Taking a Chance With a Startup
By: Jason Hu
Penn State brings out the best in us. During our time here, we learn, grow, and mature as individuals, and after graduating, go on to do amazing things. But one thing I’ve noticed is that many of us are simply unaware of all the amazing opportunities out there. A corporate environment might be where we first look for an internship. These companies are large and established and provide security. Our academic advisors will tell us that they’ll will give us experience necessary to succeed, but is an internship in corporate America everything we think it is? I recently chatted with Amanada Mclauglin (2015) and Grant Mclernon (2016), two Penn Staters who hung up their suits to work at a startup.
Amanda is currently working as a Content Analyst at Redbooks, a company that provides intelligence data to advertising agencies and media companies, while Grant worked on acquisition at SPOT parking this summer, the startup known as the “Airbnb for parking.”
Corporations have a clear hierarchy and structured organization that allows them to run the way they do. With startups, it’s a little different. Grant made this extremely clear when I was talking to him. “When I showed up on day 1 there was absolutely no playbook, and it was my responsibility when I showed up every day for work to find a game plan and attack.” Training becomes almost non-existent because of the fast paced growth.“You get thrown into the fire right away,” he adds.
For many, no formal training might be a turnoff when looking at internships and full time jobs, but because startups are willing to adapt more quickly, you’ll learn much more at a startup than anywhere else. As Amanda said, “a startup company is ever-changing, just like any business, but to a higher degree.” She goes on to talk about how her experience with Redbooks allowed her to see the business updating and changing more rapidly than anywhere else. It gives you the opportunity to create your own experiences through trial and error and gives you a broader view of the different functions within a business. “I got more experience than I would have gotten at any other internship in the world,” Grant told me. His internship with SPOT parking allowed him to work with the founders and make decisions that had instrumental impact on the entire business.
Startup culture is extremely unique. It definitely relates back to how much flexibility startup employees are awarded in comparison to those at a large corporation. With corporate jobs, you might spend a lot of time training and use that training as a basis to the solutions you create; however, with startups you get to figure those things out as you go along As Grant puts it, “if you have a creative mind the entire business becomes your playground.” Can you really say that when you are working at a large Fortune 500 company? I don’t think so. Startups give you the chance to test your own creative limits to make the mission a reality. When I talked to Amanda, the vibe was the same. “When I was a temp at Redbooks, it was a lot more independent work!” There is more trust and autonomy within a startup which allows it to thrive.
“I’m still young so I kind of just decided to keep my options open and try different things out” Amanda said. When it comes down to it, her attitude is the only attitude that really works when approaching startups. You can’t really judge a startup without experiencing it. The culture behind startups is so exciting, from the flexibility and the unlimited creativity to the amount of autonomy and learning potential. Like I said before you can’t really get a good idea until you try it for yourself! We’re students, and we should be learning as much as possible instead of limiting ourselves to corporate internships. If you want to learn more about startups and the kinds of opportunities available there, check out Planted.com!
Jason is a junior marketing major from North Wales, PA (outside of Philly). He enjoys watching Tennis, learning new, trendy hip-hop dance moves, and eating mac and cheese bites. During the year, he keeps himself busy as the Campus Manager for the startup, Planted.
Photo Credit: The Huffington Post