Do you think working for a well known company makes you more valuable?

When I was in college I dreamed of graduating and getting a job offer from a major company like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, etc. I assumed it would be an emblem of my knowledge and skills. I also assumed having a big name like that on my resume would mean I'd automatically get a foot in the door at any company in the world, in the slight change I chose to change jobs.

That dream didn't pan out and I never heard back from any of those big companies I applied to. Absurd, I know! Since then I've only worked for no-name boring companies doing mediocre software engineering tasks getting no where in life. Kidding!

Like many of you working at no-name companies, I love my job! Seriously, I feel like the experience I'm gaining is far superior to what I'd get working for one of those major companies. I wear many hats such as: DBA, server admin, and full-stack developer. I am continually learning and my job challenges me daily. Not to mention I work from home ;) I love my job so much I feel like it's more valuable than a job any of those big companies could offer me. I don't care to work for them anymore and I believe those jobs are hyped up. Don't get me wrong, I believe they offer great experiences too, just not more than anywhere else.

So I'd like to hear some thoughts on this topic. Is working for a major company better in the long run? Does it give people an unfair advantage, or does it limit them?

Will they get more experience working there compared to a startup?

I understand every job is different and there's no simple answer to these questions. However, these thoughts have been on my mind for a while and I'd like to have a discussion about it.

Cheers!

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Mario Giambanco's photo

I've had a pretty diverse career so far I think.

Back in the day, one of my first jobs was for an International Bank - in my building there were 1000+ employees - I was in customer service (internet banking) and so our floor was roughly 200 people.

Jobs like this, your just a number. Turn over rates can be high and you might be needed but at the end of the day; if you left, you can be replaced. Working for big companies IMO shows you can work with or deal with at least, a big team and tons of opinions but in this case, we had incoming phone calls and so long as the phone and emails were answered - business as usual.

I worked for a big local company (> 500 employees) - here I was in IT (1 of 2 sys admins) - my opinion mattered much more - we were responsible for everything and anything IT related from server deploys to choosing and pricing equipment to help desk type tasks to opening remote offices. This job has looked most impressive on my resume to new employers and for sure, I got most of my experience at this job. Again - did working for a big company help? Kinda - it showed I could work on a team; being such a small IT team, work in many difference scenarios and different projects - but I'm not sure the size got me the jobs that followed; it was my experience they were looking for.

My current job is a local company around 15 employees now - I got this job based on side work experience more then anything else. They liked that I had experience hosting on Rackspace (side job experience), could handle server side and programming side tasks (experience from local > 500 employee company) and could answer support emails when need (bank experience back in the day). None of these companies were or are the Google or FB of the world so did it matter the size or reach of the company? I don't think so... my experience has always gotten me in the door more then big names on my resume.

(aside) ... I much prefer to work for small local companies. I love my boss and it's a very family feeling office. We're casual with each other and theres no corporate politic crap to deal with. so long as the work gets done, we can do as we please, often going to lunch for an hour, having a drink, chatting about movies and politics, etc...

</2cents>

Andrew Wooldridge's photo

I've worked for Netscape, AOL, Wells Fargo, Yahoo!, eBay, and many smaller companies. The key to this success you are seeking is creating a good network of coworkers who you continue to have contact with beyond the workplace. Building good relationships with coworkers is arguably just as important as beefing up your coding skills and moving up the corporate ladder. Big companies have great health benefits and nice holiday parties, while small companies offer a bigger individual impact and a greater sense of accomplishment. I recommend as a career track to alternate between "big" companies and smaller ones if you are seeking a new position.

I think working for a big company is a great goal, as they often have a very high bar for hiring, and it's a nice boost for your resume, but at the end of the day you should think less about the name of the company you work for and instead look at how passionate you are about the work your company is doing. If it's a small company doing things that you feel strongly about, you'll love your job much more than being a cog in the wheel of a big company that just needs a body to do the thing.

You should seek a position for the content of the work, not necessarily the name on the door. Ultimately, having passion for your work and a great network of coworkers will lead you to the career you want and leave you fulfilled as a developer. Having a name on your resume of a big company is nice, but having lots of great recommendations from past workers on say LinkedIn is priceless.

Marco Alka's photo

Here is what I think, working for a big-name company :)

While it is true, that big-name companies will certainly open up doors and give you a lot more knowledge on your way (more people thinking about stuff and implementing it leads to constantly learning new things about coding, project management, etc.), I think small companies will give you the experience instead. In a big company, you usually have a limited field of responsibilities, but you can specialize in one. In a small company, however, everyone counts and there are usually not enough people to do all the tasks, so everyone has to do a bit more. That leads to broadening your horizon! Something like that can be a door-opener, too, if you just use the argument the right way :)

Apart from that, a big company can offer you added value by connecting you with internal specialists from all over the world, send you to some foreign country at no cost for you at all. Additionally, when staying with a big company, they will give you bonus values, like a retirement arrangement, medical care (we have a private doctor on premise), a multitude of different jobs and positions if you ever want to try out something new, and so on. Small companies can most of the time only offer familiarity, but that can be a lot more important depending on your personality and that of your co-workers :)

cedric simon's photo

I am in a small company (10 people) and I really like my job there. We learn from each other and we have many diverse tasks.

I learned so much in 2 years in that company, more than the 5 years I did in another (smaller) company.

It might mean that size doesn't really matter. I think I have the chance to do what I like and that's the most important.

Siddarthan Sarumathi Pandian's photo

I think it definitely makes you stand-out. Like we all know, it's extremely hard to get into Facebook or the other hot shot big companies and it adds a lot of value to your resume.

That being said, I am a huge fan of small companies and absolutely adore the start-up culture. Also, nothing carries more weight in the Silicon Valley than having been a part of a start-up that has made it big or if even if the start-up crashed, the battle scars you've had in the process makes the industry like you even more.

Edouard's photo

Hey @jcmcneal ! For what it's worth, i've been working for a kind of big french company the past two years. I've learned a lot and I met really nice and competent people. All was pretty good at the beginning though, and it started to change when managers dediced to assign me to another team, for another task.... Things became to be boring and for 10 months I had not saw a line of code. So I left this job to work in an IT Services company. It's been 5 months now and I already have responsabilites, I can finally develop software and I'm learning form even talented person. To answser your questions, I think you'll get more experienced whereever you go with a bit of luck, could it be Google or the startup in your garage. I think it's better in long run espacially for big companies though because it demonstate that they keep up with you and if you're not working there anymore it's because you wanted it (don't know if i'm clear :$). To conclude, yes I think working for big companies is a door opener and gives you an advantage in an interview.

Hope I answered your questions. Have a good one, cheers !

Dinuksha Ishwari's photo

Growing with the company and making a difference makes you valuable in my opinion.

Steven Ventimiglia's photo

Agreed. Simply "working for a well-known company" makes you more expendable, imo. Your presence should always be considered a professional event, not a sorority dare.

Todd's photo

I'll give you my take: A name doesn't mean a whole lot in and of itself but it potentially can.

Let's pick a couple of examples:

Microsoft. We all know Microsoft is huge and as such, it has some really smart and hardworking people but it must also have some jerks, lazy people, and not-so-smart people who snuck in. Anyone who has a decent amount of life experience knows that any organization of large size doesn't have all geniuses or all nice people. Period. So simply stating you worked at Microsoft to me personally doesn't quite cut it. However, if I look you up and I see some awesome contributions you've made, you had a great reputation, you're nice, AND you worked there, that's a win.

Now, let's discuss a more specialized field like cryptography. Say I need a crypto expert and I see that you've worked at RSA - the firm who created the RSA algorithm used on billions of machines and transactions today... I'm thinking "ok, this is good." I look at how long you worked there, you spent 10 years there. Well, my thought is now "Ok this person has spent 10 years working as a cryptographer for some of the best and most successful cryptography experts in the world." I have a good opinion of this. If the rest of my research on you lines up and you're a pleasant person, this is good.

Now, if you worked for either of those, have little work to show, can't explain what you've done, and/or have a bad reputation as being a jerk... That's different. That's my thought process.