Jan 25, 2020

My first two months at a big tech company

Today marks the anniversary of my two months at Linkedin. When I started this new job on Nov 25 2019, I also started my first ever corporate job. I had spent all my professional life working for either my own startup or someone else’s, which is why this experience has been very new for me! I noticed a couple of differences, and also a few similarities. 

Some of the big differences I noticed: 

  1. There is a position for everything: My first observation was how Linkedin had positions devoted to everything! I noticed a lady always near the lunch area, and realised after a few days that she was incharge of the food. There was someone always at the reception, and there was someone in charge of making sure we got to our desks on the first day. Coming from a startup where all those roles were managed by the same person, this was new to me, but also introduced me to the sheer scale of things at a big company! Whats more, there was an abbreviation for every different role! In my first few days, I tried googling the abbreviations I came across, only to find that these roles have different names at each company! I am more used to the abbreviations now, but the number of positions still amaze me! 
  2. Narrower roles with big impact: In my first week, I was mostly just shadowing and learning from other people in my team. I started speaking with customers about Linkedin Learning in my second week. My role was to understand their needs and then see if they were at the right stage in their company to adopt Linkedin Learning. If they were, they’d get passed on to a product expert who could give them more details on our product. This sounded like a pretty narrow role to me when I was initially introduced to in my interview process, but one that I was very keen to learn. However, by the end of my second week, I had spoken to so many companies about their learning and development needs that I didn’t think twice about whether or not I was making any impact at Linkedin. I felt that the impact I was making was still large given the sheer number of people I spoke to everyday at Linkedin, even though the percentage of my impact on the overall company is lower than it was at the startup I worked for before. 
  3. Cross team collaboration feels different: At startups, one person can equal one team. At Linkedin, there are so many people and teams, that speaking to another team, such as marketing, feels much further away than it did before. Sometimes teams are on a different continent entirely, so speaking with another team sometimes takes more effort. There is also some effort involved in finding the right person to speak with at a big organisation. At a startup, one person often manages everything under their function, so it is straightforward to find them and collaborate. Having said that, collaboration is equally valued and encouraged in both the work environments.
  4. Questions are more easily answered: At startups I’ve worked for before, answers weren’t as easily available, because none of us had figured out many things about the industry or internal processes. When I’d have questions about how to approach a relevant lead to pitch the startup’s product, I’d need to look for resources or people to find the answers. At Linkedin,  resources are abundantly available for these types of things. Most of the time, I just ask myself who might know the answer to my question at Linkedin, and then I usually find someone within a 5 metres radius to answer that question for me. While I enjoy finding my own answers at startups, I like having immediate answers too. It leads to my coming up with harder questions once the easier questions are quickly answered.
  5. We have multiple all-hands: At startups, it is common to have one townhall or all hands every month. At Linkedin, there are so many different teams and organisations within Linkedin, that I have already attend 4 different kinds of all hand meetings, each of which I find very inspiring! In the past two months, I have attended a global all hands, global sales all hands, APAC all hands, Singapore all hands and an APAC sales all hands.
  6. People move roles so quickly: In my first month itself, I saw people switching teams. Internal review cycles happen every 6 months, which lead to many promotions and internal transfers. Some people leave to go to other companies too. At startups, it’s common for people to stay in the same role for several years, but the roles in itself evolves very quickly as the needs of the startup change. 
  7. Targets matter more: In startups, there isn’t much historical data to create targets scientifically, which is why targets can at times be lofty. Other times, targets at startups aren't difficult to achieve, but there aren’t enough people or expertise to achieve them. At Linkedin, there is an entire team devoted to setting scientific targets based on historic data. I wouldn’t say the targets are easy to achieve in any which way. But they are more realistic and there is usually a legitimate plan on how to achieve them. Most days, I am just focussed on getting closer to that ONE type of target that I have, as opposed to a few different goals that I was used to from startup environments. 
  8. Focus is more on growth than survival: At startups, the emphasis is more on survival and getting to breakeven so that the company’s revenue is equal to, if not more, than it’s spend. At Linkedin, the focus is entirely on growth. While in both cases, the actions and direction are similar, the feeling is quite different.
  9. We don’t just have a help desk website for our customers - we also have one for employees: On Day 1, i was told that if I needed anything at Linkedin, like figuring out how to make claims, or check my payslip, or request personal time off, I can go to our online help desk. It has articles on everything administrative that an employee needs to know. At startups, there tend to be one or two people handling all these administrative matters, so a startup employee doesn’t need to do much more than walk up to the admin person’s desk to get things sorted!
  10. There a bazillion different apps and softwares we use: At startups I’ve worked at, there are maybe 4-5 different tools used by any given team (tops). But now, there are so many specialised integrations and tools I find myself using for work. It took me some time just to figure out the names and functions of all these different tools that I could use for better productivity and results in my work. We also have a few trainings that taught us how to use these tools. At this point, I am not sure what’s an integration and what’s a tool by itself. 

Having said that, there were a few things  I found to be similar to a startup.

  1. Collaboration is equally important. Even though roles are fairly individual in my new team at Linkedin, working together is always better than working alone, because it leads to better results, either in terms of our personal learning, or in terms of getting better deals. 
  2. I love the people I work with: Bigger companies are known for having a more competitive culture. Maybe I got lucky, but I really like and admire the people I work with as much as I did at the last startup I worked at. 
  3. Impact on the big wide world still matters: A perception I had of bigger companies before joining Linkedin was that they care more about money than impact. Atleast at Linkedin, that is very untrue. Linkedin puts a lot of emphasis on it’s larger goal of creating economic opportunity for everyone. A lot of emphasis also goes into volunteering and donating to non profits. I was surprised to find that Linkedin matches every employees donation to non profits 1 for 1. 
  4. Spending habits: I felt that bigger company’s employees may have more extravagant spending habits. I am not sure why I thought this way, but I realise that this is not true at all in the people I frequently interact with at Linkedin. I was really glad to observe this, because on most days, I really value frugality. 
  5. I still work the same amount, if not more: There is a common perception that startup employees work long hours. I think that can be true to some extent, but I hadn’t really found that to be true for business roles in startups. At Linkedin, I still work the same amount, but perhaps at different hours since I now work with a different market (now APAC, previously worldwide). I think I might actually be working more at Linkedin, because I am still getting used to my new job and learning how to be more productive in my new role.
  6. People tend to have varying professional goals. For example, not everyone at a startup wants to continue being with a startup all their lives. Similarly, I come across people at Linkedin who want to stay there for long, some who want to eventually explore different types of work, and some who want different roles within Linkedin. 
  7. Varying interests outside of work: I am glad to report that both my old and new colleagues have interests and hobbies they are passionate about after work! I really enjoy people telling me about the latest marathon they ran, or a new certification they are getting to become a professional coach!
  8. People are equally hardworking. I have been blessed to be around people who are incredibly hard working and make sure that the job gets done in both types of work environments. I think that might be a Singapore thing, and a habit that I am really happy to be surrounded by. 

I’m sure I’m going to gain a deeper perspective as time goes by at Linkedin, but for now, those are some of the key differences I’ve observed. I am excited to keep learning and growing with Linkedin in the time to come.