Type of working environments

Hey all. I’ve been getting in touch with some friends in the field, looking to make connections and learn which direction I need to move in to become employable as soon as I can. One conversation I had recently had to do with the difference in working in product design vs program design. As in, are you going to be the person working for a company that wants to change the way we do things (uber for driving, airbnb for travel, etc) or are you going to work for a firm that makes cool-looking pages for their clients? Based on the one conversation I’ve had, it boils down to a few key differences, but I’d love it if some seasoned developers around here have any insight.

So, to oversimplify, it seems like there are corporate jobs and not-so-corporate jobs. They each have their pros and cons. Corporate gives you a lot of stability in knowing that your company isn’t likely to go under or be sold off any time soon, and also a lot of potential upward mobility. Hard workers are likely to wind up with the corner office someday. The downsides to this are that the environment may be a bit ‘colder.’ Less mentorship, a lot of oversight, and an overall feeling of being expendable if you don’t make yourself very useful. Deadlines are hard and fast, and you’re probably going to have a lot of times when you have to cram to meet them. Then there are the not-so-corporate jobs, where you’re probably going to be working on a smaller team with a little bit more mentorship, a more casual work environment, casual attire, etc.

In terms of the content you are creating, are you going to be a content-wizard, working for a big firm that makes pages that are essentially advertisements? Building pages quickly that are full of cool animations and effects, that are also very temporary, set to be archived as soon as your client starts a new ad campaign? Or are you going to be working on the nuts and bolts programming for a company who’s trying to start some kind of revolution?

Again, I know I’m oversimplifying. This is based on one conversation with one person, but I’ve been searching online and I can’t seem to find anyone else’s insight into this so I wanted to ask around. I’d love to know what you guys think!

To be honest, most of the stuff built, regardless of company size (and that is what it boils down to) is unexciting line-of-business applications; that’s what makes money. Smaller companies generally have to move quicker to capture and hold onto customers, so they tend to have to be a bit more innovative. Then if they succeed, and get big, they need to actually get procedures in place and manage lots of workers, so they become more corporate, more bureaucratic.

This kinda describes an agency, rather than a big company per se.

YMMV, but large companies will normally provide a more stability and a lot more security, and they generally have money to burn on training people, so ramp up tends to be easier for new devs. Work is much more specialised though, so you generally work on one small piece of functionality; this is maybe the product/program design thing, you need to work up to [say] an architect level to do that. There is often a set path do get to that level though, which you won’t get in smaller companies.

Smaller companies, responsibilities are likely much broader, and there’s a chance you have much more of a direct hand in design of the product. On the other hand, job security is going to be low, training up is going to be based on how much you can learn on the job, workload is likely to be higher and less structured (all of these can be plus points in the right circumstances though!).

Agencies are a bit different again, very high workload, low job security, generally churning out things to a set template.

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