3 Steps to Getting a gig with a Start-Up

I must say working with a Technology StartUp has been one of the coolest experience of my career so far.

Before the term ‘StartUp’ became such a hot buzz word, I was just looking for a small company where my various skill set would be valued and I could learn.  One of my professional mentors advised me to look for opportunities, no matter the situation, where you can be the big fish in a small pond based on my personality, interest, and skills.  He thought I’d really grow and develop professionally and also get a chance to learn a lot.  So I did, and I ended up working for a Cloud-Based file storage and file sharing StartUp in 2007  that was backed by Mark Cuban.  I was the 6th employee at the company, so I had an opportunity to have various roles/responsibilities and most of all learn a whole lot!

What exactly is a StartUp? A StartUp is a company that is looking for a repeatable and scalable business model, that is generally are in a phase of development and research for markets, according to trusty Wikipedia .  I’ll add that StartUps are similar to most small, newly formed, businesses: niche business trying to solve a problem, small team, seeking public acceptance (IPO, merger/acquisition, or mainstream success), they don’t technically have a lifespan, success is not guaranteed, and they can remain in StartUp phase and never make it out.  The definition of a StartUp is definitelly becoming stretched, and molded to fit any company nowadays. But in this post, I am referring specifically to Tech StartUps.

Here are a few things that I know to work and get you an offer.

Be an Expert

StartUps founding members are usually experts in some area, and they’re trying to introduce a product or service into the market as fast and as efficient as possible.  Unfortunate to them, and fortunate to you they’re typically aren’t going to have a team of experts in are area for the company to become the next Google – so they look for top talent. If you are an expert in some domain to assist the founders, your services are wanted!  For example, if you are an expert DBA, your skills are highly desired for startups.  Most idea people don’t have the time to run the intricate operations of the business, but need highly qualified and skilled individuals to take ownership of tasks and get them done with little to no direction. The only downside with some Startups are, they may not be able to offer you what an established organization can in regards to salary, but you may get other perks such as vacation time, work from home, equity in the company, and a nice title (Senior, Manager, or Vice President).

Wear Many Hats

Being a Jack of all trades can get you in a door fast with a StartUp.  Often times we’re discouraged professionally from being everywhere and taking on too many skills because you may look like a Jack@$$ in an interview.  But in the StartUp world Jack’s are rewarded handsomely.  As a developer, many of my colleagues are experts at the architecture and programming of a feature rich application, while they may fail at presenting the application in a user-friendly way.  A StartUp needs talent that has vertical and horizontal skills. For example, if you’re a Customer Support Person, you may also want to be comfortable in configuring a Server or doing sales presentation; or if you’re a Developer, you may also want to be comfortable at Graphic Design or contributing to marketing efforts.  There’s really no limit on your cross-role knowledge, with a StartUp contribution is welcomed where ever you have experience, and in some cases no experience but willing to give it a try.

StartUp Groups / Hackathons

Fortunately, the StartUp community is visible in pretty much any community today. Especially in your large cities, Tech Hubs, and near High-Tech Universities.  These groups have routine meetings that include How To’s, Hackathons, support groups, discussions and forums, which provide an ecosystem for like minds to congregate and collaborate.  No matter your skill level, often times you can find a way to learn and get involved with the Founders of projects to gain knowledge and experience- which can lead to a job opportunity!

In conclusion, working for a StartUp is great experience that you may never get in a Corporate setting as a developer.  A few other tokens of advice would be, 1. be prepared for to be a Team Player, always support your opinions with evidence of best practices, and have fun.

“You gotta be bout it, bout it, cause I’m bout it bout it”