How to Choose Your Next Career Move: Big Tech vs Startups.

What's the right move for you in your tech career?

December 6, 2022
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At some point in your career, everyone is likely to be faced with the daunting question: what next?

You landed that sought-after role in Big Tech but now feel it’s time to take on the next challenge. Do you stay in your current company and aim for a promotion? Would you feel more fulfilled using your skills in a different area of the business? What about moving into a much smaller, more agile team working on an exciting new product?

Perhaps you’re a graduate targeting your first major role. What’s a better fit for you, working for a FAANG giant like Amazon, or joining a tech start-up?

We sat down with Vishal Chaudhary, to explore these questions and gain some insights from his personal experience. His background leaves Vishal perfectly positioned to delve into choosing the ideal next step in your tech career.

Vishal is a former Product Manager and Software Development Engineer at Amazon, SAP, and Accenture, and a top-rated Carrus Coach. He has worked at Big Tech names, mid-size businesses, and start-ups. 

Big Tech (FAANG) or Start-up?

Let’s examine some key areas to consider when deciding between joining a FAANG company (or similar Big Tech business) or a Start-up.

#1 Hierarchy

FAANG: Tall and bureaucratic structure. In such a huge business, it follows that there are many, many layers and levels between the CEO and top-level executives, and a Junior Engineer. 

Start-up: A positive of working for a start-up as an Engineer is that you’ll get to work with all the Chief Officer titles you’d only see from afar in a FAANG business. You’ll have direct access to CTOs, CPOs, and CEOs because the staff complement will be lean – maybe 10 people in total, and everyone is hands-on and pulling forward together.  You’ll get to work with the leadership at that start-up daily which translates to you learning a lot along the way.

#2 The Work

FAANG: At a Big Tech company you’ll find many specialists who work on a dedicated technology. You might, for example, have database engineers, API engineers, Java engineers, front-end engineers, and back-end engineers.  

Start-up: Start-ups don’t have the freedom to bring on board a specialist for every tech category that they use. The team might have one or two people who can (and need to) do everything. In other words, start-ups rely on full-stack development and people who can offer (or quickly adapt to) this skill set.

#3 Technology

FAANG: Usually, Big Techs rely on their legacy stack that they’ve been using for years. Doing so makes it easier for them to move people from one product and team to another. This means that as a FAANG employee, you have longevity within the business and can work on a variety of projects and teams throughout your time there. 

Start-up: Start-ups are looking to minimize costs and save money. One of the top ways to do that is to opt for the best in market, cutting edge technology so that they future-proof themselves for the next few years. If you join a start-up, you’ll likely learn the newest and most cutting-edge technologies.

#4 Expectations

FAANG: Expectations are quite clear and well documented – you know what you’re supposed to do. Your role will have a defined job description and you usually won’t operate outside of that scope. 

Start-up: Your role itself, even though it might be documented very well, will cross over almost every aspect of the business. You’re likely to get to work on multiple aspects of the product from database development to front-end even though your official ‘on paper’ role is backend developer. You should expect a lot of ambiguity when it comes to job description.

#5 Difficulty of Interview and Hiring Process 

FAANG: Typically it is much harder to get into FAANGs as the hiring bar is set very high. This is for the obvious reason that the volume of people trying to get into those companies is extremely high. You’ll not only have to prove your technical skills are at the required level but that your style of working aligns with the company’s. For example, Amazon will evaluate your comfort with their Leadership Principles, while the Google interview process will assess things like leadership and Googleyness.

Start-up: It’s likely not as difficult to get into a start-up as a FAANG business, but you should still expect a challenging interview process. Start-ups will not only be assessing your technical skills but your motivation for joining and appetite for risk as well. With a small team that is heavily reliant on collaboration, ensuring new hires are good team players is also essential. 

#6 Compensation

FAANG: No surprise that you can expect to land the most lucrative package from a FAANG company. With extremely deep pockets their offers are more than competitive. In addition to your base salary, you can expect equity, joining bonuses, and many other perks and benefits.

Start-up: Just because it’s not a FAANG business doesn’t mean you can’t still earn a decent package. It won’t compete with a Big Tech offer but you could still earn well and possibly get equity in the business. It really all depends on what type of start-up you join and at what stage of its development.

#7 Brand

FAANG: Possibly one of the leading reasons people look to land a role at a FAANG business is the weight the brand name lends to your resume. Having a Big Tech name like Google, Amazon, or Facebook/Meta on your resume boosts your profile to a whole new level. 

Start-up: Start-ups don’t really have much to offer in the brand category, unless you worked for a company that has gained huge brand value since its early stages such as Airbnb. If you started with Airbnb in 2010 and have been with them for 11 years, you would, of course, have a very strong brand name on your resume. Realistically though, not many start-ups reach that level of brand fame.

#8 Interview Process

FAANG: Big Tech companies have a very structured, organized interview process. You can really invest in interview preparation that’ll pay off if you’re up for a FAANG role. You can research what sort of questions you should expect to be asked and how to make sure you’re adequately prepared to ace your interview.

Start-up: Typically a raw, unstructured interview process. Mostly because every time a start-up is looking to hire somebody, they have different expectations. This makes it challenging to formalize a process and use that every time. 

Other FAANG Interview related reads on Carrus:

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