When actively job hunting, tech professionals often have an idea of the type of organisation they want to work for. But is that necessarily where you are placed to utilise your talents to the full? Are you best matched to an IT leadership role at a corporate organisation, or more suited to the innovative world of tech start-ups?
The ‘benefits’ of working at either a start-up, corporate or public or not-for-profit organisation are of course very much dependent on individual preferences, but each tend to have characteristics that might make them a better ‘fit’ for different people.
So, what are their various merits?
The term ‘start-up’ is a broad one, and can encompasses a range of definitions:
- The ‘pre-seed’ stage, with teams of typically 1-3 whose primary aim is to raise initial capital
- The ‘seed’ phase, where initial capital has been raised and the focus is now on product development, further investment and growing teams by 2-3 people
- The ‘post-seed’ stage, with initial funding of up to £1.5 million, an established user base and readiness to employ up to 10 more employees
- The ‘scale-up’ phase, established organisations with a working business model, credible financial management, structured business functions and with an outlook to employing a further 30-50 employees
Typically at start-ups, career progression can depend upon how quickly the company grows, and this can make it more difficult for professionals to move up the career ladder. A proactive approach is often necessary at smaller enterprises, particularly before a start-up reaches ‘scale-up’ phase. Technical roles may be broader, with a flexible attitude needed.
It is, however, precisely this initial lack of structure that makes start-ups agents of innovation and creativity. Start-ups at ‘scale-up’ phase, for example, can offer a hierarchical structure whilst also allowing opportunities for inter-departmental collaboration - which is especially good for tech professionals who want to hone their commercial acumen. Many start-ups also offer equity to professionals coming in at ground level – those prepared to take a risk will often reap the reward.
Public sector or not-for-profit
Providing a public service to citizens is a crucially important job, and tech professionals working in the public sector or for not-for-profit organisations will benefit from knowing that the work they are doing is fundamentally making a difference to those who need it. Whether working in the health sector, for a local government department or a social housing charity, a tangible difference can be felt to the community through the quality of your work.
Although not traditionally known for innovation, many public-sector organisations are undergoing digital transformation in a bid to drive efficiency and as a result are changing that perception. Opportunities for flexible working alongside a less obviously competitive working atmosphere can make the public sector attractive to many tech professionals looking for steady progression and the opportunity to improve the lives of others.
Known for being proactive with training and investment and usually demonstrating an international presence, corporates traditionally offer clear departmental structure and linear career progression pathways. For permanent tech employees, transparency around how and when they will move up the career ladder can be a huge draw. Better pay and a more comprehensive benefits package may also be offered.
Although often having a reputation for overly rigid processes, many corporates now operate more agile working practices, and within the realms of HR, diversity and inclusion and mental wellbeing are taking much greater precedence.
‘Owning’ certain portfolios is often an attractive prospect for tech professionals who want to hone certain skills. The need for strong change management skills is increasingly required as organisations focus on continuous improvement of their products and services.
Every workplace, whether a corporate, start-up or not-for-profit, is unique.
Although they are usually easy to segment, it is important to remember that their framework, environment and opportunities vary by example. Some start-up founders implement a very hierarchical structure from the start and maintain it right through to the ‘scale-up’ stage, whilst many corporates are implementing intrapreneurial practices within their organisations in a bid to foster innovation and cross-departmental collaboration.
When considering any role, take every organisation on its individual merits, regardless of its size, structure or purpose.
For more information or to discuss your employment needs, please contact your local consultant.
About this author
James is Director of Hays IT, Digital Technology and Project Solutions in the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Having joined in 2000, he is responsible for the strategy of Hays’ Project Solutions, IT and Digital Technology businesses, which includes IT contracting, permanent technology recruitment, resource augmentation and statement of work solutions across both the private and public sectors.