A recent grad compares her startup gig with her friends' jobs at large companies and comes up with three reasons she's thankful to be working where she is. By Chelsea Fischbach (Product Support Engineer, Cashie Commerce)
I like to call my senior year at Harvey Mudd the year of relentless job hunting. I interviewed like a maniac, crisscrossing the LA area to make it to consulting and product management interviews. On the craziest day, I visited a company that had me speak with eleven different people, capping it all off with a case study. But sadly, despite my efforts, few opportunities panned out.
With panic setting in, I turned for inspiration to a class I was taking on entrepreneurship. In addition to writing a business plan and pitching to VCs, the class attended entrepreneurial networking events for alumni and friends of the college. During one event in La Jolla, I met Hieu Bui, the CEO of a funded San Diego startup, Cashie Commerce. I shared with Hieu what I was looking for in a job, seeking his advice as a fellow Harvey Mudd alum. In a happy twist of fate, advice turned to opportunity when Hieu called a month later to say he had an open position in the support team and that he would ensure that I got the experience I needed for the job to be impactful for us both.
I started with Cashie Commerce within a month of graduation. In addition to managing support, I report to the VP of product and hone my product management skills on side projects. Working for a startup has exceeded my expectations and having compared notes with friends working for more traditional companies, I feel privileged to have this opportunity. Here are a few takeaways for anyone else considering working for a startup after college:
You Can Have a Seat at the Table
As the leader of support, I speak directly with customers every day, helping them install and use our ecommerce solution so that they can sell their products and services online. I know what our merchants struggle with, so the product team solicits and values my input on current features and those in development. Having a voice at the table so quickly and early in my career gives me unique insight into how decisions are made and what customers value.
You Can Shape Your Own Career
At a startup, you determine your career path (flexibility that seems rare based on my friend’s experiences). There is always an interesting project waiting for an eager taker, so I get to work closely with the product and marketing teams. As the primary liaison to our customers, I have a vested interest in what our team is working on and have been able to collaborate closely with our engineers on designing new features and reworking old ones. I’m certain this exposure to cross-functional projects will be of value in future roles.
Your 20s Are Uncertain. So Are Startups
Later in your career, the inherent uncertainty of a startup is a fairly large concern. My coworkers have spouses, children and mortgages, so the stakes are very high financially, but the uncertainty of your 20s is a good match for the uncertainty of a startup. Another challenge inherent to startups is the constantly changing needs of your position. Since I am new to the workforce, I enjoy developing a wide range of skills, which will assist me in whatever career path(s) I choose over my working life. I feel lucky to know that every day I do something that has a direct impact on our company and our merchants.
About the guest blogger: Chelsea Fischbach is the product support engineer at Cashie Commerce, an ecommerce shopping cart platform that helps small businesses create and manage social, mobile and online stores. She graduated from Harvey Mudd College with a B.S. in engineering. When not hard at work, she enjoys exploring San Diego and cooking.
Women 2.0 readers: Do you agree that startups and recent grads are a great match?