ownership; loyalty and dedication are key.
- Aligning your purpose with the overall purpose of the startup; you can only reach this if the company’s values are a reflection of your personal values.
- Being passionate about your work and your company; you enjoy doing your job.
- Going the extra mile; you have high standard for delivering high quality work.
- A leader not a manager, you empower your team.
- Reaching a stock option plan with your company.
- Caring about giving back to the community by sharing your knowledge and skills by taking part in startup ecosystem events as a mentor, facilitator and speaker.
Get Your Shares
One of the important benefits and perks of being an entrepreneurial employee is having shares in the startup or the company you are joining. We at A15 we believe this benefit is a RIGHT not a privilege.
At A15 an integral part of our corporate culture is to create a sense of ownership amongst our employees in every company we fund and operate. Employees are factually invested in their startups, and they share in the company’s future through the implementation of the employee Stock Grant Program (SGP).
Did you know that TPAY’s employees got vested and liquidated 76% of their shares in the light of exiting 76% of the company last year? This is one of our core unnegotiable processes in each A15 portfolio company.
In the end I want you to know that there is no right and wrong in your career path and eventually, career success, it is all about the leading a meaningful journey that helps you grow as a person and human and not just reaching a destination, but know this for a fact; if you work hard through the challenges of your unique journey you will reach further than you ever dreamed possible.
May Success be with you!!
Fadi Antaki, A15’s CEO.