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3 Factors You Should Consider Before Moving To Tech

It was a beautiful night. You were hanging out with a bunch of college friends. One of them worked in the hottest tech company. He started talking about how satisfied he was with his job. You wondered if it’s a good idea for you to move to tech. To validate that, you asked him

“How is your company culture?”

He replied

“In a tech company you will work with fast pace, dynamic plan, young leaders, and adequate to minimum resources.”

Then you asked the following question

“How is the working hour, clothing, and perks?”

He went further by explaining

”Well, we have flexible working hour. You also can wear T Shirt and sneakers to the office.”

He stopped and smiled

”Most importantly, you get free food and coffee.”

You were so certain that you finally found your dream company. You applied for the job, got the offer, and started working for that company. Few months after that, you found yourself nowhere close to your dream job. You tried to understand why this happened.

How can it happen?

When someone struggles at work, there are multiple factors that contribute to that. It can be bad relationship with supervisor, unsupportive working environment, unsuited type of work, tight financial crisis, and many other factors. While there are many factors that are not foreseeable when we apply for the job, some of them actually are. We can identify this if only, if only we are better informed before stepping in to a new company, particularly in a new industry.

A lot of people (including me) jumped into tech without knowing what we signed up for. It’s understandable since everybody moves into tech so it generates FOMO syndrome if we don’t do the same thing. That fact in itself hampers our ability to carefully assess multiple factors that drive our decisions. On top of that, this industry is still new in Indonesia. Therefore there is not much information out there about working here.

I have been spending the past 2.5 years working and knowing people in tech. There is so little I know and much I don’t know yet but hopefully my thoughts can shade some light. Here we go!

So, what is the set of information we should know before moving to tech ?

Before going there, I would like to point out two common pitfalls. Firstly, people assume that a company with great product has great working environment. Secondly, company within a growing industry is a good place to work. Thirdly, all companies with the similar size have more or less similar working culture. Unfortunately, there are some companies in fast growing industry that have great products but bad working culture. To protect my self, I would not say names hehehe. Bottomline, making career decision solely based on these assumption will risk us making a bad choice.

Hence, I would like to share some factors that you should really consider. They are:

1. Leadership

Often times, we assume that a company with proven or high profile management team has great working culture. It might be true but it depends on

  • How relevant their track record is with their work right now. Often times we are too quick to judge that someone is a good leader based on what’s written in their CV. Just because a person is an alumni of a prestigious company or university, it does not mean that he is a good leader. So before thinking someone is good, make sure you have the right metrics on what good is and data to prove or disprove that.

  • How professionally close you are with them. If you report to them (and they are awesome), big chance that you are on safe hands. Just make sure they have time to develop you personally and professionally because they tend to be really really busy. If you don’t work closely with them, you should assess based on the next trait.

  • How fit you are with your direct supervisor. On day to day basis, your direct supervisor has way more influence than the management team. No matter how good the management team is if you can’t find suitable working style with your supervisor then you can’t expect much.

2. Working Environment

Based on my observation, there are two types of culture in a tech company. They are company wide culture and team specific culture. Often time we judge a company based on its company wide culture without digging deep into team specific one.

You might be wondering like, “Hey, shouldn’t each team have similar culture?” In reality, it’s not. It’s mainly driven by the facts that

  • Most tech companies are still finding the most suitable culture for them to run their business.

  • They need to hire people who can hit the ground running so they tend to prioritize skill over culture fitness

  • They don’t have the system yet to scale the culture to every corner of the organization.

Let say that freedom and flexibility is the company wide culture. If you work with Adam, you will get hands on mentorship while if you work with James, you will be working independently. Adam will have a chat with you everyday while you will only talk to James once per week. Working with Adam means knowing more context but having less freedom and working with James is the other way around. Freedom and flexibility is still the culture but the level of it will vary from team to team.

3. Nature of Work

Although tech company tends to be dynamic, flexible, and informal, it does not mean that everyone will work like that. As an engineer, you should work fast but ensure that the code is written and tested properly. If you work in public relations, you might be expected to wear formal clothes because you often have meeting with high level executives.

People often assume that in one department, people will have similar nature of work. That’s not always the case. Let’s take Human Resources (HR) Department as a case study. In HR, there is recruitment, HR operations, compensation and benefit. Generally recruiters have great sales skills, HR operation guys should have strong attention to detail, while compensation lady should be good with numbers. Therefore, don’t judge a department too quickly :)

Interesting fact about working in tech is that even in the same role, the nature of work can change. I remember a colleague who was hired to work on content production. However, when she joined, the team’s priority shifted to research and strategy formulation. It took some time for her to adjust since the nature of work was completely different. If you are a type of person who wants to have fixed job description and full clarity about your role, you should think through if tech is the right place for you.

So, how to uncover this information?

In short, do your homework. To elaborate a bit further:

1. Search on the internet

Internet provides us enormous information about prospective employers. You can start from their company website, Youtube channel, LinkedIn page, and other marketing piece they put on the internet. The next round of research is to ask reliable third party such as glassdoor.com, quora, and other sites. They usually have more “unfiltered” version of what a company is.

2. Network with the employees

I understand that sometimes googling is not enough. There is contextual information that is not available in the internet. Therefore primary resources is always better. You can leverage your existing network aka your friend who works in that company. If that’s not enough, ask them to connect you to someone who is more relevant. If that’s not enough, try cold networking. It does not always work but once it works, it’s worth the fear of being rejected :)

3. Interview your interviewer

From my experience in interviewing people for a position, too often candidates come across as putting themselves in lower bargaining position. They come with the mindset that this process is the judgement process done to them by the company. In fact, candidate should ask more questions about the interviewer, especially if the interviewer is your supervisor or your team member.

Hope you find this helpful. Happy exploring :)

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