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Can you get more growth and experience working at much smaller companies (<100 people) vs. those like Big Tech?

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Software Engineer at Series B Startup2 years ago

At every Big Tech company, the stack is very custom and a lot of the hard problems are already solved. Because of this, is there a limit to the kind the learning you can get at larger companies (>1000 engineers), which you can bypass by going to a much smaller company (<50 engineers)?

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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago
    • In a nutshell: Yes, very small companies can provide both more learning and unique learning, but there's huge caveats. YMMV.
    • From my experience I got to own the entire Course Hero Android app when I was there. For example, I was literally responding to Google Play Store reviews, which I really enjoyed - A Big Tech company would never let you have that level of connection with the end-user. Startups have the potential to let you deeply understand a product and own it more holistically.
    • The craziest growth stories I've seen (think new-grad -> director in 8 years) have also come from people joining startups when they're very small and growing with it. I know so many engineers who joined Robinhood early and went on to have insane growth trajectories, with one of them becoming an engineering manager as early as 25 years of age!
    • However, the above is very contingent on the small startup's growth. If the startup goes gangbusters, you can get that crazy growth, but even then, it needs to grow in a way where you're getting more scope and not just being leveraged as a commodity coder.
    • In general, it's very easy to get stranded in a "growth" desert at a startup where the levels aren't very clear (or don't exist) and you don't have many sources of mentorship.

    I recommend these other resources as well: