Divisa C

DM

Quit My Job for a Startup - What IBM Had Wrong

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I’ve named my blog Divisa C. It’s Latin for “divided 100,000”.

As of last week, I worked for IBM - which employs over 300,000 people. I quit to start Understoodit with just three.

Working for a large company has many pros and cons. I’ll start with the pros, so I can end with the cons freshly in my mind to strengthen the decision I have already made. These are some of the things I learned at IBM:

Pros:

There are a lot of people: A lot of people mean a lot of resources. If you don’t know something, I guarantee that someone else does. So ask.
There is a lot of money: Which means you’ll likely get some of it. Consistently.
Their business model works: Big corporations are not in business to lose money. They’ve been around the block and know how to make it. Their success is driven from people who are making good business decisions. Be aware of the smart decisions that are made and try to fit them into your own life.
People know your company: When someone asks “what do you do?” you don’t have to fiddle around with fluffing up your day job. You can say, “I work for IBM”. People have heard of IBM. Then they will acknowledge with a smile, and you can now focus back on them. It’s incredible how easy conversations work when you are simple.
You don’t actually have to work that hard: You can - and you should. But, you don’t have to. The culture in larger organizations are convoluted. A culture mirrors the work it breeds and at IBM you could get away with doing less.
Free pens and stuff.

Cons:

THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE: Doing the simple things are hard. There are rules, guidelines and policies. If you need a mouse - you’ll likely need it to be signed off by your manager. And your manager’s manager. And your manager’s manager’s manager (who you’ve never met - but sits thirty feet away). You get the point.
You don’t actually WANT to work that hard: If you give a 5/10 or a 10/10, you’ll likely get a 7/10. I like to work hard - but people don’t recognize the work you’ve actually put in. Managers typically reward results when they should be rewarding effort. Effort goes unnoticed.
Culture: For someone young (I’m 26), you want to be around people like yourself. You want to work with people you’d be friends with. I don’t hang out with people over 40 that often, but I did at work. It makes for a very tangled culture with many faces. Ask 50 people what the culture is like, and you’ll get 50 different answers.
You don’t say hi to everyone: No one will look at you as you walk in the building. A smirk is the only thing you’ll get from an unknown colleague. A big company feels like a big city street. It’s unfriendly.
People don’t care: There is a diffusion of responsibility when it comes to anything. Especially when trying to develop young and eager talent. Rather then set them up for success, better drown them in boredom and uncertainty. But it’s okay, because we are giving them a pay check and dental coverage - right? Wrong.

When I first wrote this post, I thought that working for a big company had more pros than cons. But I’ve been working full-time on a startup for only a week and I’m already more enthusiastic about my day-to-day life. I’ve been very fortunate to work for a company that put up with me while I learned the ropes and I never had to worry about them NOT paying me. The fact they even paid me at all still somewhat baffles me.

But it’s time for me to be the boss. Make decisions and do work that has some greater social value. I hope you keep reading and I have something to talk about.

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