My Journey from Corporation to Startup
My first job after business school was at a well-established, respected automotive manufacturer. The company has a storied history steeped in tradition, and it is undoubtedly a great place to work. There is also something very comforting about being in the safe cocoon of a giant corporation.
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Almost every position has been filled by someone else for years before you came along and stuck your name tag on the cubicle. There isn’t too much that is truly urgent, and meetings about meetings are a common occurrence. The layers are deep, and there is always somewhere to hide, both physically away from your desk, and mentally away from your responsibilities.
I voluntarily had six different roles in six years, hopping around to learn more about different parts of the company. They moved me across state lines twice, all with a traditional generous relocation package. I traveled across the southwest, discovered and drove all types of vehicles, and worked with some of the best coworkers you could ask for.
But at the beginning of 2019, I started feeling like I was moving in slow motion. I was working on a team that was creating pilots in the mobility space, and I became increasingly passionate about the combination of tech and transportation. I knew I could challenge myself more professionally, but didn’t want to go back to any traditional automotive manufacturer roles. My awesome manager had created a Mobility Monster, and that area was where I was going to stay.
When I realized I didn’t love where I lived and was also losing interest in my job, I decided to look for a new opportunity in the emerging mobility space. I anticipated that it would be a challenge to move from a big, slow company to a small, nimble one. I did some research on the biggest hurdles with this to try to be proactive, but still knew my transition would be tough no matter how much I prepared.
After I spent a few months in various interview processes, I decided to accept an amazing opportunity at a late-stage Series C mobility startup in LA. I made the move, and was excited and anxious to get started.
On my first day, I was unintentionally more dressed up than 95% of the people there. They could probably tell I was ex-corporate. I eventually understood the uniform of what my friend likes to call “a tiny bit nicer than what I’d wear to Target,” and began to fit in.
When they say startups move quickly, they aren’t kidding. My first few weeks felt like months, and I was taken aback by what my new team members could accomplish within 8 to 10 hours. I honestly have never been amongst such smart and driven young people in my life.
At times, the pace is so fast that you just have to laugh. In my previous company, we’d start a meeting off casually, making small talk without much sense of urgency to get going. Now, sometimes we have to jump right into problem solving and establishing processes. It’s all definitely a change for me, but I appreciate the fact that we can create solutions out of thin air.
A funny thing happens when you’re surrounded by people who have an actual stake in the company’s success: the energy is contagious. We have to work as hard as we can today, or we could be gone tomorrow. There is no safety net, no roles people have previously filled for years, no deep well of company knowledge. All we have is the present, and hopefully, the future.
There is something to be said for large company structure and processes, especially when young companies grow and need to eventually incorporate some as well. I’ll always be thankful for the corporate cocoon that helped me develop a variety of skills, both professional and personal.
But for someone used to big company life, this new challenge in the startup world is like working on another planet…and I am having an absolute blast.