Small company vs large company?

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Currently I'm working in a small company (3 developers).
I think these are the pros and cons:

pros:

  • Freedom (we can choose the stack, the tools, etc.)
  • There is no overtime
  • I'm familiar with the code base (because I wrote half of them)
  • I see and experience every part of software development (design, implementation, testing, deployment)
  • There is no useless meetings and other interruptions

cons:

  • Worse salary (than in a big company)
  • There is not many people to learn from

What do you think about it? What do you prefer?

twitter logo DISCUSS (7)
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The major problem I've seen with smaller businesses is stability over the long term (3+ years) and ongoing financial stability. I've had more than one smaller company I worked at go out of business or be sold off and shut down. A friend of mine works at a small company for years and he's had his paycheck bounce frequently. In the US, where health care benefits are typically tied to employment, the quality of these benefits is very important.

In many cases, you will have a bigger impact on the direction of development at a smaller company. The exception is if the founder is a programmer and they set and control the agenda. In that case, your input may not be wanted or appreciated.

At larger (ie Fortune 1000 companies) the overall stability is rarely an issue although the dreaded "reduction in force" has become very common as mid-upper managers strive to meet Wall Street investor dictated metrics by reducing headcount. It is sometimes possible to get a small company feel type job at a large company. This is great when it happens but those evil metrics will raise their head sooner or later. Surprisingly, benefits vary a good bit. Companies that have a large union workforce tend to have very good ones since salaried and hourly employees share the same negotiated plans (most of the time). Companies that don't tend to have below average benefits. The downside of a union heavy big corporation is that personnel cuts are easier when it comes to firing salaried employees. Contribution-wise, you're just a replaceable cog in the wheel and rarely held in much regard by management above your level. And don't get me started on the bureaucracy.

Mid-sized companies ($50M+ revenue, 200+ employees) that are well funded and have good income streams are the best to work at in my experience. They typically have good benefits and your contribution is usually felt and appreciated by all. They'll tend to be more responsive to requests with fewer hoops to jump through. The downside is that companies like this often get sold to investment groups who'll devastate things as they bring in their management team. Another risk is when the company has one or two big clients and they lose one. Then the layoffs start.

 

Thanks for the very comprehensive answer :)

 

I'm working at a large company with "startup mentality" (+1500 IT employees)

pros:

High impact work. (millions of users)
Salary, perks, stability, etc
A lot to learn, specially good practices
Best tools to work. (good offices, hardware, software licenses, etc)
Courses, conferences, trips

cons:

No work-life balance
A lot of useless meetings and other interruptions
Lack of transparency
Hard to scale in seniority
Bureaucracy
 

Thanks for your answer. What do you exactly mean hard to scale in seniority? Hard to achieve seniority or hard to change between subjects/projects?

 

Hard to achieve seniority. You need more than good soft and technical skills like impact of your project, visibility of your work, friendships.

Jr to software engineer (easy).
software engineer to ssr.software engineer (medium)
ssr.software engineer to sr.software engineer (Hard)
sr.software engineer to Leader (Hard)
Leader to anything (god level)

 

Looking back I think I was most happy working for companies of around 10-15 people. All the pros you mention of working for a small company but none of the cons.

 

Maybe I was too general. These pros and cons are my experience but it's good to hear that you can avoid the cons and keep the pros :).

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