If I were to tell you could work for any company in the world, where would you work? What you would do with that company and what does their work environment look like? Do you know the values of the company or the advantages they have over their competitors? Now if you know all of this, how do you use it to your advantage?
An individual’s profession is one of the most important aspects of their professional life and many people don’t realize the pros and cons of different work environments. I will share with you my insight on different work environments and the values of each one. As an Aerospace Engineering student here at NC State, I have worked with a major engineering corporation, multiple startups, and a small business for 14 years. I have also been given the opportunity to tour companies in Silicon Valley, New York City, and Research Triangle Park (RTP) through the Albright Entrepreneurship Village and the Entrepreneurship Initiative. With this experience, I have broken down the different work environments into 3 sections: Startups, Small Businesses, and Corporations.
The stereotypical startup is usually imagined as a group of four or five people working in an apartment at 2 o’clock in the morning. This isn’t always the case. From many of the companies that I have visited, startup environments can reach up to 80-100 people working whatever hours they want to try and get the job done. The expectation for a startup is to reach either a small business phase or a corporation phase. This means that at some point, they will be large enough to become one of the other categories. Work is usually designated on an individual basis; this means that you may receive a project where it is completely your responsibility to accomplish that task. In addition, work is typically done in “surges”:whenever co-workers are inspired to work on a certain project, they will work on it at whatever time of the day it is. In Silicon Valley, New York City, and RTP, I have seen passionate entrepreneurs work at any time of the week to meet a deadline.
This action of working in a “surge” has great benefits and hard downfalls. Through my discussions with co-founders and owners of these companies, many claim that on their path to success, they always overestimated their growth at some point. One company in particular went from three employees, to roughly 12 full time employees, and back down to four. This was just because they misread their growth, and weren’t able to financially support that many people of off their initial surge. This company later went on to be acquired by Google, which shows even though they misread their potential at one point, they were able to fix their problems and readjust.
The physical working space changes from startup to startup, but typically, a small, 5-10 person company will have a small office room/suite. A larger company will have a very open area consisting of games, vivid colors, and plenty of space to be innovative.
Here is a brief overview of the Startup Environment:
- Have more control over the direction of the company
- Work when you feel passionate
- Learn many skills out of your specific discipline
- Relaxed environment
- Risky work environment, isn’t stable
- (Many successful entrepreneurs say the best time to start a company is in college, since your responsibilities are at a minimum)
- Hard to communicate when co-workers are off work when you are at work
What is a small business? A small business can range from a local business, to a stable company with around 100 employees. What makes small businesses special? Many people think two things: “I want to work for *Insert Dream Corporation here*”, or “I want to start a company in the field of *Insert dream Corporation’s field*”. Small businesses give you the experience in accomplishing both by giving individuals enough power and control to determine the future actions of the company as well as work with a company that is already distinguished itself in the field of your choice. Personally, my small business experience comes from being the co-founder and CEO of Live2Build INC., a LEGO summer camp program that has been running at Davidson College for the past 14 years. Through my experiences, I have been able to work with my passion for STEM education and LEGO building, as well as meet thousands of others who are also interested in the topic. That being said, when working for a smaller company, the stress and workload of the entire company gets put on individuals (similar to start ups).
The work environment is similar to that of the startup environment, but more structured and professional. Since small business have been around for a longer period of time, they see different faces and become more organized and friendly to everyone as a whole.
Here is a brief overview of the Small Business Environment:
- More structured
- More stable
- Control major aspects of the company
- Work in your field of choice
- More stressful responsibilities
- Not always a popular business
- Aren’t able to work when you want
- Innovation is limited to company standards
9-5, 40 hours a week, and a cubicle. This is the first thought most people have when they think of corporate work. My experience with corporations is that each one of them has their own pros and cons. When visiting Google, I learned that the campus is incredible, yet it seemed that it would be easy to get distracted when there is a volleyball court right outside of your window. Apple, on the other hand,was very sleek, clean, and efficient, yet the employees knew very little on what they were creating. For my work experience at the Aerospace Corporation, I was working in a boring office space. However, I could choose my hours (40 hours a week), and trips and speakers were planned into my day. That being said, each corporation has different pros and cons specific to them.
From corporations I have visited/worked at, these are the overall pros and cons:
- A very stable career path
- Easy to communicate to co-workers and other organizations
- Able to work in the industry you are passionate about’
- Learn new applicable skills to your intended industry
- More stress free (Not always true)
- Know very little in regards to the projects you are working on
- Work very specific times, and can get worn out
- Potential to lose interest over time
- Can be tedious
The value of working in different environments has a large control on who you are in the professional realm. Knowing what job role you want is great, but isn’t always everything. Thinking about what work environment, company values, and employee roles you enjoy, will make you an overall happier and more successful professional.