Day#330: My Start Up experience

Day#330: My Start Up experience

Hey there researchers and designers for a while now I have been dabbling with discussing my experience at a Startup I decided to take an opportunity at earlier this year. There are some of the things that I can not discuss because of legal reasons but some I will because that was not stated as confidential. My purpose in sharing this story is to make others aware of how Start Ups sometimes behave and the things to look out for when on the job market. So firstly I was actually happy in my initial position, I was not earning extremely well but it was a comfortable job that I had hardly any issues at. The reason why I moved was to take the next step into a specialized role into the Qualitative UX Research space. Enter the Start up dun dun dun! I was on the job market for a while, and turned down a few positions that seemed like they wanted glorified designers. As I mentioned I was not extremely unhappy in my position so it gave me time to find the perfect position.. Or so I thought. 

When the Start up found me on Offerzen, which by the way is an amazing platform that has such great positions for software engineers and UX/UI, it seemed promising. They discussed wanting someone who was interested in gaming and that would be able to run usability testing on various different products that the company would roll out on. I shared my knowledge in the research space and within two weeks or so after two rounds of interviews they sent me an offer. The offer letter was for a UX UI Designer and it was also for less than what i had stated I was willing to accept financially. I was surprised to see that, and I think that should have been the first red flag, I took it as the hiring game and them trying to see if I would accept. I sent through an email declining the offer stating that I did not want to focus on design as well as hardly had good experience in UI. I also mentioned if they could not match my asking I was not interested in moving forward. It was for me an important boundary to set, not to be purposely stubborn but to know my value and what I wanted for my future in the UX industry. If I took another design role it was not going to help move me forward, I think at that point I was also surprised by the fact that I was offered a design position when I had stated that I wanted a research focused position. 

After sending the mail, I was contacted and asked if I would be okay to chat about my decision. I accepted and the discussion helped with me stating in more detail my issues with accepting the offer. I was told that the lower salary meant they were going to give me the extra amount which added to the amount I requested in shares. I stated the shares were great, not wanted to devalue the company but that I wanted the salary I had requested and would take the shares on top of the amount stated. Yes maybe at this point you are thinking I am cocky and too stubborn, but for me it was all the effort and knowledge I had to share with a company. I knew what the value of what I was providing was worth and reducing that was doing a disservice not only to myself but to the industry as a whole. The topic of the title and the functions of the role was also brought up, as I said above I mentioned how I did not want to be doing design, and would rather focus my time on qualitative research. The discussion ended well, and I was promised a new revised offer letter by close of business. I should have seen that for what it was potential desperation from their part to land a resource fast. Instead I saw it that they valued me, that they wanted me to be apart of this big idea they were trying to grow. The revised offer letter was for a UX Research Manager and there was talk of having a designer who would do the design work as well as when I met with the tech lead there was talk of travel for work. Which was necessary with Ethnographic work seeing as the users were not in South Africa at the time.

I decided to accept the offer, and resigned from my role. It was a scary step because a Startup is always a you never know what to expect scenario. Very quickly after starting I realised a lot of fakeness with the people I worked with, there were some people that I grew to like but the management was very fake. We had a big open plan office and when talking about work related content we were told to keep it down as other people were working, it became a very toxic environment very quickly. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, because some of those people still work at that organization and it would be fair to talk about specific situations. Long story short I left within 3 months or so, it was on bad terms. But in reality I am so so SO glad that I left that place. I am so happy where I am now, I get to work on interesting projects and get the freedom to focus on research and research only. 

If I can give any advice is that you should go with your gut, and don’t be blind to the red flags when you first do the hiring dance. Sometimes I wonder how people get into relationships with abusive partners and get into situations that were off from the start. I may never have got into personal situations like that but I have certainly gotten into more than one professional situation like that. On one occasion it was because I was desperate, and on this occasion I think it was because I was refusing to see the red flags. Another tip if ever someone is trying to fire you, don’t let them bully you into accusations that are not true. If you have made mistakes, then fine mistakes are normally but dismissal without cause or with an inaccurate cause can allow for you to take said company to the CCMA. Stand your ground and know your worth, when a company chooses to have you onboard make sure you have on record what skills you wish to bring to the table, and what skills you are lacking in that way if they try to fire you for a lack of said skills you may be able to have a leg to stand on. Haha this is my advise 😉 I have a lot more to learn, and to be honest I don’t think I will work at a Start Up again, I really enjoy specializing, and working at a Startup requires you to do a little bit of everything which can be frustrating for both the company and yourself.

If you get bored of specializing and consider yourself more of a generalist then potentially small companies and startups can work for you. Anyway, this has been a long time coming, and I think I even stopped writing for a while after this whole ordeal because I was so tainted by the experiences there. I am so happy now though, it’s a cliche but I really am glad that that happened. It allowed me to see the true character of the start up fast, and not waste my time there for longer. I was at home relaxing for about a month I think, and then I got flown to JHB and started my amazing journey at Nedbank. If ever you are in a troubling situation at work, think about your future, your career and where you want to be. I know it’s easy for me to say this  and sometimes you have to stick out jobs you don’t like for a while. I have done that too, but working on personal projects and constantly trying to better yourself will always help give you the advantage in the hiring game. 

Happy researching until next time Uxers, bye for now! 

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