Why you should consider working at a start up early in your career

Job hunting can be stressful, especially during the start of your career. For me, it was especially scary. I recently abandoned my newly acquired job as a process engineer to pursue a career in software development. I spent the next four months attending the coding bootcamp, Galvanize (formally known as Hack Reactor). It took me five grueling long months of searching before I stumbled upon Tatari on 2017. I remember throughout that job search I found myself naturally avoiding startups in favor of more established companies.

Looking back to that time, I’m not sure why I felt there was something scary about working at startups. In my head, I assumed startup positions mostly consisted of mid-to-senior level roles due to the high amount of responsibility one has during their tenure. I wasn’t confident enough in my abilities to succeed in an environment like a startup due to my background. Once I joined Tatari, I learned that engineers of all skill levels can play an important role in a startup.

One upside about working at a startup is that you get way more accountability for your work. My first month with Tatari felt surreal to me. There was minimal hand-holding before my first significant solo project where I was tasked with creating a new component for our dashboard. I went from writing code that barely had an impact, to working on features and components that will impact all of our clients.

I would like to get something out of the way: I am a guy who hates responsibility. I avoided it most of my life. However, being accountable for my own work gave me a different perspective from what I thought the responsibilities entailed. It feels good to own a portion of our code base, and to have answers for questions related to my work. Having such a voice makes me feel like I’m not just a simple cog in a bigger machine. Having more accountability and responsibility makes one feel like they’re doing impactful work.

Another bright spot about working at a startup is the variety of hats one is required to wear. Before Tatari, I had no clue whether I wanted to work on front end, back end, ops, or fullstack. Throughout my career at Tatari, I was able to experience a little bit of everything in a professional setting. I was able to discover aspects of software engineering I preferred while also finding parts I didn’t like. If I ever got bored or burnt out from working on one part of the stack too much, I can ask for tickets from another stack. Fullstack tickets were particularly fun for me as I was able to shape the API into what I envisioned in my mind.

My personal favorite thing about working at a startup is the culture, and ultimately my ability to shape it.

There is a common cliché about how good teams are like family, but this is actually how it feels to be a part of the engineering team at Tatari. From the early days, we always made it a point to eat lunch together, without exception, going as far as to schedule lunch at a different time so someone wouldn’t be left out if there was a conflict. When I moved to Los Angeles this year, I brought this simple ritual of eating lunch together with me to the teams in the new office who had not experienced this. Unfortunately with COVID-19 we aren’t able to spend much time f2f at the moment, but I hope we can get back to that in the future.

When I first joined Tatari there were only seven engineers. Today, we have over thirty engineers and we continue to experience rapid growth. Scaling our close-knit engineering culture is a challange as we grow, but it’s definitely something that we still make a priority.

While it was initially intimidating, joining an early-stage startup has proven to be a terrific career choice. This decision has helped me grow both as a software engineer and as a person. I largely attribute this growth to the interesting technology challenges we face daily to help our clients be successful but most importantly, to the great people with whom I work at Tatari.

Fred Li

Fred Li is a Senior Engineer at Tatari.