Want to dive into life at a tech company? You’re not alone, but landing your first technology gig can be, well, scary. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around on the Internet and in the press about what life at a startup or tech company really looks like — so coming in on your first day can feel like a giant (and blind) leap of faith.
To help you get a picture of what working at a tech company is actually like, we sat down with three Chicago tech companies who walked us through what life at their office looks like on day one, month one, and year one.
From grabbing dinner to watching the company grow from two employees to almost fifty, here’s what they had to say:
ContextMedia builds digital media technology for the healthcare industry so that patients have better access to in-office health information and lifestyle education. Although the company launched in 2006 and has bootstrapped their way to become one of the city’s top tech employers, they maintain the thriving culture of the smaller startup they once were.
Responses from ContextMedia community manager Philip de Guzman.
ContextMedia invests heavily in our interview process in order to enhance our culture with every hire. By the time a ContextMedian walks in on their first day, they have had ~6 interviews. Starting a new job anywhere can feel overwhelming, so we structure our onboarding to make sure that each new hire is set up for success.
Day 1 is focused on empowering new ContextMedians. We engage them in group discussions, exercises and training that help them understand that this is a company where asking questions and thinking critically is the norm. Importantly, ContextMedians go out to lunch with their team and end the day with a happy hour, which gives them the opportunity to get to know their peers personally. Classes of new hires start every other week, which creates a real sense of camaraderie (see the selfie from our class this week).
Over the course of their first month, new ContextMedians train in their specific roles, but also shadow every other team in the company, and meet with leaders from those teams. Through doing so, they learn how their work impacts the whole company. This month ends with our Founders' Nights. Our CEO, Rishi, takes the new class out to dinner, while our President, Shradha invites them over to her apartment to watch a Bulls game over pizza. This gives ContextMedians the opportunity to speak one-on-one with our founders, ask questions, and most importantly, get to know them as individuals.
As a growth stage company, the year one mark can feel like year 3, but in a good way. People who have been at ContextMedia for a year are now mentors, trainers and leaders, contributing in in big ways and making company-wide improvements alongside our leadership team.
For many of us, working in tech doesn’t mean applying to an established company. Instead, it means finally hunkering down on a big idea and hoping it sticks. And when it does, you and your founding team are in for a real whirlwind of a ride. Just ask OfficeLuv, Chicago’s tech-enabled office management and maintenance startup who launched just last year and has already skyrocketed to about 50 employees. Take note, future founders.
Responses from CEO and co-founder Chris Hartman.
When Kathryn (co-founder of OfficeLuv) and I first started OfficeLuv we were just two people in one room, figuring things out. Despite frequent struggles, we both remained strong and resilient to push forward. In the earliest days of a startup I believe it is necessary to have resiliency and to some extent stubbornness. If you accept no as an answer and shut down, your dream and goal of building something great does, too. You will get many nos before a yes, so prepare yourself at this stage to accept that and push on.
Create and reiterate with speed and intent. Start with your concept and move, and move quickly. The constant feedback loop from potential and current customers is essential. Try to build something that consumers or businesses will pay for but keep in mind that you're building for scale — you do not need to create, build or implement every feature requested or suggested. It is okay to say you do not offer something so long as your core product adds value or serves a purpose. Overexpanding your team, product or technology at this stage can prove to be a huge setback in future months. Be diligent at this stage: ask for feedback, ask for suggestions.
Structure scales. As we are approaching our one year anniversary, we are beginning to expand our product and service offering beyond our core. Our team is now 48 employees strong and growing. Our attention and investment in our infrastructure, processes and personnel is paying off tremendously. Our ability to scale significantly in 2016 will be a direct outcome of our planning and iterations over the last 11 months. While we have our heads down working toward our next milestone, we also realize it is great to stop and smell the roses. We've come a long way in just a year and we're so proud of what we've been able to accomplish as a team.
Working at a tech company isn’t all fun and games, but some techies do such a good job at cultivating culture that the line between hard, innovative work and fun is delightfully blurred. That’s the case for Jellyvision, a highlight on Chicago’s tech circuit and three-time 2015 Moxie Award winner (for Best Software Company, Best Company Culture, CEO of the Year). Here’s a sneak peek at what it’s like to work there:
Jellyvision new hires actually get a first week agenda before their first day so they know what to expect. Then on Day 1, new hires get a tour of our twisty office space — we don't want anyone to get lost in one of our many bizarre hallways — followed by meet-and-greets with their new colleagues and a lunch out with their team. Finally, we celebrate the end of each successful first day by sending new hires off in true Jellyvision style (details of which are a poorly-guarded secret).
By this time, new hires are already contributing meaningful work and have successfully navigated their way out of approximately three bizarre hallways, so it's time for a check-in. New hires have a 30-day review with their manager to see how everything's going.
The new hires turned Jellyvets celebrate their anniversary with an official shoutout in a company-wide email. They also get their first annual review with their manager and get some major props for superior hallway helmsmanship.
Images via featured companies.