About a year ago, I made the switch from startup hopping to working for a large company. While I may not stay forever, it seems like a good choice so far. I work for Philips HSDP in Cambridge MA. If you’re interested in my reflections on working for a big company, read on.
I like lists, so I’ll bullet point the bad and the good. First, the bad
- As much as they say it’s like a startup, it isn’t. Decisions are slower. Change is slower. There is a lot of overhead.
- In a startup, the politics are usually laid bare because it’s a small group of people. In a big company, politics seems more subtle. I don’t understand all of the politics at Philips yet, and I don’t know if I ever will.
- There is more regulatory training than I can shake a stick at. Hours and hours of mandatory training. I understand this from working in other compliance environments, but it doesn’t make it any more fun.
- Architecture decisions are set in stone, and I have almost no say in how things are constructed at a high level. It also seems hard to change bad architecture. Momentum is good and bad I guess.
- I could be part of some random (or not so random) re-org and get squashed like a bug.
And the good:
- When I do good work, management appreciates me. That’s certainly not unique to large companies, but their appreciation comes in more tangible forms than a hearty thank you I would receive at a startup.
- I have enough work and interesting projects to keep me busy for the full day with a little left over to tackle the next morning. On the flip side, most days, I can leave work at work. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been awakened in the middle of the night to fix something.
- There is plenty of opportunity to mentor junior members of the team. This is probably unique to growing organizations more than large organizations.
- The pay is better than startups in my area. When recruiters call, I can usually scare them away by stating my base salary.
And not unique to large companies, but certainly fitting for my organization
- I get to work on projects that can save people’s lives. This is way different than working at marketing startups where the benefit to society is marginal.
- My managers are willing to let me work on things that I am completely ignorant about. One of my first large projects was an upgrade to our Cloud Foundry deployments. Before I came to philips I had no idea what Cloud Foundry was. I also get to work on big data projects where the data is actually big.
- While I haven’t looked deeply into it, Philips seems to encourage moving around in the organization. There are whole intranets dedicated to internal job postings and applications.
For me, the positives outweigh the negatives by a long shot. It ain’t paradise, but I can see myself working here for a long while if I don’t get reorg’ed away.