People & Culture

From Corporate to Startup: Myths and Truths

Moving from corporate to startup may seem daunting. For years you have been used to the traditional corporate ways and immersing in a new, shiny, and uncertain world has its own challenges and rewards. If you come from corporate and just got hired in a startup or if you are considering doing the jump, then this blog piece is for you.

Moving from corporate to startup has its risks and perks
Young startup employees pretending to be talking about very important things.

The overall perception about startups is that we work fast and maybe a bit disorganized, that we have very young teams with very fancy titles, the office is unusual (to say the least), and priorities change constantly. Even though some of these perceptions may be true, there are crazy myths that should be destroyed and some other truths that deserve to be shared. 

What is it like moving from corporate to startup:

– Collaborative work is a priority. Let go of your expert approach, no matter how senior you are, and embrace a culture where everyone gets an opinion and a vote.

– Embrace risk. Startups, especially in the early stages, live amongst many unknowns so your ability to not only deal with ambiguity and messiness but to thrive in it will be key. 

“Changing priorities and strategy constantly (sometimes daily). This has been a big challenge for me. I used to very focus on planning (control) the strategy for the next 6 months and making sure we complied with it, nevertheless, to be successful in this type of high uncertainty environment it is imperative to develop the openness to rethinking the initial hypothesis and the flexibility to constantly adjust the plan based on new developments or learnings”.Nicole Perez, Talent Director

– Be creative. At corporations, final decisions come from the top, but at startups, the next great idea can come from you, so get comfortable with sharing your opinion and pushing your mental boundaries to detonate greatness.  

– Go with the flow. Titles are very blurry at startups because we are in “make it work mode”. That means sometimes we need to remove our fancy CEO/Director or VP hat to actually get our hands dirty and do whats is needed to win; from making big decisions to experimenting with digital ads and moving boxes.  

– Move fast. You come from an environment with way more resources and startups usually can not compete against that. So, to survive and win startups move fast.

– Get ready to learn. No course or official program. Get ready to learn by doing the work, you will face challenges from new perspectives, will work around with cross-functional teams, and will have a first-hand view on the overall management of a new business. 

“I think the learning curve on the entrepreneurial ecosystem is extremely fast-paced and at the same time, very rewarding”.Lucía Jaramillo, Service Designer. 

– Own a growth mindset. You were hired or could be hired because you are great at your field. But, that does not mean there is no room for you to learn and grow, especially in an environment where you will have to face multiple challenges from different areas.

The biggest challenge so far is adapting to a team that thinks different (service designers mostly) and understand how to add value in such a context – again this is normal and it’s what I was looking for: getting out of my comfort zone to expand my learning curve.  Roberto Porru, EIR.

Former corporate employees struggling with the startup environment ;)
Former corporate employees struggling with the startup environment 😉

If you are having second thoughts about moving from corporate to startups, here are a few tips from our own experience and real testimonials (we promise they are real) to help you in your decision-making process.

  • Take a look at the social media account of the startup. At Polymath we use LinkedIn and Instagram as channels to get candidates excited about their potential role with us. For example, we use Instagram to showcase our culture, the off-work activities we do, and our team.
  • Talk to a friend that has gone through a similar experience. Since I experienced this transition, I have been able to provide some insights to friends that are looking to join Polymath and other startups.
  • Reflect on your motivations, work styles, and expectations to identify potential areas of discomfort. Startups are not for everyone, so you should do the work before jumping in. 
Moving from corporate to startups is filled with rewarding moments; you are always working along with a family.
This is a group of finance and accounting experts clapping for the picture.

Our experience

Coming from the corporate world, where resources are in excess and things move slower, it was a big shift to adjust to the lean, agile way that startups operate. Working here, I’ve learned to challenge myself to prioritize my focus on the most pressing problems and creatively tackle them with the limited resources available to me.

The most exciting thing about working here is how much autonomy and agency I have. When I notice something at the company that can be done differently, I am given the freedom to execute my idea. Already I can very clearly see the direct impacts of my work on the organization and that keeps me motivated each day to do my part in bringing Polymath to the next level.

Daniel AbrahamChief of Staff at Polymath Ventures. Former associate at Olyver Wyman.

———— 

I was expecting to work for a different type of recognition, one that is less focused on my ego and more towards a transcendental purpose. In the corporate world, the ultimate recognition comes from climbing the ladder faster than anyone else, and you do so by meeting targets and fostering the right relationships. My experience in entrepreneurship has been the exact opposite, the challenge we face is so complex and difficult to solve that the only way to do it is by full immersion & commitment into a team, where egos blend and all the members together strive for a bigger purpose, here the ultimate recognition is the sensation of fulfillment that you can get from solving a problem that creates real impact to others.

The most exciting part is being part of an organization where the rule is to break the mold, looking at every challenge from different angles, and as a team build something that no one has managed to do before. There is no boring day, if anything there are too intense days.

Nicole PerezTalent Director at Polymath Ventures. Former Human Resources Manager at P&G.

———— 

My transition from corporate to a startup has been a roller coaster ride, I guess the most challenging part for me was this new dimension of collective responsibility small startup teams have in them because your startup is the reflection of every decision you make. It’s both exciting and terrifying to think that together you have the power of setting a new course and building something you feel proud of. 

I always tell people this is some sort of “business parenthood”, your startup becomes your baby, and every decision you make has a tangible impact on its future. The most exciting part for me is not knowing what comes next, and knowing my job is to do the best I can to provide it with all the tools and insights to thrive.

Lucía JaramilloService Designer at Polymath Ventures. Former Corporate Social Responsability Manager at Banco Davivienda. 

———— 

Transitioning to entrepreneurship means incredible learning, uncertainty, ambiguity, and great responsibility.

The biggest challenge is building processes with no formal tool, as I’m used to leveraging on existing technology to build and optimize areas – working with scarcity is something that I’d love to be more familiar with…also expected in this transition from corporate to entrepreneurship.

What excites me the most is what I’m beginning to do now with Mate (and Wenyi and JP), which is starting from scratch and building the concept from the very beginning. Market research, target opportunities, transform opportunities in concrete MVP and grow them. This is the most exciting thing that I see in the short term. In the long term, I’m also really excited about having full ownership of the business.

Roberto PorruEIR at Polymath Ventures. Former Central Strategy & Operations Manager at Uber. 

Are you ready to jump from corporate to startup? Join the Polymath family, check our open positions and apply now. 


More from  People & Culture