Which companies to work for?

A student wrote to me: “I graduate in Computer Science from a U.S. university and have three job offers. Two from a large technology company and one from a startup. I have a difficult time to make a decision. My parents want me to work for a large company but my friends advise me to work for a startup. Please advise.”

Answer: Congratulation on your graduation and get good job offers. If you want a stable work that pays a good salary, large technology companies is a good choice. If you want to have challenging work, willing to take a risk, and a chance to make more money, the startup may be the answer. I know that students often dream of working for the “next Apple or Facebook” and want to become a millionaire or even billionaire but you need to investigate carefully BEFORE making a decision.

Startups often fail even it offers you the best salary and a lot of promises. You need to make sure this startup will last at least for a few years. If it fails within a few months or even a year then you will be out of a job. You need to make sure that the startup has a product that is in high demand. If it is still in the early development phase and does not has a lot of investment, then you are at risk. If it is only a good idea but no investors that also means it may not have money to pay you. A strong startup should have high demand product, good financial backup that will last for a few years so they can pay their employees accordingly.

Most startups have a lot of promises such as high salary, stock options, and bonus. You need to make sure that you will be able to get them within a time period. You need to know how much stock option you can get if you work there for a year or more and when the company will get into the Initial Public Offering (IPO). Do NOT believe in verbal promises but make sure everything is put in writing as it is a contract between you and the company. Ask the founders: “What percent of the company do I have if I work for you?” Your percentage of ownership is very important if you put your time and efforts there. Or “How much stock option do I have if I work there for two or more years?” “When do you want to go for a public offering?” or “Do you plan to sell the company and what percentage can I get?”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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