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Journeying Between Companies of Different Size

Career Path
Changing company

10 September, 2019

Trevor White shares constructive advice when it comes to moving between and working at companies of various sizes.

Problem

I have worked at small companies, I have worked at very large companies, and I have worked at everything in between. One of the biggest challenges I have faced is learning how to move and navigate between these companies of various sizes. How should one operate at different size companies and what role(s) is expected of you?

Actions taken

I've found that the role expectations were slightly different for each one of the companies that I had joined, even if what I was doing was largely the same day-in and day-out. The natural tendency as a leader is to jump right in and use all of the skills that you have built to hit the ground running. But when you do so you will likely come in too hard and come in with a lens that was conducive to your previous experiences. What has worked well for me is to initially take the time to understand the culture of the new company. Get a feel for the temperature, learn the do's and don'ts, and be patient while you grasp the knowings of this new arena. Early on into joining a company, sit back and observe as opposed to jumping in and becoming a super active participant. This can be difficult because as a leader - especially coming into an existing team - so much of what you are doing is thinking about the direction that you want to go in and pivoting accordingly. But by actively listening, absorbing information, observing what is happening around you, and taking it all in, you give yourself the opportunity to understand context, history, and the culture of the team. In my opinion, this is a more exceptional method than trying to prove your value from minute one.

Lessons learned

  • Take your time and gain a comprehensive understanding of your new company. There's no need to rush to get things done.
  • Acknowledge that cultures will vary dependant upon company size. For example, at a startup you have to juggle wearing multiple hats. In a larger company you might be expected to wear just one hat and not venture into any other hats; other hats aren't necessarily appreciated.
  • I think working at different size companies is a huge asset. I could not encourage people more to join a 10-person startup where you have to deliver and ship quickly, and also to get the experience of working for a big bureaucratic company where I personally learned pitch skills, professionalism, and thinking through business cases. Don't be afraid to move within those organizations. Take the risk, move around, and know that you will have experiences worth your time coming out the other side.

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