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Career advancement or building a startup? Which one is harder?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [62] at Microsoft2 years ago

I've been debating this though for a while. Is it worth it to go for a principal role (61 -> 62 -> 63 -> 64) or just go and build something your own



  • 25
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 years ago

    As someone who's trying to build their own startup right now, building your own startup is 100x harder than any promotion at any company.

    • Being a great software engineer is already hard enough as is, and the brutal thing about startups is that it requires even more skills like marketing, sales, and user research while taking existing software engineer skills like prioritization and communication to an even greater extreme.
    • I felt like I was pretty well positioned to create my own thing after doing so many side projects and growing in a more well-rounded, tech lead style, but after creating Taro with Rahul, I'm fully realizing how incompetent I am at this whole startup thing 😅

    In terms of whether it's worth it, this entirely depends on you and what your priorities are. There are many good reasons to build a startup:

    1. Challenging yourself
    2. Learning a more diverse array of skills
    3. Solving a problem you're really passionate about that the market hasn't yet

    What I will say is that if you think startups are an easier path to a very high total compensation vs. getting promoted to very senior levels, I don't think that's going to pan out the way you want, haha.

    I actually made a video behind my thought process quitting my nice job at Robinhood and starting Taro. You can watch it here: "How did you decide to quit your job and make a startup?" - 9/13/2022

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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 years ago

    It's worth clarifying what you mean by "build something on your own". In most cases, if you're optimizing for compensation, it's really, really hard to beat the promotion ladder at Big Tech. If you get to the senior staff or director levels, you can easily make $1M+ in total compensation at places like Meta, Google, or a newer company like Airbnb.

    In the video I talk about a few paths engineers may consider when doing something on their own:

    • content creation (e.g. YouTube videos or writing e-books)
    • VC scale startup (hypergrowth)
    • indie startup (slower, sustainable growth)

    Your time is extremely valuable as an engineer -- use it wisely!!

Microsoft is an American technology corporation which produces computer software, consumer electronics, and personal computers. It developed the Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft Office suite, and the Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. Microsoft is often credited for ushering in the modern PC era.
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