Work in a startup, studio and corporation – experience of a project manager

Work in a startup, studio and corporation – experience of a project manager

Currently, especially after the pandemic, there is a great demand for work in the field of IT. Many courses offer to learn a new specialty and find a well-paid job in a short period of time. But which company to choose to start a career? Three main types of IT companies can be distinguished: startups, studios and corporations. During my career as a project manager, I managed to work at all three. I have something to compare with and therefore want to share this information with you.

Work in a startup

Movies and TV shows paint a very attractive and colorful picture of working in a startup. But we should not forget that they are mainly filmed about those who have achieved success. And those who failed are much more. According to Startup Genome statistics, 90% of startups close. This is important to understand. Most of the time, the company will not show growth results and will be on the verge of closing. In order for a startup to get into that 10%, you need to put a lot of effort into it, find investors and take into account their opinion, do more than you are usually used to.

Startups always lack people and resources. You will work for everyone and with everything. For example, our startup did not have a designer, he was replaced by a developer who simply used a ready-made UI-kit. He chose elements and colors to his taste and then received a like or dislike rating from the team. The simple interface of the site made it possible to do without the help of a designer and it looked good. But just imagine how much better it would be if a professional took care of it.

While working as a project manager in a startup, due to a lack of people, I performed the duties of HR, copywriter, tester, SEO manager and office manager. It is difficult, but interesting. You can try yourself in different fields and gain experience in different areas. For example, you need to implement some service, for this you need to analyze services with the functionality you need, learn how to implement it, learn how to work with it correctly, if there are controversial issues – solve them yourself, with the help of service support. And all this, preferably, by spending a minimum amount of money, and even better, for free.

Another example is the task of SEO blog promotion. You need to learn what SEO is, understand how Google Analytics and Yandex Metrica work, how pages are indexed, what keywords to choose for articles, learn what competitors write about, decide which CMS system to choose, etc. Not everything will be smooth, and you will 100% need to search for answers to questions on the Internet or, again, write to support when you do not find them. In such cases, knowledge of the English language will not be superfluous.

The main thing is independence. You can only rely on yourself. You need to study the issue yourself and come up with a solution, or find someone with the right experience to help you. You will quickly learn in this mode and get tremendous experience. Especially if this is your first job. But it is also important to understand that if you have little work experience, then no one will babysit you.

I would say that a startup is one huge project or product. It can be divided into sub-projects, define MVP and evaluate development stages. But you will always be working on one project. After the startup has already proven itself, you will develop and improve it, and if everything goes well, it will grow into a company. But before a startup becomes a company, it will still be the same big project.

There are no clear rules and frameworks in a startup. Vacation and sick leave is a complex issue. In many startups, employees are self-employed or self-employed. In this mode, you need to monitor the payment of taxes yourself, it is unlikely that you will take a full vacation and paid sick days. Also, most likely, you will work on public holidays.

Startups also have a unique atmosphere. Here, everyone is burning with a single idea – to create a “unicorn” like SpaceX and Uber. There is no hierarchy and bureaucracy – there is complete freedom of action and creativity. Everyone knows about the inspiring stories of companies and wants to repeat their success. When a startup reaches new heights, even small ones, you feel your importance, because you are part of the team. And if the company successfully got to that cherished 10%, then there is a chance to get a share in the business and become a shareholder.

Pros and cons of working in a startup

Positive aspects

Negative sides

– Work experience in various fields

– Quick career start

– Freedom of action

– The atmosphere

– Work for everyone

– Constant uncertainty

– High risk of failure

– Few resources


Work in the studio

A studio is a cross between a startup and a corporation. Hierarchy, documentation and mentoring are already in place. The studio, as a company, is interested in growing its personnel and attracting new ones. Therefore, most often, there is mentoring here: talented but inexperienced employees are mostly hired and trained. To attract new and retain old team members, there are often bonuses and all kinds of activities: compensation for fitness, own library of professional books, compensation for courses, corporate parties, collective events, publication of articles on various sites. The latter creates the image of the company and beyond.

In the studios, the pace of work is very high and there is a lack of resources, projects are put on stream. Unlike a startup, here you will work more, fulfilling your duties, and not working in different areas. You will feel the lack of the same specialists as you (it doesn’t matter if you are a developer or a designer). You will have a greater volume of work, which is accompanied by constant burning deadlines, pressure from customers and managers.

The cost of projects is calculated based on the hours that will be spent on the project and the man-hour cost of the specialists who will perform this work. Therefore, there can be no downtime in the studio, otherwise it is a loss. And because of this, the number of specialists is always a little less than needed, they are transferred from one project to another. Yes, the company does not pay for “idle” time.

The studio is also a very good opportunity to gain experience. Here you can learn from seniors, get expert knowledge about the work of your studio. The management of the company stood by its creation and they know all the work themselves. Therefore, they are ready to participate in all processes and share their experience.

All studio employees are one big family. An informal atmosphere reigns in the offices: everyone communicates one-on-one, managers sit with everyone in an open space, and everyone has lunch at the same table. Colleagues often get together in non-working hours: go to the cinema, a bar or spend an interesting evening with the crowds. Here you will definitely find new friends and good acquaintances in the it field. Networking at XXI is our everything.

Pros and cons of working in a studio

Positive aspects

Negative sides

– Responsibilities are defined

– Mentorship

– Bottles (books, corporate events, courses, etc.)

– Direct participation of managers in the work of the studio

– Work pace

– lack of resources

– Frequent burns


Work in a corporation

The corporation is already a very serious dig, everything is “adult” here. It employs a lot of people, it has more than one field of activity, there may be branches in other regions. Everything is described here: there is an instruction for any process and everyone is only engaged in their work. This has a huge plus, that each specialist is an expert in his field. If you are making a new product, in most cases there is a colleague who can help. After all, all products are limited to the framework of the company’s activities, which means that this is not something completely new, but something that should be thought about and use what is already there.

When I was given the first project in the corporation, I started to draw CJ with it myself. Because in our startup and in the studio, a manager always dealt with this. And then, I learned from my colleagues that it is possible to start a task for the customer experience team, and they will outline everything in detail, and highlight the points that will be followed by controversial issues. They have their expert experience on this issue and many points that I, as a manager, could not take into account or not know.

All these regulations and documents have a big minus – bureaucracy. Everything that depends on other departments is not done quickly. For example, you need to access your project. To do this, you need to fill out the form exactly as it was intended. Because The forms are divided into very small directions, so it may turn out that you have filled out the form to the wrong responsible group that you need – in this case, you will need to start the process from the beginning. After you have completed everything correctly, the application goes through several stages of approval. Each agreement takes about two days on average. Therefore, even for the simplest task, you need to set aside one week, and if you are going through this path for the first time, then it is better than both.

There is also another type of tasks when, after successful coordination, work will be required from another team. In this case, it may turn out that they will be busy with other tasks and will not be able to complete them, because it was originally planned. And then additional time will be spent on prioritizing the tasks of both teams and, again, their coordination.

A corporation can have many projects. The company’s management chooses directions for development and, based on them, prioritizes projects. For example, now it is important to release some new functionality to the market. You implement this project, and you may develop it immediately after release, you may switch to another project and come back to it later, or you may not develop it at all. It all depends on the company’s priorities. There is luck here: completely dissimilar projects may fall in, your past projects may return for development, or all projects of the same type may fall.

Working in a corporation, you feel that you are a part of this huge company, that you contribute and that you all lead it forward. Weekly digests will tell about any activities: holidays, contests, news, bonuses, corporate training and various events. You will be aware that something interesting is happening in the company every day.

In large companies, it is possible to track the entire life path of a product from idea to implementation and further monitor its fate. Before working in a corporation, I did not even think about how many people work on a product: the development team develops the product (project and product managers, analysts, designers, developers, testers, copywriters), the customer experience department conducts research for the future product, marketers conduct advertising campaigns, the security service highlights possible threats to both the company itself and users, the sales and marketing department prepares ways to implement the product, lawyers monitor legal issues of the product, etc. etc.

The company is interested in the growth of its employees and therefore organizes corporate training. It can be mandatory and will be aimed at training skills that you can use in your work. Professionals work here and do the same for you.

Another important feature of the corporation is stability. It is several levels higher than in startups and studios. People have been working here for years, knowing that the company cares about them. And even IT specialists who like to change jobs every year stay in such companies for a long time. In many ways, this is due to the high level of wages and a good social package in the form of health insurance and other benefits.

Pros and cons of working in a corporation

Positive aspects

Negative sides

– Planning (resource limitations)

– Bonuses

– Stability and prestige

– Pride in the product

– Remoteness of management

– Gamification, motivation

– Comfortable office

– Regulation and documentation

– Corporate training

– Bureaucracy

– Additional work (work evaluations, reports)

– Depersonalization


This is my experience at different companies, and of course it will be different for other people. Each company has its own culture and each person has a different attitude to the atmosphere at work.

In any case, while you try to work in each of these companies, you will form your impression and be able to choose the best option for yourself. Each of them has its pros and cons. Whichever company you choose, you will get a great experience. This experience and experience are different. Each type of company gives something different. I don’t know if I would choose the order in which companies to work. Probably not. I like the way my path turned out. I grew smoothly and rapidly as a project manager. Personally, I am closer to corporations with a clear work structure, expert opinion of professionals in their field, and a comfortable office culture.

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