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Big Tech, Pre-IPO, or Medium-Sized Company: Where should my 1st full-time job be?

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Software Engineering Intern at Samsara2 years ago

Here are my Top 3 priorities:

  1. Career growth - I want to become a senior/staff engineer as soon as possible.
  2. Exciting product space - To have challenging work and growth opportunities.
  3. Compensation - If I’m truly achieving the Top 2, this should come naturally.

Here are the options I'm thinking of:

  • A medium sized public company like Samsara
  • A pre-IPO company (e.g. Airtable)
  • A Big Tech company like Meta or Amazon


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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago
    • If growth is your #1 priority, I strongly believe Big Tech is the way to go
    • Many engineers don't realize that a fair leveling and performance review system is something that takes a lot of time and talent to build. This is something Big Tech companies have figured out better than most other companies and a big reason why they're top companies. A lot of pre-IPO companies haven't fully figured this out: For example, this is something Robinhood still had a lot of room to improve on back when I joined pre-IPO.
    • Big Tech provides you the most consistent and stable learning foundation of all companies. After you get this foundation (2-4 YOE), you can go to somewhere more exciting like a startup.
    • Pre-IPO was much more alluring before due to high compensation outcomes (you could easily get 50%+ more TC than an equivalently leveled engineer at a Big Tech company), but that benefit is much weaker now in the current economic climate.
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 years ago

    +1 on Big Tech being a really good default choice to start your career: the brand name, learning opps, and compensation will set you up for success later.

    The other dimension is people. If you have a lot of conviction in a manager or CEO (e.g. someone who has had multiple prior exits), it may be worth "following the people" to your first job at a startup.

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    2 years ago

    @Alex what do you think of the thesis of https://www.breakoutlist.com/why-join-a-breakout , which says: high company employee growth /fast growing company -> lots of problems to be solved -> more opportunities to solve them -> faster career growth? It has a list of series B/A companies (Airtable was on the list when I joined Airtable a few years ago) that fit the criteria

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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    I didn't know about that breakout companies list - Thanks for sharing!

    I more or less agree with that hypothesis: Company growth solves all problems (including SWE growth) when you're working at a startup environment. The fastest growth trajectories I have seen were people who joined rocket ship companies early (which looks like what you accomplished with Airtable, so congrats!). I think if you have buffer (i.e. you'll be okay if the company isn't around after 1-2 years like Fast), it makes a lot of sense to join one of these companies earlier in career.

    I'm more on the risk-averse side though, which is why I lean towards Big Tech as the first job, especially in this economy. If I were to start my career "fresh" right now, I would still go to a Big Tech company for 1-2 years to set the floor/"foundation" for my career and probably go to a company like 100-person Airtable afterwards.

Samsara Inc. is an American IoT company headquartered in San Francisco, California. Samsara develops a connected operations platform for tracking fleets of vehicles and other equipment.
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