I didn’t start a job with one of the big tech companies right out of college. I wasn’t that fortunate. But early in my career, after working for a startup that went bust, and an old school media company that was in decline, I decided to take a risk and join another startup that was eventually acquired by Google in 2008. This was the start of a long stint for me in Operations roles with big tech companies, first at Google, then at a digital ad agency, and then at Facebook.
For the majority of my time at these companies I was a manager, which gave me the opportunity to interact with thousands of candidates in our hiring processes and discuss the key questions — why work in big tech and why join this particular company?
There are a lot of great reasons to join one of the big tech firms at the beginning of your career, but also some to consider against it. The perks and benefits are great, but there are downsides that may not be immediately apparent.
Here’s my take on the top 3 pros and cons to joining a big tech company at the beginning of your career:
Pro: You’ll learn the way the most innovative companies operate today
In every role, you’ll have a front row seat to the speed at which these companies release product, how they leverage data in decision making, how they communicate with customers and internally with employees, and how efficiency and scale are leveraged to create huge margins. The transparency, tools, access to information, and regular Q&As with leaders offer an environment that anyone can learn from.
Pro: You’ll have access to growth & learning opportunities
The opportunities to grow through experiences, interactions with smart colleagues, and formal trainings are numerous at big tech firms. They place a premium on their people and this shows in the perks, but also in ways in which they focus on career development. From internal courses on technologies, project management, soft skills, the opportunities to continue fuelling a life-long learning habit are endless.
Pro: You’ll be rewarded with money, equity & stability
While base salaries aren’t always the highest in big tech compared to other industries, equity grants are common in offer packages and, if the company continues to do well, you’ll share in that success through the value of your stock. And while nothing is guaranteed, stability in your job tends to be strong at a big tech firm that’s doing well. Even if your product or project is discontinued, layoffs are rare, and chances are you’ll have first dibs at other open roles within the company.
The pros really are great, but there is a flip side view to consider before you sign that offer letter. Here are a few to think about:
Con: You’ll be constrained to doing one thing
If you’re the type that likes to wear multiple hats, or likes to rotate to get the widest possible experience, the constraints of focusing on just one function in a company will come as a shock. These big tech companies are growing fast and attracting top talent in all functions from around the world. Changing job tracks completely, such as from Sales to Product, or Operations to Engineering, is extremely hard. With millions of candidates applying to these firms regularly, it’s unlikely a team in a different function would hire someone internally without them having deep experience in the required skill set. There’s too much competition from the outside. While moving around within a function and rising from individual contributor to manager is possible, moving across functions in these companies is rare.
Con: You’ll risk getting too comfortable
All those perks and benefits can go to your head after awhile, and once you stop challenging yourself and growing professionally, you can succumb to a level of comfort that prevents you from pushing your career forward. If you’re the type of person that thrives in chaos & risk, likes to feel like you are constantly challenged and learning at the same time, working at a startup or a smaller company might be a better fit for you.
Con: You’ll risk putting on restrictive blinders
The last major issue I witnessed in multiple big tech firms was a type of blinder, that over time strengthened and began to shield people from the wider world. At Google, I saw this most on the software side, where employees were restricted from using anything other than Google products for their work. While I’m a fan of Google products, over time it can feel like you’re falling behind in knowledge of other products that emerge, from consumer applications to business tools. At Facebook, this phenomenon was present in terms of exposure to what was happening in the wider world, perception of the company’s products, and in terms of innovation in the consumer social media space. At a big tech firm, there’s a real risk of living in a bubble, comforted by the perks and benefits you receive, and risk missing the trends that are evolving outside its walls.
Ultimately, every career choice is personal and these thoughts are just one perspective to consider when weighing a decision. I encourage everyone that asks me about working in big tech to talk to as many people as possible to make the right decision for you. And I’m happy to share more of my perspective if you have questions. I can be reached on LinkedIn and Twitter.