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Company types for developers

Mads Brodt • August 4, 2021

4 min read

There's many different ways to make money as a developer, one of them being actively working in a company in exchange for a salary. This is naturally the most common path, and definitely the one I recommend for people early in their development career.

But that begs the question: what types of companies are ideal to work in as a dev? I have a lot of thoughts on this (as you can imagine since I chose the topic...) so let's look at some different options and their pros/cons:

1 Traditional, "non-tech" companies. When I say traditional companies, I'm thinking "boring" stuff like insurance, pension, production etc, or even public entities like governments.

Luckily for us, every single company nowadays has a need for developers. Whether it be working on internal tools, the company website, or providing support on existing applications, non-tech companies will always require competent developers and IT people.

There's usually plenty of seniors to learn from, time to do things right with few or no stressful deadlines, and good money to be made. This more relaxed culture creates a nice learning environment for new developers, and it's where I had my first coding job.

You don't need to stay there forever if the tech is old or you're bored out of your mind, but there's lots of great experience to be had at these companies. They're also comparatively easier to get a job at than tech focused companies, so it works nicely as a first job to gather some experience and good practices.

2. Digital agencies / tech startups. These types of companies are generally much more fast-paced, with smaller teams, more responsibility on you, and tighter deadlines. You often have to be weary of budget limitations or rapidly changing requirements, and pay tends to be lower. On the other hand you'll likely be working with cutting-edge technologies and passionate people that are excited to make a difference.

Agencies specialize in creating "one-off" projects for different clients that come to them with a need and a bag of money - and then it's up to the agency to create the best possible solution within those constraints. Tech startups are more focused on one or a few products that they're building out themselves, hoping to become the "next big thing".

Both of these are some of my personal favourite companies to work at (and I'm currently employed in an agency). Even though the work can be stressful, it's an amazing opportunity to improve your skills, take ownership of your projects and work with like-minded colleagues. I definitely recommend at least trying one of these types of companies in your career, even if they can be tough to start at as a beginner.

3. Big Tech / established SaaS companies. The final type I wanna talk about it is the Facebook's, Google's and Amazon's of the world. These companies usually started as small tech startups, but are now some of the biggest and most valuable companies in the world. What's cool about them is that they're tech focused, so you'll be closer to exciting tech compared to the traditional companies discussed earlier. They also have a seemingly endless amount of money, so salaries and benefits are as high as they come. Bonus: the names will look great on your resumé.

One of the downsides of these companies is that it can be really hard to get your foot in the door. Their interview processes are unreasonably long and difficult, and even if you do manage to get past 6 rounds of technical interviews, you'll quickly become a "cog in the wheel". These companies are giant machines with one clear focus: to make a profit. So you might have a hard time finding a good work/life balance, or receiving the right amount of responsibility as there will always be a sea of bosses above you. Full disclosure, I've never worked at companies like this. But from what I've been hearing, there can be a lot of politics and bureaucracy getting in the way. All that aside, you can make big money working on cool projects with nice people - so definitely don't rule them out.

It's impossible to say which type of company is right for you, and (as usual in development) there's no right or wrong answer. But I hope that my thoughts and experiences are useful and gets you reflecting on what's most important to you.

I'm Mads Brodt — a developer, author, teacher, creator and blogger. To keep up with all of my writing, follow me on Twitter or sign up with your email above 👆

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