6 Ways to Succeed at a Startup

Startup professionals often enjoy the advantage of learning new skills faster. Here are 6 tips that will help you succeed.

If you’re the type of person who’s interested in more than only your specific specialization, you might be the perfect fit for a startup. That’s because most startups are made up of smaller teams where everyone is involved in everything. This offers any professional a great opportunity to get involved in more aspects of the startup’s operation and expand their skill set.


For example, at a larger company, one team might be responsible for building a solution while another team is responsible for using it. At a startup, the same people who build the solution or service will also do the testing, monitoring, etc., and “get their hands dirty” with the product in more ways than one. For many, this is more interesting than focusing solely on one aspect of the operation. Moreover, by diving into all aspects of the product or service this way, startup professionals often enjoy the advantage of learning new skills faster. They see the big picture, and quickly gain the tools needed to become team leaders. This can make a real impact in boosting your career.


But succeeding at a startup requires different things than what might be needed to succeed at a larger company. Because their work often involves different parts of the business, people who work at startups often have more responsibility on their shoulders. With this in mind, if you get the opportunity to work at a startup, here are 6 tips that will help you succeed.

6 Tips for Succeeding at a Startup

  1. Pay attention to Git Commits
    Being part of a startup means being a team player. To support your success and the success of your team, you should read all Git Commits and ensure you gain the fullest understanding of the entire process of the system’s evolvement. Read the Pull Requests, too—even if you’re not the one approving them and they’re not your responsibility. This shows that you’re truly interested in what’s happening with the system. More than this, it allows you to learn from your teammates’ work and from their mistakes, and to understand all parts of the system, including the ones you didn’t work on. This will only help you in doing your job successfully, and in supporting the success of the business.

    For any startup, having a team member with a deep understanding of the entire system is a great asset. Be that person by specifically allotting time every week for this purpose.

 

  1. Check in with your teammates
    We already mentioned that being part of a startup means being a team player. It’s really important for your success that you embrace your position on the team by checking in with others and learning about what they’re working on. Take this into your own hands and don’t simply wait for a weekly update meeting. Instead, actively ask what people are doing and how you can contribute. Consider how you can:
  • Be a rubber duck. No, really.
  • Learn about the struggles others are facing.
  • Familiarize yourself with new tools, approaches, problem solving methods, etc.
  • Offer hands-on help to others.

    In general, startup professionals who make a point of doing these things not only learn faster, but also become greater assets to the company.

 

  1. If you’re a software developer, design the software as if it were yours
    Whether or not you’re working with a software architect, ask yourself “How would I want the software to be? How can I make this the most elegant?” Focus on how you should do something, not only on how you can do it. In the startup world, things tend to move quickly, and there is often a lot of pressure to get things done fast. But before moving in a hurry with the thinking, “How can I get this done as quickly as possible?” try slowing down and considering what’s the most elegant way. This will contribute greatly to your software architect (if you have one) and to the value of your work.

  2. Look at the whole picture
    At a small startup, all of the stakeholders are accessible to you. This grants you the opportunity to be involved in the entire system and understand the reasoning behind every aspect of it, as well as where it’s headed in the future. Avoid having “tunnel vision” about your own challenges. By looking at the broader picture, you might find solutions to your challenges. Maybe someone has already addressed the issue you’re facing. Or maybe the challenge you’re trying to solve is part of a larger issue. Take a few steps back and look at the problem from a distance. Understand the processes at play and explore how you can deliver a better long-term solution, faster.

  1. Put yourself in the user’s position
    Ask yourself, “Who’s using this service? What does their usage look like? What’s the impact of this service?” Understanding the user’s position is just as important as understanding the flow and the system’s stakeholders. Any time you address an issue, tweak a feature, fix a bug, etc., ask yourself who’s using the system? Do I know everything about their usage? Ask your teammates, too, and see if you’re missing anything about who’s using your service.

    Moreover, pay attention to the impact of your work. If you’re spending too much time focusing on a feature that users don’t really need and that won’t make much of an impact, consider putting it aside for now. Dedicate more of your efforts to the work that has a greater impact; give those tasks more thought, more testing, and more eyes to help ensure the best possible outcome.

 

  1. Don’t be fooled: Your job is NOT finished with the Pull Request
    At a larger company, you might open a PR (Pull Request), test it, and be done with it. Not so at a startup. At a startup, it’s your responsibility to go one step further and examine how your feature or fix is performing live. Pay attention to the live monitors and the logs. Grab a few logs and check to see whether something looks strange in the first few minutes/hours/days. Feel free to set some alerts, too—but not in place of your own proactive checks. Don’t think that all because you tested something, it’s bulletproof.
    Moreover, ask the users how they feel about your work/API/feature/fix. Take full responsibility for what you create and put to use the insights you gain about it.

If these 6 tips seem interesting and exciting to you, chances are you’d thrive at a startup. Once you’re there, make sure you remember these tips and act on them regularly. Doing so will help ensure that you learn as much as you can from your teammates, contribute as much as possible, understand the business and entrepreneurship sides of the startup, and help both your career and the startup thrive.


Whether you’re only beginning your professional career or you’re already a seasoned professional in your field, working at a startup as opposed to a larger corporation offers a number of advantages.

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