Working at a Smaller Company

New Discussions

Recently I have had some conversations with some new friends that I have never met, Tristan Nuñez, we chatted a few times on cutting trees down, and popcorn, and LaTashia Tyson.  We talked about working and career development.  I have written some articles on LinkedIn, including My First Five Jobs, and some thoughts on careers in Careers are for Exploration.  The things we choose to do, are all people depending, that is we each have ideas of what our work life should be.  For me it was curiosity and things that interest me, related to a job opportunity both the context of the work and in some instances the location of the work.

Small Company

One of the topics we chatted about, was a rumination on whether working at a small company had an impact on further career growth, specifically, the possibility to move to a larger company.  Employed at a small company one is often required to wear many metaphoric hats.  For example, from my experience developing embedded industrial products, the developer also performed testing, not just the development testing, but also systems integration work, discovery of issues in that work, and adapting the product.  I recall one time having some field stimulus that caused malperformance. Eventually we traced the problem with another engineer (that now owns Raptor Performance), to a electromagnetic generated energy coupled onto the wires external to the product and brought into the product enclosure.  We made the correction to the product, we needed to find a way to test the correction.  We found a drill that was electrically very noisy, and placed this over the product housing and harness, watching electrical ejecta from the sides of the drill toward the device.  The result, the product did not fail in this round of testing, and we saw no further field failures.


This diversity of experience provides a broader view of what is required to create and deliver a product to the market.  Perhaps the magnitude of the overall work is smaller.  For example, the average amount spent on specific projects, may be different from larger companies.  However, larger companies can have a compartmentalized or segmented work force which is often referred to as a functional organization.

In the discussion, the subject of resume came up, specifically, if your resume reflects working at a small company will this result in not getting an interview.  I have hired people, at relatively large companies, I know, anecdotal and my own experiences, so it should be taken for what that sort of thing is worth.  I have no idea how to find this out, and as many different people there are reviewing the resume, there will perhaps be that many different perspectives.  If the individual’s experience is like mine, a demonstration of the variety of those experiences, articulated in the resume can perhaps help catch the reviewers’ eye.  For example, perhaps a person performs activities like a project manager, a description of these types of experience could be helpful.

As a Manager

The resume may get a person in the door, and one of the things I would look for was the range of experiences, particularly, to get some sense of this person’s attitude about learning, not just about the skills they presently have.  Those are important, to be sure, but I was not hiring them for the position they have presently or had in the past.  I am seeking to hire specific skills – importantly, how their past experiences may apply in the context of the talent I am seeking to hire.  I would also have those in my group that would be working with this potential new hire, to review the resumes if they wanted.  If they chose not to, I would make the first pass select and hand the resumes of those I thought might be suitable candidates to the people with which they would be working.

When I was a manager, I would not exclude somebody that had worked at smaller companies.  I am not sure I would be able to even tell, in fact, it was not at all relevant for the hiring consideration. What was more important, is what they have done where they are, and evidence of continuous learning of the individual, the ability to adapt and learn based upon circumstances.

Post by Jon Quigley