Disclaimer: Please note that whilst I use Google as the main example, the following info can transpose onto any tech behemoth.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, you’ll be well aware that big tech companies like Google are dominating the industry. Google have become a given feature in our daily lives, an omnipresent being... Could you get through a day without using their search or other services? I mean, they’re so big that their company name has become a verb. That takes some doing!
At their I/O 2017 keynote, we discovered some facts showcasing Google’s bid for world dominance; Android has surpassed having two billion monthly active gadgets, from smartphones to TVs. Google Assistant is only getting more intelligent; Google Home is getting more multifunctional by turning the smart speaker into a phone. Their new AI chip, a next-gen Tensor Processing Unit is set to turn its cloud computing platform into Android for AI, which would mean big things for their AI driven future.
Not just growing exponentially in what they do, they’re experts in seeking out great people to help them do it. With many acquihires under their belt, it’s clear to see that Google are a powerful company with the ability to buy up any teams they set their sights on. When interviewing MSc and Ph.D. grads, Google doesn't actually let you know what part of the company you’re interviewing for, so going down this route you can end up on a team not relevant to the work you want to do.
Tech skills are incredibly hot right now, but you know that! From single figure start-ups to world dominating tech giants, everyone is competing for the hottest talent and if you’re part of this candidate-driven market, it can be hard to decide what sort of company is best for you. If you’re talented enough for Google (or any other of the larger tech firms) to want to snap you up, you may find yourselves at a cross-roads.
Start-ups generally have a very different feel to them; they’re more agile and flexible to fit around your lifestyle, offering flexi-hours and remote working. More of your work directly influencing decision making and underpinning company success – experiences that can rival a ‘big name’ and give you an experience closer to the running of a business. There’s also a lot less red tape and bureaucracy in start-up culture, with more room for creativity and experimentalism in your approach. As start-ups are at the beginning of their journeys, it’s often the case that departments aren’t there yet or they’re not as yet big enough but this just gives you the chance to develop a broader range of skills and wear many different hats as you lean into a range of projects and support various departments. This offers up more opportunity for your career path too, with less ‘competition’ and the chance to get in on the ground floor.
With all of this considered, it’s important to note that Google invest heavily in start-ups and a lot of are founded by leaders from Google. At these you’ll find close mentorships from ex-Googlers and other huge names on the tech-giant scene, so by doing your homework, you could be lucky and get the best bits of Google, in a small environment!
So, how do you know which route to go down?
You need to take the path best for you, your career goals and personal life. It can be a risk joining a start-up or smaller company...but you never know, it could well be the next Google anyway, and you’ve got in at the right time. It’s important to remember, however, that neither is better than the other and it all boils down to personal preference. Whatever you decide, it’s worth the risk when you believe in what you do, and if it goes wrong? Google will always be there.