The Right Startup Culture For Me

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At startups with more female employees, Nerf battles, wrestling matches and beer guzzling are not the only ways to have fun at the office. By Veronica Ray (Senior, Duke University)

During my summer internship in San Francisco, I began to seriously think about the startup culture that suits me best. I met with other students involved in my internship program on Wednesdays and we had the opportunity to meet with a variety of executives from technology companies in the Bay Area. Russell Glass, CEO of B2B marketing company Bizo, especially inspired me. I wondered why Bizo sounded like an exceptional place to work and other companies didn’t.

Next spring, I will graduate from college and seek a full-time job in a tech startup in San Francisco. These are critical elements in a startup I want to work at and/or found: At least one woman has a leadership role. The startup I worked at last summer had an experienced female business development lead. The mobile app startup I worked at this past school year had two female designers who did standout work and challenged the founders when necessary. At startups with more female employees, Nerf battles, wrestling matches and beer guzzling are not the only ways to have fun at the office. As an entry level employee, I want a woman to look up to. And I don’t want my inexperience and skill set to represent all women.

Similarly, leaders in both business and engineering/science roles. I prefer a team where all skills are respected. Twillio is a standout example of this. The first thing every Twilio employee must do is build an app, even if they aren’t an engineer.

Enough employees that I can work long-term at the startup without getting bored. I think at least 15 employees would work, but 50 is ideal. Working at a slightly larger company allows me to learn about more positions and find mentors. At around 80 and 100 employees respectively, Bizo and Twilio seem like the ideal size.

A staid work environment to overwhelming chaos. I’m most comfortable in a knee-length skirt and flats, not jeans and a t-shirt. The Joel Test, twelve questions from Joel Spolsky that measure the quality of a software team, applies

Located in San Francisco. I’m an urban gal and I plan to take full advantage of San Francisco’s vibrant culture. I will definitely live in San Francisco when I graduate. I’m open to taking the Caltrain every day for the right company, but I prefer a startup with an HQ in San Francisco. Fortunately many tech companies, including Digg, Dropbox, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Yelp, Bizo and Twilio, are based in San Francisco.

Now that I’m thinking about where I want to work permanently, culture emerged as a key differentiator for me among possible employers. I’m not looking for the startup with the “best” culture, just the one that best suits me.

You don’t typically see the gender and skill set break down, size of company or Joel Test answers (unless you’re on the Stack Overflow job board!) on a job posting. However, I will consider these factors before I apply to any post-graduation job.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Veronica Ray is a rising senior at Duke majoring in Public Policy with a minor in Computer Science. She took her first Computer Science class this past spring and did web development over the summer for Y Combinator startup Jellyfish Art in San Francisco. She will be a part time web developer for Jellyfish Art this upcoming school year. This fall, she’s learning native iOS development, web application development and hip hop dance. Follow her on Twitter at @nerdonica.