Where can I fit in a small tech startup?
October 12, 2009 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Where can I fit into (and how can I find) a tech startup or small tech company, that does something I'm passionate about with my current skills/experience?

I currently work for a large UK retail business in IT, based in London - joined on an IT graduate scheme about 4 years ago (I'm now 28). I've been working on the infrastructure side since I joined - I'm now technical lead for one of the major device management technologies in the company, working on a big upgrade project. In a nutshell it's a senior system administrator role. It's ok, money is ok, stress levels are ok etc.. but I really want to work somewhere where I'm passionate about what I do and what the company does - something which is more than just OK! I just feel like a cog in a big machine where I am - I don't feel what I do is at all relevant to what the company does. They could be doing anything - doesn't make much difference to my job. I just make sure devices are managed, patched etc..

I started to look at job sites, but I kept getting drawn to things that matched my skills, i.e. doing pretty much what I do now. Or consulting in what I do now. So, I then decided to take a step back and think about what I really wanted my next move to be. I think of cool companies like Spotify - small companies on the cutting edge, working with interesting internet-based technologies and subject matter. That's great, but then I hit the brick wall. How would I fit into a company like that? I don't want to go and look after their infrastructure so I'm once again supporting what a company does, not actually being involved in the business of what it does. I want to be in a position where I can help shape the company. Make an impact - feel invested in what I'm doing because I believe in the company's product.

The few jobs I manage to find in interesting companies seem to be either hardcore development jobs or business-focused jobs (sales etc..). I don't want to go into software development - I've done a little bit within my job, but nothing major. I don't mind the odd bit of it, but I wouldn't want to be a full time coder, and even if I did, I don't have a lot of experience in OOP anyway. I'm happy to become less technical to work for a more technical company, if that makes sense. Plus, with coding work often outsourced these days I see an analytical role as more of a long-term career path.

As for the business-focused side, I don't have a lot of real-world business experience. I worked in a job before I joined my current employer which was a support and implementation consultancy role for a small software company selling accountancy software and bespoke applications, but my experience since has been all in-house, not dealing with 'customers'. The company I worked for wasn't doing too well (in financial problems before I joined!) and it was not a subject matter that interested me in the slightest so I moved on after about a year.

So, what are my skills? Well, I pick up knowledge pretty quickly as I've been technical lead for a few non-related technologies in the four years I've been here. I'm technically savvy and I've got experience of managing relatively big internal IT projects, in a big company with all the processes that involves. I've had a couple of promotions in the time I've been here. I also believe I'm good at talking about technical things with technical and non-technical people alike. How could I market myself to a small startup with these sort of skills? If I'm not an experienced developer or sales/marketing guru, where would I fit in?

I was thinking maybe I could play on the project management side of my job, maybe take a PRINCE2 qualification to get a bit more structural knowledge - but are there many opportunities for that sort of role without going to a bigger company?

If I crack that, I see another brick wall ahead. How did I find these sort of roles? Smaller companies don't generally have ads on the big job sites and apart from keeping an eye on places like the UK job board at TechCrunch or startupglu.com, I get the feeling a lot of these jobs come through friends of friends etc..

Any advice, greatly appreciated!
posted by studiosonic to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, there's startuply and other sites that are geared towards job offers at start-ups. (It looks like startuply offers a search by 'zipcode' which wouldn't be very helpful for you in London) A lot of this stuff is done through personal connections, though. There are usually organized get togethers for entrepreneurs, you could try finding out about those and going, find out if anyone is looking for people with your skill set.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 AM on October 12, 2009

Proposal development?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:12 PM on October 12, 2009

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