Should I Work Here? The Benefits of Landing a Role at a Tech Startup vs Big Tech

July 14, 2023

If you’re looking for a new role in tech this summer, you have options! According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023 was a strong month for jobs added, succeeding expectations across the entire economy including in the tech sector.  Although despite the overall uptick, the power is certainly still with the employers as we head out of Q2 and into Q3.

Startups, especially those at the outset continue to be funded, with those latter in the cycle having to strech funding, or get to revenue quicker.  
No doubt the past few years have been a tumultuous time in tech, but they’ve also created room for changing dynamics. As Big Tech went through a lot of chaos with hiring freezes and layoffs - small to midsize tech startups who didn’t overhire have been able to hire more steadily and fill roles with top talent, too (cnbc).

Job seekers out there who once felt big tech was the best and only place to grow a career might find that the tides are turning. With tech hiring still looking up, now is a great time to consider thinking outside big tech and look into a career at an innovative startup.

But if you’re still making your pros and cons list, that’s okay, we get it.

We’ve gone ahead and boiled down the benefits of each company type for you. So whether you’re looking for fast paced work, innovative projects, room for growth or the best stock package, we’ll help you weigh your options, understand what you should be bringing to the table and feel confident in your job search as you explore opportunities.

The Benefits Of Startups

According to Forbes, “big tech companies are no longer the bastions of change that they’re often praised for being … they are being outpaced and outmatched by agile startups hungry to make a difference.”

Startups are certainly changing the game in the tech industry and have a lot to offer if you go this route with your career.
One of the biggest standouts about working at an earlier stage startup is the chance to get experience working on exciting new things, have a meaningful impact on the company's success and earn equity that could really payout nicely.

For those who are willing to embrace the unknown that can come with the venture capital funding process and are flexible for a less linear short term career path, startups offer opportunities for professional growth, personal fulfillment and future financial gain.

Exciting projects, ownership & autonomy

Working at a startup can mean you’re working on a lean team, or that you are the team! If you don’t shy away from this type of work environment, it can mean that with less management layers and red tape,  you can work on innovative projects that can make an immediate impact in your field.

Getting in on the ground floor can offer much more autonomy over your projects and hands-on expertise as well. The kind that only comes from executing a project with full ownership and getting it over the finish line.

In fact, this is often the type of entrepreneurial experience large tech companies actively look for now in the top talent that they hire and you never know where these skills will come in handy throughout your career.

From a number to a high value team member

According to CNBC, “tech workers are changing the parameters around their job search,” “they’re no longer prioritizing a big paycheck or name recognition.”

With the mass layoffs that happened across big tech, tech workers are gaining a new perspective on the value of working somewhere that values them as more than a number.

What job seekers look for now and also what they expect out of the experience with their employers has changed with the market. That’s why one reason many are making the jump to startups is being on a close knit team and the ability to work hand in hand with leadership and diverse departments across the entire company.

Career acceleration & driving real change on the job

Aspects of startup life like getting exposed to more ownership and having autonomy are becoming more and more appealing to those feeling stuck somewhere because of economic conditions where they might’ve been in a more siloed position. You can also find the same effect when it comes to the types of decision-making and quick promotion that develop leadership abilities more quickly in startup environments.

Whether you aspire to be a people manager or an advanced individual contributor, startups often give you the room and fast growth you need to take these types of on-the-job-learning experiences on as quickly as the company is growing.

Equity for future financial gain

Startups offer competitive compensation packages, but one upside to consider is your future financial gain through equity.
Equity is one way startup employees really feel like they have some skin-in-the-game and can be a significant factor in the long-term value of your total compensation at a startup.

Working at a startup where you truly believe in its mission and viability to be profitable is certainly an  incentive to invest in the company's future. Additionally, you can negotiate for a more favorable equity package when you get an offer as well as future equity refreshments.  

Want to learn more about startup compensation? We broke down how to understand tech startup salaries.

What to be aware of

Working at a startup is not without its challenges. Although the recent layoffs and changes across big tech have started to change perceptions and leave many disillusioned, startups have traditionally been perceived as less stable when it comes to job security in comparison to big tech. Take that with a grain of salt!

Another consideration is the fast-paced environment and lean operations found at startups. This means that employees must be able to adapt and pivot quickly. Startups also may not always be able to offer the same types of benefits and compensation packages upfront as larger corporations.

What to bring to the table

Three years ago, “everyone wanted to work at the ‘big brand name’ companies like Google or Uber,” Kyle Elliott, a tech career coach says, “now, they’re realizing that these larger companies aren’t as stable as they thought.”

This means competition to land a job at the top tech startups can be just as fierce as big tech.

According to The Muse, some of the top characteristics that will grab a startup’s attention during your interviews are:

  • Showing your curiosity and ability to be flexible and adapt
  • Checking your ego at the door and showing your team player mentality
  • Really doing your homework about the company and explaining why you love its product

Another way to get your foot in the door in the startup world is to start as a freelancer or contractor. That’s one way you grow your network, get the experience you need and potentially get hired full time.

If you’re still unsure what it’s really like working at a startup, we can help!

The Benefits Of Big Tech

If you work in tech, you’ve probably considered applying to a big name like Google, Meta, Amazon or Apple to beef up your resume at one point in your career. Big tech companies have historically been great places to work for people who want to solve problems at scale, use cutting edge technology in their day to day and climb the career ladder.

Career growth paths and continued education

Big tech can provide traditional opportunities for career growth For tech workers who want to continue their education, big tech companies can often provide access to training programs, as well.

Baseline salary + total compensation

The baseline salary at big tech companies is competitive and can vary based on experience level and job position. According to recent research, the average salary for a software engineer at one of the top tech giants such as Google, Amazon, or Facebook starts at nearly $130,000 annually (cnbc). Big tech companies often add extensive stock and benefits packages to total compensation as well.`

Honing your skills at scale

Building skills at big tech companies is a unique experience. The sheer volume and complexity of projects require employees to dig deep into the technical aspects of their job, as well as broader business needs.

Brand awareness & open doors

It’s no secret that big tech companies have strong brand recognition. Their logos and products are instantly recognizable worldwide and they have achieved a level of trust and familiarity with consumers and tech job seekers alike.

What you should be aware of

Of course, it’s not all sunshines and rainbows. Like any other type of company out there, there are some potential downsides to working for a large tech company, including significant competition in the application process. So here are a couple of things for job seekers to take into account:

  • The biggest thing to note is that the market is changing and after moving on from big tech, job seekers need to stay adaptable to land future jobs at startups now
  • A potential lack of autonomy and decision-making power depending on team size
  • Environments where there could be red tape or bureaucracy through management layers

What to bring to the table

Big tech companies often use a similar framework called structured interviewing when they vet candidates. This means that they ask sets of both behavioral and practical questions to understand both how you’ve done the job before and how you approach and adapt to the critical thinking needed on the job.  If you have an interview, you should be prepared to answer these types of questions! Be sure to refresh your interviewing skills and learn about preparing for behavioral interview questions.

If you haven’t landed an interview yet, one way to get noticed as a technical candidate for any type of company is to make sure your Linkedin profile is updated, accurate and displays your skills well including any open source contributions or side projects you’ve completed!

So, what's right for you?

First and foremost, successful tech career paths aren’t always linear career ladders anymore and people no longer need to be at Fortune 500 companies to grow, either.

So it's crucial to consider how the market is changing and how that affects opportunities for future growth potential in the role you're considering. It's also equally important to evaluate your own strengths and interests and how they line up with the company culture and values where you’re interviewing.

  • Do you want to work for a start-up with a fast-paced environment and the potential for rapid growth, or would you prefer a more established company? 
  • Will you have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies and products, or will you be maintaining legacy systems?
  • Is the company well-positioned for future success, with a strong leadership team and sound business strategy?

By taking the time to evaluate these factors and consider what's important to you, you can make an informed decision about which type of company is the right fit for your skills and career goals.

Want to land a new role in tech with an exciting company? We’re here to help!

Another way to make connections and get where you want to be is to work with recruiters at recruiting firms like Intelletec.  

We can help give you pointers, prepare you for your interviews and get your foot in the door to opportunities you might not have landed on your own.

At Intelletec, we work with many innovative startups who are looking for top tech talent, so check out our open roles!

Want to keep reading? Here are our sources:'s,Account%20executive%3A%20%24111%2C000%20to%20%24147%2C000

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