Life in the fast lane: 3 employees compare startup life vs. the corporate world

December 14, 2017

At some point over the last 50 years, the concept of making a living transformed from simply earning enough money to pay the bills and support a family, to a way to solve global problems and make a difference in the community.

For many, the stability of the corporate world is most important. For others, the opportunity to join a small company and be part of a team strategically aligned to drive innovation and solve global problems is the most exciting way to earn a living.

This week, Built In LA spoke with three former corporate employees about what led them to ditch their business attire for the startup life.

 

science 37 los angeles startup

Before joining Science 37, VP of Engineering Jason Yau spent time at Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm and Yahoo, among other stops. While life at the Playa Vista startup is different than working for a publicly traded tech company, Yau noted that there are plenty of similarities between working for a tech startup and a corporation.

 

How does startup life compare to life in the corporate world?

It’s hard to compare the two. Startups can act like ‘the corporate world,’ and the corporate world can act like a ‘startup.’ There is a perception that in startups, you work fast and own more, and that in the corporate world, you work slow and own less. However, people who work fast and own more will always behave this way, no matter what environment they work in — startup or corporate. The difference is that in startups, this aptitude tends to be more valued.

 

Why did you leave?

For me, it has always been about following the right people. It doesn’t matter if it is a startup or corporation. At the end of the day, you mirror the characteristics and work ethic of those you surround yourself with, so be sure to work with the best and brightest. I go where I can surround myself with people I want to emulate and continuously learn from.

 

What’s the best part about working at a startup?

The answer to this is the same reason why we love to root for the underdog. We actually think we have a chance of winning. The small wins in a startup feel much more gratifying because of the amount of effort you put into it.

 

KEYPR vacation tech startup

Carly Schwartzbach, sales and marketing coordinator at KEYPR, spent a number of years working for corporate companies before jumping at the opportunity to join the LA-based hospitality management startup. For her, the move wasn’t so much about leaving a corporation as it was for the chance to learn directly from people changing the world with their technology.

 

How does startup life compare to life in the corporate world?

In the startup life, you are working side by side with founders, CEOs and the other C-level executives in the company. In the corporate world, generally, you have many layers of management before reaching the senior leadership team. I enjoy expanding my knowledge and because executive leaders are the best teachers in business, I have learned so much just by working in the startup world. To report directly to a CEO of a company is something unique and special. There are certain skills and experiences that you can’t learn in school or even in the basic training in the corporate world.

 

Why did you leave?

To be part of a changing world. The workplace has changed tremendously and I like to be on the forefront of that change. Also, I feel like I can tap into my creative side and my ideas will be heard on many aspects of the business.

 

What’s the best part about working at a startup?

I enjoy the flexibility and the ability to work from virtually anywhere, but the cool office spaces and unlimited snacks are great, too.

 

hawke media santa monica marketing startup

Hawke Media VP of Operations Kate Aurell spent a few years working in the fashion industry before joining the Santa Monica-based startup known for its great company culture and lasting friendships between employees. For Aurell, the differences between her old company and new company were almost palpable.

 

How does startup life compare to life in the corporate world?

In the corporate world, there’s much more structure and process already in place, and much less openness to change and new ideas. Whereas in a startup,  you have a lot of room for change and creativity. The process is always evolving and you have the ability to really think outside of the box because you aren’t held back by a stale process implemented years ago.

 

Why did you leave the corporate world?

My company wasn’t willing to listen to new ideas or try new things. They did the same thing year in, year out, even though they were struggling and the culture lacked collaboration across the company. The C-suite executives visited the store a few times each year and everything felt like a show — you couldn’t have genuine conversations about what the people on the floor were seeing or give suggestions for improvements without fear of backlash. I often felt like I was looked down upon for having an opinion and not just going along with the norm.

 

What’s the best part about working at a startup?

The ability to be my authentic self, and to take part in building something with a group of intelligent, hard-working people. I love the challenge of growing a company and learning as you go, of no one day being the same and everyone putting their ego aside for something greater than themselves. I’ve never worked so hard, slept less and been so stressed but it’s all worth it because I’ve been able to see my ideas take form and grow. I know that I have a voice here and that my opinions are appreciated rather than shut down.  

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