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Created Oct 7, 2020
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Why I turned down a 9–5 corporate tech position for a start up at 33% of the pay

... and how its been the best decision for my growth


Earlier this year I was offered an entry level position at a large tech company. Around the same time I was offered another job at a small to mid-sized startup. Today I want to examine the three reasons I chose the startup position, how it has been better for me personally, and how it has improved me professionally.

Position Differences

The first thing we need to do is accurately describe the differences in the positions. Starting with similarities. Both positions were in the tech industry. Both positions related to software and data analysis.

Unfortunately, that is where the similarities end. The corporate position was an entry-level rotational position with a two year contract consisting of four 6-month rotations. I would get my choice of working in cyber security, data science, UI/UX, frontend, and more fields over the course of two years. The position was traditional in-person 8–5. The industry interested me, but the direction of the work didn't so much. Much of the work was not customer facing. It involved improving company internals, managing internal company data, transferring to cloud services, etc. This position was focused on learning/training new developers (i.e. me) to promote in the company later on.

The startup position was in an industry I love (sports analytics), was remote, and was a one year contract (to build a service) that could then be extended depending on product success. In this position I would be the sole developer on my project and be accountable to no one except ownership.

My Decision

Well, for starters, the corporate position was 3x the pay of the startup position. Both offers came in at the same time and this took me an entire agonizing week to decide. Eventually I chose the startup. It did not require me to physically go into work, meaning I could live anywhere. The hours were flexible, which meant I could still coach wrestling (one of the most important things to me) and the project was customer facing.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with improving company internal processes OR supervision, but being able to build and release my own product entirely independently provided a unique challenge that I was eager to pursue.

Looking back… 8 months out

8 months after choosing the startup position we released the (my) product. I can say this has been a busy and challenging time, but I got it done (with the help of other developers at the company and my manager). This position, in 8 months, forced me to learn 4 (Docker, AWS, JS, VueJS) new technologies and then I opted to learn another one(FastAPI) to improve the project. At the corporate position I no doubt would have been technically challenged and introduced to new technologies, so it was nice to still see this growth at the startup.  In addition to learning new technologies, I've been forced to care for my code more. My testing matters, my documentation matters. I am one of 2 people in the company who knows Python and so, building an entire service on it, requires extensive testing and documenting. Further, I had to learn to create a production-quality product, something outside of writing in Jupyter notebooks or small scripts. This posed a whole new challenge that I was not expecting as a freshly graduated student.


Ultimately, despite all of the financial incentives and possible professional growths of the corporate position, I chose the startup position for one major reason.. freedom. For me, personally, freedom is equivalent to happiness. A lot of people place value of a lot of different things, money, cars, houses. For me, freedom is the one path to happiness. While the startup did pay significantly less, it was still enough for me to live comfortably in my 20s, and it provided me freedom. Freedom to choose my projects (after the first one), freedom to choose my technical stack, freedom to negotiate the project as I saw fit, freedom to work when I want. Freedom.

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