Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How to Pick a Late Stage Startup to Work For: Lessons From Year One at Zoom

This post was first written on LinkedIn's publishing platform. 

Today is my one year anniversary at Zoom. A year ago I left a job I really liked, working on a great product, in company with a pretty stellar culture and took a bet on a late stage startup.

There is a lot of conventional career wisdom, especially in the valley, that late stage startups are the place to be to accelerate your career. I'd been thinking about working for a later stage start up for years. Especially since the last two companies I worked for were public with 5,000+ employees when I joined.

It sounds easy, but it's really tough to pick the right one. In the valley, you see a lot of people leave big amazing companies for smaller companies, only to last less than a year, then return to another big company.

Looking back on this past year, I realize that some advice I got during my search for a late stage startup guided me to a place that I could thrive. If you're thinking about joining a later stage startup, here are a few things to look for that might help you find your next move.

A culture that runs deep. Lot's of companies claim to have a great culture, but I'm talking about finding a place where employees really live and breathe it. A big indicator for me was reading interviews of Zoom's CEO, Eric Yuan. After reading a few it was clear that culture was important to him and that he was working hard to cultivate a great culture from the very top. Glassdoor reviews is a great place to get a feel for the culture. My favorite source though is calling former employees. While looking into Zoom I called a former intern and asked her what she would change and she just complained a bit about some construction that was going on at the office, that was it.

A product that captures hearts and minds. My first reaction when I looked at Zoom was, "Video conferencing? What more can be done? There are a million products." It did not sound exciting, but I decided to do my homework. I read reviews of the product on third party review sites like TrustRadius and G2Crowd. I then looked at what people were saying on Twitter about Zoom and it became clear something special was going on. Even in a crowded market, if you find something that is winning the hearts and minds of consumers, jump on it.

Growth. Growth. Growth. If there is growth, it creates so many career opportunities. In the past year I've had essentially three different roles, competitive product marketing, running a user conference and international marketing. It has been challenging but I feel like I've learned so much is a very short period of time. The easiest way to find fast growing companies is to look at their headcount growth which you easily track on LinkedIn. A lot of good things can happen when a company is growing. If you can be picky, pick growth.

Especially in the valley, you have a lot of options of late stage startups to join. I hope these tips guide you to a place that you can thrive. Also, if you think that place where you can thrive might be Zoom, please reach out. :)


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