Be Inspired

What Silicon Valley Gets Right About Working at a Startup

HBO’s hit comedy Silicon Valley, which had its season three finale last night, follows the fictional startup company Pied Piper as it navigates its way through the namesake Bay Area region in hopes of becoming the tech industry’s “next big thing.” The plot and characters are nothing short of ridiculous. But what job seekers want to know is: Are they realistic?

Take a look at how Silicon Valley pretty much nails what it’s actually like to work for a company from its earliest beginnings. (And check out our job board for open positions at startups.)





1. Timing is Everything


Your product might be “better.” It might be more optimal, more strategic, and ultimately better designed. But if you don’t get there first, you’re going to have that much of a harder time getting noticed now that your competitor has already garnered attention.

2. Titles Are (Somewhat) Irrelevant


In addition to a CEO and CTO, your startup may have a chief officer of fun or a chief evangelism officer. And employees who have limited experience may have inflated titles as a way to make the company appear to have a stronger and more experienced team.

Does this make titles completely irrelevant? Not necessarily, but if you want to work for a new business, keep in mind that future employers may not be bowled over by your possibly inflated job title.

3. Teams Are Constantly Changing


People quit. Funding runs out. Employees get fired.

The product is constantly evolving at a startup and so is the team. Management will change, your co-workers will change, your own position may even change. The key to success is being adaptable. And really smart.

4. Sometimes There’s Really Cool (and Unnecessary) Tech


Yoga rooms, massive monitors and state of the art speaker systems can be found in well-funded startup offices. So can slides, ball pits and nap pods.

Is it all necessary? No, but appearance can be everything.

5. No One Who Works in the Actual Silicon Valley Can Afford to Live There


According to a Zillow study, rent prices in the real Silicon Valley have gone up 50% over the last five years.

While the six-figure salary that many Bay Area startups offer their employees (especially engineers) may sound huge, that paycheck still won’t get employees too far in the super-expensive local housing market.

6. Female Engineers Are… Underrepresented


A recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission survey of some of the top American tech companies found that men make on average 28.3% more than their female counterparts. And with women only making up 23% of the tech industry, it’s clear that tech still has a serious issues with diversity and pay equality.

7. There Are Always Problems and Setbacks


It feels like every episode of Silicon Valley ends with Pied Piper facing another huge dilemma. Sometimes it feels like “will this company ever work out?!”

This rings very true to startup culture: Some 90% of the new ventures fail. Is it smooth sailings for the 10% that actually make it out alive?

Hardly. If you want to work at a in this arena you better be prepared for ups and downs.

8. But Hey: There Are Snacks


Don’t expect to work the typical 9 to 5. In exchange for your long hours, however, many startup offices have a well-stocked kitchen to keep you fueled for all-nighters. Yum!

9. There Is Also the Scrum


Startup employees have to be extremely independent. With limited resources and small teams, the chances are you won’t have a boss micro-managing you. That’s why many of their companies start their mornings with a daily scrum, or a meeting to set the goals and context for the day.

10. You Really Can Be a Part of Something Big


Startups are intense, fast-moving and filled with incredibly smart and talented people. If you work for a new company that fails, you’ll still gain amazing experience to add to your resume.

And if you work for a venture that does succeed? Well, then you’ll get to be a part of something truly incredible.

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Be Inspired, Productivity