Reflecting On My First Month At A Startup
When I graduated from college, I was lucky to have a job ready to go. I took a short 3-week vacation in January 2014, and then I jumped right back into hard work. At least I was making money and no longer working 80-100 hour weeks like I did for my college degrees! I built many strong friendships, and even convinced several coworkers to max out their 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and HSAs. Like any job, it wasn’t destined to last forever. After 3.5 years of working for a large defense contractor, I needed a change so I joined a small 7-person startup, and it has been very different so far.
Everyone Must Leave Their Job At Some Point
One of the best reasons to change jobs is because you are undervalued and undercompensated. I primarily left because I was undercompensated. I helped bring in about $5 million to my company over the 3+ years I was there. In addition, I was 1 of 3 people in our entire business unit that had a specific, in-demand technical skill. Given all of that, my company refused to pay me what I was worth. Even though I received several glowing performance evaluations, my promotion took 1 year longer than usual. When my promotion finally came, it was less than I negotiated for, and less than what my company verbally agreed to pay me.
Unfortunately, this will happen to everyone unless you run your own business. If you work for somebody else, especially at a large company, you are 2 numbers: your generated revenue, and burdened cost. At a large company (think 50,000+), you’re a small fish in an ocean regardless of performance. It is no wonder that employee retention is difficult. I’ve even had several managers say they don’t know how to manage Millennials and it shows when 20% of us quit every year at my old job.
Adjusting To Startup Life
Startups are very different than 50,000+ mega corporations. Right now, I am 1 of 7. Our whole office is smaller than my apartment. We only have 4 desks for 7 people so we often have to share. I no longer have access to a full kitchen, just a microwave and a water cooler (that our VP unplugs because he likes warm water). The biggest thing for me is impact. I have the power to have a massive impact on my new company. With that in mind, I try to do as much work as I can. My primary job is Pre-Sales Systems Engineering. Basically I’m the engineer on sales calls that runs presentations for tech leads, and helps answer questions with the overall goal of making a sale. I am also a technical consultant with about 15%-25% travel.
Before I even started at my new company, I wanted to walk in “guns blazing.” So I started looking at their social media and website. Man, they sucked. They didn’t follow security best practices and their website was 100% vulnerable to hackers. I immediately fixed this on day 1. By day 2, I volunteered to run all of their social media (Twitter). By day 3, I was their primary copy editor for blog content. By the second week, I was creating marketing reports on the success of our campaigns.
Working for a startup has given me the opportunity to wear many different “hats.” I’m in sales, technical engineering, and marketing. Learning all of these skills will greatly benefit my future. At some point, I will leave this company, it is just a fact of life. Having a diverse set of skills with lots of responsibility will greatly impact my next job.
Financial Impact Of A Startup
One great thing about changing jobs is that I increased my salary by 25%. I was able to do this because I worked very hard at my previous job and built up very in-demand skills. The thing is, my new income is almost identical to my previous income! At my old job, I made $4,000 per month post-tax. I also contributed $2,000 to my 401(k) between my contributions and my employer’s. Now, I make about $6,500 after taxes. A tremendous amount of money, but not much more than I was making before. This sounds like a lot of money and it definitely is. But compare that to D.C. rental prices and it isn’t quite as much. Compare that to property prices on Long Island, NY (where I am moving in August) and I’m not doing as well as I thought. I’ll need to save $200,000 for a home down payment, and hopefully my property taxes aren’t more than $15,000 per year if I’m lucky.
One negative is that I now spend about $360 a month to work at my new job. You all know my opinion on fancy lunches. If you cut out your fancy lunches, you’ll have $1 million by the time you retire at 65. Well, I now must spend $10-16 on fancy lunches every day. Combine that with $8 parking every day (80 cents per hour that my employer does not reimburse) and I spend a massive amount of money just working. I do save some money on my commute. The drive decreased from 22 miles down to 4. Unfortunately, I averaged 32 MPG during my old commute. I’m lucky if I hit 15 MPG now. Plus, it takes the same exact amount of time to get there.
Health Benefits Of A Startup
One major benefit is that my health insurance is f****** incredible. Yes, I pay $300 a month and my employer pays $500 a month. But my deductible is $0 and my maximum out of pocket is $1500. My co-insurance is 20%. This got me to actually go to the doctor and hopefully solve my 24/7 pain in my fingers and arms that I’ve had for the past 6 years. Hopefully typing won’t hurt as much now. I’m also a lot happier here. I gladly work 50+ hour weeks. At my old job, it was torture to do 40. I’m much less stressed out in general, even though the individual components of my new job (sales) are much more stressful than going into a room with no windows and smelly engineers for 8 hours a day.
Overall, I’m happier which is the most important part. Hopefully this job accelerates my career trajectory. Worst case, I’ll be 100% WFH in September and I’ll finally be reunited with my fiancée which will make me extremely happy.