It is a question most young people are faced with when considering career options: should I take a chance on a startup or is it safer to work for a larger, more established company? When it came the time for me to choose a company for my placement year I decided working in a fast-growing startup would be the right option for me. Besides developing new skills it would give me enough information to know both the benefits and shortcomings of each option, helping me make a more informed decision on which path to follow after graduation.
I joined CEW as a Junior in mid-August of 2017. I’m currently a third-year student at City University of London studying Computer Science and I wanted to get as much exposure as possible to the tech scene in London.
I was the first employee of the company, working side by side with CEW’s founder, Cathy White. Joining as a Junior, I had no formal experience in the PR and Communications industry, however, I had experiences from previous jobs and an eagerness to learn as much as I could from someone with extensive expertise in the area.
As a two-person team, working and communicating was straightforward, mostly face-to-face or through WhatsApp and email. I had more responsibilities as I dabbled in various roles but I always had supervision as I got to grips with my role and what was expected of me. Growing into the four-person team we currently are, work and responsibilities are shared more. We work in teams to deal with tasks and have also integrated more ways of communicating and organising ourselves.
As we continue to grow, so does our company culture. Part of the benefits of working in a growing company is that we are always encouraged to share our ideas and are given the tools available to improve ourselves and the processes that are in place. We’re on a mission to set the foundation for the company culture, to create agile, authentic environments packed with personality, passion and self-expression. With each new member, we celebrate the individual and the diversity they bring to the team.
Another benefit of working at a startup is that at CEW we have a more informal atmosphere, making it is easier to build closer relationships with each other, compared with a more formal corporate environment, where social formalities might be harder to navigate. As a startup, we have a flat organisational structure, making it easy to communicate and express ideas with members of all levels. I am not sure I would have had the same chance in a corporate environment, due to its more bureaucratic structure.
The way you go about your own job performance is also quite different in a startup than in a more established company. At a larger business, you are generally given tasks with less responsibility as you acclimatise into the company. You most likely won’t feel any immediate pressure from your job as bigger companies have more workers to rely on, meaning one person’s performance won’t necessarily make or break the entire business.
From my experience, the same can’t be applied to most startups. You will most likely find yourself thrown right into the work, as you are working with a smaller workforce, every single person plays an important role in the success of the business. As mentioned, you’re more likely to have more responsibility and dabble in other roles you may not be familiar with. This inevitably leads to making mistakes. Nevertheless, I take this as an opportunity to learn and improve whilst developing new skills. With a growing team, we can share ideas and get more opinions, making it easier to spot mistakes and save time.
Achieving a work-life balance is also something to take into consideration when deciding which kind of company you want to work for. Startup life can be tough, but companies will do more to incentivise their employees to help create a more balanced environment. It’s not uncommon to walk into a coworking space and see a coffee shop in place or ping pong tables in the corner, and for startups with their own offices you could spot anything from slides to sleep pods. The young company has to compete with the corporate, and so startups try to differentiate themselves in their culture and environment.
I believe the environment you’re in, whether in a startup or in a big company, will shape you. In reality, startup companies aren’t for everyone, and one person’s cons may be another person’s pros. No matter the environment, you will undoubtedly walk away with a unique experience.
BY TOTO OBI, JUNIOR AT CEW COMMUNICATIONS.