Deciding between working for Big Tech or at a startup? It can be a tough decision, but they each have their distinct pros and cons. In this blog, we’ll be exploring differences of working in big tech vs at startups, so you can make an informed decision about which is right for you.
Big tech companies are typically larger and more established, with a slower pace and more structured work environment. Startups are usually smaller and faster-paced, with a tight-knit community and more flexible work environment. Working in big tech often offers higher compensation and lower risk, while working in a startup can offer the chance to make a bigger impact but also carries a higher risk of failure.
I’ve worked in both and will outline the pros and cons below.
What are the Advantages of Working for a Big Tech Company?
When it comes to working in big tech, there are several advantages to consider:
- High salaries and benefits: Big tech companies tend to be more financially stable and are able to offer competitive compensation packages to their employees. This may include high salaries, bonuses, stock options, and other incentives. In addition, big tech companies often offer generous benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and employee perks such as free meals and gym memberships.
For reference, here are some average salaries and total comp for entry level product positions at a couple of big tech companies (as of 2023).
|Company||Avg Annual Salary||Avg Total Comp|
|Apple||$88,000 – $110,000||$110,000 – $135,000|
|$90,000 – $112,000||$112,000 – $137,000|
|Microsoft||$85,000 – $107,000||$107,000 – $132,000|
|Amazon||$87,000 – $109,000||$109,000 – $134,000|
|$87,000 – $108,000||$108,000 – $133,000|
- Opportunities for advancement and career development: Big tech companies often have structured hierarchies and well-defined career paths, which can provide employees with clear goals and a roadmap for advancement. In addition, these companies tend to have resources and training programs in place to support employee development, such as leadership training and technical skills workshops. Additionally, you are often surrounded by seniors and mentors with a lot of experience to draw from.
Here is what a typical product management career path might look like (definition and duration will vary):
|Career Stage||Time Frame (years)|
|Entry-level (associate)||0 – 2|
|Junior product manager||2 – 4|
|Senior Product Manager||4 – 6|
|Lead Product Manager||6 – 8|
|Director of Product Management||8 +|
- Access to resources and technology: Big tech is always inventing in the future via research and development, which means employees may have access to cutting-edge technologies and resources that can help them do their job more effectively. This can include state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, as well as a variety of tools and technologies to support their work.
Overall, working for a big tech company can be an exciting and rewarding experience, with the opportunity to work on high-impact projects, earn a competitive salary, and grow your career. However, it’s important to also consider the potential drawbacks, such as the strict hierarchies and bureaucracy that can be present in these organizations.
What are the Disadvantages of Working for a Big Tech Company?
While there are certainly advantages to working for a big tech company, there are also some disadvantages to consider:
- Strict hierarchies and bureaucracy: Big tech companies may have strict hierarchies and bureaucracy, which can lead to a lack of flexibility and creativity. This may mean that employees need to follow strict processes and procedures in order to get things done, and may have less autonomy in their work.
- Limited flexibility and creativity: The more structured and formal culture of big tech companies may be less conducive to collaboration and innovation, as there may be clear lines of authority and decision-making power, and employees may be more siloed in their roles and responsibilities.
- Risk of getting lost in the shuffle: With so many employees and layers of management, it can be difficult for individual contributions to stand out and be recognized in a big tech company. This can be especially true for those who are starting out in their careers and may not yet have a strong track record or reputation within the organization.
Overall, while working for a big tech company can offer many benefits, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks and how they may fit with your personal goals and preferences. If you enjoy a more structured and formal work environment, a big tech company may be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a more flexible and creative work environment, a startup may be a better fit.
What are the Advantages of Working for a Startup?
When it comes to working for a startup, there are several advantages to consider:
- Opportunity to be a part of a small, tight-knit team: Working for a startup can be a more personal and collaborative experience, as you will be part of a smaller team and may have more direct contact with the founders and other key decision makers. This can be especially rewarding if you enjoy being closely involved in the direction and culture of the company.
- Chance to shape the direction and culture of the company: At a startup, you may have the opportunity to be more hands-on and have a greater impact on the direction and culture of the company. This can be especially exciting if you enjoy being creative and taking on new challenges.
- More flexibility and creativity: Startups tend to be more agile and flexible than big tech companies, which means you may have more freedom and autonomy to try new things and come up with creative solutions. This can be a more exciting and dynamic work environment, especially if you prefer a more iterative and experimental approach to your work.
Overall, working for a startup can be a rewarding and exciting experience, with the opportunity to be closely involved in the direction and culture of the company, and to have more flexibility and creativity in your work.
What are the Disadvantages of Working for a Startup?
While there are certainly advantages to working for a startup, there are also some disadvantages to consider:
- Higher risk of failure: One of the main drawbacks of working for a startup is the higher risk of failure (according to a report by the investment firm CB Insights, around 20% of startups fail within their first year, and around 50% fail within their first five years). Startups are still in the process of finding their footing and growing, which means there is a greater risk that the company may not succeed. This can be a particularly high-pressure environment, as there is often a lot of pressure to achieve results and make a profit.
- Longer work hours and more pressure: Working for a startup may also involve longer work hours and more pressure, as the company is trying to establish itself and grow. This can be especially true for those who are in leadership or key decision-making roles, as they may have a lot of responsibility and a high level of pressure to deliver results.
- Lower salaries and fewer benefits: Startups may not have the same financial resources as big tech companies, which means they may not be able to offer the same level of salaries and benefits. This can be a trade-off for those who are willing to take on the higher risk and pressure of working for a startup in exchange for the opportunity to be more closely involved in the direction and culture of the company.
Overall, while working for a startup can be a rewarding and exciting experience, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks and how they may fit with your personal goals and preferences. If you enjoy a more flexible and creative work environment and are willing to take on a higher level of risk and pressure, a startup may be a good fit for you.
Ultimately, the right choice will depend on your individual goals, career aspirations, as well as your personal preferences and comfort with risk.
In conclusion, both big tech companies and startups can offer exciting and rewarding work environments, but it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons and consider your personal goals and preferences when making a decision. By doing your research and exploring both options, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your career goals and personal preferences.