What’s it like working at a startup?

by May 4, 2020

While things may not be back to normal just yet, 2020 has made many of us question just what it is we look for in a successful career. And, as more traditional ways of working have been disrupted, it might be a good time to consider working at a startup. So, what’s it like?

The range of different opportunities available are vast and can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know what each different type of company has to offer. A lot of the time, you’ll see startups advertising themselves as flexible, fun or rapidly growing, and this is definitely true for the most part. However, it’s different to your normal corporate office and has its own unique challenges.

Casual and flexible

One of the main perks of working in a startup is the more casual atmosphere and flexibility in terms of working hours. It’s not your typical 9-to-5 where everyone is wearing variations of the same outfit. Most of the time, you can expect to dress in whatever makes you comfortable and you have more freedom to express your personality.

In terms of flexibility, a startup environment can offer the freedom for you to work from home when necessary. It might also be easier to negotiate agreements where you start early and finish early or start late and finish late. However, you definitely don’t have room to take these benefits for granted. You’re expected to get your work done and to meet the high standards.

Fast-paced and constantly changing

It’s no joke when people say you have to be prepared for change when you’re working at a startup. Business models, workplace environments and products are constantly being iterated in a startup. It’s likely that your key performance indicators and responsibilities will be changing quarter-to-quarter.

With many startups being tech-focused, you’ll need to move as fast as technology does. Though this may sound scary, it comes with the major advantage of being able to learn a lot. You might start in one area of expertise but this will grow and expand as time goes on. There’s a chance to experiment with new skills and tools.

Hybrid and agile teams

To tackle the agile environment, many startups also have agile teams. This involves cross-functional teams where members work across different departments. For example, at OpenAgent, we might have a couple software engineers and a data analyst working towards one product manager’s projects despite being managed by their respective department heads.

On top of allowing things to move faster, these types of teams also allow for resources to be used better. As a startup, there’s not a whole lot you can work with. Employees are crucial and it’s important that you’re able to manage multiple different tasks at once. Being organised and disciplined is incredibly important.

Flatter structure

Along the same lines, you’ll usually find a flatter management structure when working in a startup. Especially for those companies that have just started out, employees might be working directly with founders. For undergraduates and graduates, this means you have the chance to learn from the absolute best.  

Even in more established startups that have middle management, it’s common to work closely with people at all levels. For example, at OpenAgent, the Marketing Executives work closely with each other, with the Marketing Manager, Head of Marketing and the Chief Operating Officer. Your ideas and concerns are heard by upper management, even as a junior.

Goals and celebrations are big

Last but definitely not least are big goals and even bigger celebrations. At OpenAgent, we like to set goals that might seem too far out of reach for our small team. However, when we put our heads together and smash these goals, the victory feels even sweeter. We like to celebrate our achievements in fun ways whether it be with belly dancers in the office or a team brunch at a local cafe.

Working in a startup environment often allows for all your wins, big or small, to be appreciated. With everyone working together so closely, you’ll have endless amounts of support. Rather than just reporting to managers on key numbers, there’s often a culture of sharing with the entire team and building each other up.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Ellen Orton

Ellen Orton

Head of Business Operations

Ellen Orton is the Head of Business Operations at OpenAgent.com.au, an online agent comparison website helping Australians to sell, buy and own property.