Should I Join A Startup? Examining the Pros and Cons

by Ada Chen Rekhi

Startups are the hot new thing these days, and everyone wants to get into technology startups with high profile companies like Facebook, Twitter and Zynga making headlines and millionaires being created overnight. But should you join one?

As a recent Penn grad, I’ve seen both sides of the table. After graduating from Penn in 2006, I moved to Redmond for my first job at Microsoft. After that, I headed down to Silicon Valley to work for a small online games startup Mochi Media. I had an amazing experience at Mochi, working with some of the most fun and brilliant people that I know, and making great friends. Even better, the company was acquired for $80 million last year. Since then, I’ve recently co-founded my own startup, Connected, which provides contact management without the work.

As someone who’s in the startup community, I often speak with alumni who reach out and ask: should I join a startup?

The pros and cons of joining a startup

Choosing whether or not to join a startup is a deeply personal decision. Startups are definitely not the best fit for everyone. The reality of startups are two-fold: they can be intensely rewarding and uplifting experiences, but are also often long hours and low pay with a high variance on your results.  Here are some of the pro and cons I’ve observed in startups:


 Wearing lots of hats – At any small and rapidly growing company, it’s all hands on deck. Startups offer fantastic opportunities to wear multiple hats and really get to know what it’s like to run an organization.

 Big career opportunities – Working at a startup can present big opportunities to step up and lead a time. As your startup grows, your scope of responsibility and experiences grow alongside it. Careers can progress much more quickly inside of startups.

 Learn by doing – In startups I love that so much learning takes place by simply rolling up your sleeves and doing, with fast feedback on how well you’re doing. Startups tend to encourage a culture of learning by experimentation, and small projects have the potential to become game-changing projects.

 Passionate people – Startups are almost invariably made up of passionate, excited people who are working there because they truly want to be working there. I love the energy and passion in small teams that believe in the idea that they’re working on.


Less Specialization – While startups offer opportunities to wear multiple hats, it’s rare to find opportunities to focus and become a deep domain expert in one area.  As a startup marketer, I was a generalist with responsibilities ranging from managing press and events to product decisions around launch, pricing and engagement. In a larger company, there are more opportunities to get deep and specialize.

 Career Development – With exceptions, startups are not run by people who have extensive people management experience and see it as their goal to shepherd personal career development. While startups can offer opportunities for career growth, the responsibility for this largely falls on you, the employee.

 Less Stable – Everything moves quickly in startups. Everything is fair game to change, including the startup’s name, the business model, and your role in the organization. Being part of a startup means being comfortable with constant large and small changes, and comfortable with the potential risks involved.

More Hours, Less Pay – Generally, you’ll work harder and get paid less while at a startup compared to your comparable role within a larger company. Very young companies often don’t offer the same type of compensation and benefits packages as larger organizations.

 Finding success in startups

Startups come in all sizes and shapes, and your experience can be very different depending on the team and business you choose. It’s like finding a shoe that fits. Every company is different, and the differences are magnified by team size.

As some final piece of advice, make sure you understand your career goals, what you hope to get out of the experience and how it all fits together.  Good luck on your startup adventures!

Ada Chen Rekhi is co-founder and head of user growth at Connected (, a startup based in San Francisco which provides contact management without the work. Connected was recently acquired by LinkedIn, and Ada is now on the Product Marketing team there. She is a recent Penn alumna who graduated in 2006. You can connect with Ada on her blog at or on Twitter as @adachen.  Ada will be posting about her day on our @PennCareerDay feed on Wednesday, November 9th.  Check back here next week for details on that!

A Day in the Life: Business Development at a Tech Startup

Technology and entrepreneurship goes hand in hand these days.  What better way to learn about the variety of opportunities available with startups than through a Penn alum? On Thursday, November 3rd we welcome Adam Levin to @PennCareerDay on Twitter to talk about his day in business development at a cutting-edge technology company, Meebo.   Adam’s contributions to @PennCareerDay is one of highlighted resources featured October 31st through November 5th on Startups.  To learn more about Adam, read his bio below and follow him on November 3rd.

As senior manager of Business Development at Meebo, Adam leads a team focusing on audience growth and large scale revenue opportunities for Meebo’s partners. Since joining Meebo, Adam has worked with premium partners and large media networks to help build out key content verticals. Before joining Meebo, Adam spent his summer internship in business school at Silver Lake Partners’ credit hedge where he invested in tech securities. Prior to business school, Adam spent two years working in Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs; he specialized in leveraged buyouts and capital markets transactions in the industrials and business services sectors. Adam earned a BA in 2005 from the College of Arts and Sciences where he majored in English and an MBA from Wharton in 2009 with a concentration in management.

Moving Through the Job Search—and the Alphabet

by Anne Lucas

Last month I blogged about the letter “O,” suggesting that instead of being Overwhelmed by the job search, one could be Optimistic about Opportunities.

A lot can happen in a month.  We in Career Services are hearing happy news from some seniors with job offers.  For them, I think it’s safe to say, they have arrived at the letter “R,” which stands for RELIEF.  And they are also looking forward to some R & R, REST and RELAXATION of course.

Those “R” words may not be the first to come to mind for others of you who have not REALIZED the success you hoped for or haven’t even begun your job or internship search.  RIGHT off, let me say, it’s not a RACE!  Please RECOGNIZE that it’s okay to set your own pace with your job or internship search.

RELAX!  (Everyone can make that “R” word your own!)  Let’s REVIEW some of the other “R” words that might be appropriate for the REMAINDER of you RIGHT now.

Perhaps you are READY to get started.  If so, let Career Services help you.  If you’re READING this blog, you have found our web site.  You can REVIEW and REGISTER for our programs and take advantage of our counseling services. Please REQUEST an appointment to meet with a counselor to REFLECT on your skills and interests.

If you slugged your way through OCR, only to find REJECTION, there’s no need to RETREAT into your ROOM.  While I REALIZE REJECTION is ROUGH, there are other ways to REACT.  RELEASE your REGRETS. You will RECOVER and REGAIN your footing—experience a RENAISSANCE!  Penn students always RISE to the occasion and ROLL with the punches.  REALLY, you’re REMARKABLE and will REBOUND and RECOVER as you RESOLVE to RECOMMIT to your search.

Maybe it’s time to RECONSIDER your goals.  Admit it—some of you only pursued consulting because it’s REGARDED as a REWARD for Penn achievement.  REMEMBER that you had other interests before you joined the consulting pack.  Some self-assessment might REMIND you of your childhood dreams or REVEAL new ROADS to explore.  Again, please REACH out to us in Career Services.  We can help you REGROUP and REORGANIZE, perhaps REVIEW your RESUME so that you can REVISE it.  How about REHEARSING an interview through ROLE play? We might encourage you to do some RESEARCH into other career fields you haven’t considered, and we can certainly introduce you to some career-RELATED RESOURCES, which are RELIABLE and RESPONSIBLE for many good RESULTS.

Are you RARING to go with your job or internship search now?  We’re ROOTING for your success.  If you’d RATHER RUMINATE, you’ve got some time REMAINING.  After all, the RETIREMENT age is RISING.  RELAX.

Get your own motivation fairy! They can come in handy when working on your PhD.

Dr. Joseph Barber

I’ll have to keep this blog short as I’ve got a new baby arriving within the week and all sorts of tasks to complete before she arrives. Trust me, it is a long, long, long, list of things to do and there seems like there is never enough time to get them done (and still be able to sleep, which I realize will be a luxury over the next few weeks).

Even if you don’t have a baby on the way, chances are that as a graduate student you regularly experience the age-old phenomenon of too much to do, and not enough time to do it. Why is that? Well…, the easy answer is the simplest one – there really is too much to do, and someone has made it so that time never stands still long enough to get them done (something to do with photons, neutrinos, dark matter, and other such mysterious things). The more complicated answer is that we sometimes sabotage our own best attempts to get things done. Most likely, this happens subconsciously, but it does happen. In fact, it could be happening right now – you are reading this blog rather than tackling some of those more pressing tasks, after all.

There is much to get done as part of a PhD, and many variables that you have to try to manage as part of this experience: your advisors, your thesis committee, your research topic (e.g., chickens, neutrinos, 18th century romantic poetry), your flat/lab mates, your social life, your family life, your finances, and so on. There are many reasons we might perform self-sabotage behaviours, and many different ways these can occur. Perhaps you do not have an effective way of communicating with your advisor, and so never get the feedback you are looking for to get a paper published. Perhaps you are trying to make the first chapter of your thesis perfect, and so end up deleting whatever you have written at the end of each day because you feel it does not live up to your high standards. Or perhaps you just get so caught up in checking emails and completing easy but unimportant tasks that you never get to the important ones. Take a look at your daily schedule and you might spot some patterns of behaviours that are not actually helping you achieve your goals. Of course, you also need to have some pretty concrete goals in the first place, or you won’t know what you should be doing on a day-to-day basis.

I have gathered together some resources that might help you to get back on track with your to-do list, and get you motivated to get some of those pesky tasks done (like writing your thesis!). Don’t use these as an excuse not to be constructive today, though! As for me, I have now written this article, and so I will consider this task totally and completely done! Here are the links to some interesting resources:

The care and maintenance of your adviser

Turbocharge your writing today

Waiting for the motivation fairy

The balanced researcher

Innovation in PhD completion: the hardy shall succeed (and be happy!)

When a high distinction isn’t good enough: a review of perfectionism and self-handicapping


International Opportunities Fair Today!

Our annual International Opportunities Fair is today!  Join us from 11am-3pm in Bodek Lounge to explore various employment, volunteer and educational experiences abroad.  While you’re there, you can walk across to the Hall of Flags and check out the Penn Study Abroad Fair as well!

Please note: The International Opportunities Fair is open only to University of Pennsylvania students and alumni who are served by Career Services.

Here’s a list of organizations who are attending today:


A.T.Kearney Dubai
Contact Singapore
International SOS
Morgan Stanley
The TJX Companies, Inc.

Engineering & Science

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)
Johnson Matthey
SAP America

Nonprofit & Government

American India Foundation
Child Family Health International
Cross-Cultural Solutions
MASA Israel Journey
Peace Corps
Penn’s International Internship Program
Princeton in Asia
Projects Abroad
U.S. Department of State
Visions in Action
Volunteers For Peace



Teach For China
Winchester College

Study & Research

Embassy of Switzerland Office of Science, Technology and Education
German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)
Hopkins-Nanjing Center
Penn Botswana-UPenn Partnership
Penn Center for East Asian Studies
Penn Center for the Advanced Study of India
Penn Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships
Penn GSE International Educational Development Program
Penn International Development Summer Institute – Africa Program

Multiple career fields

Abroad China
CIS – Center for International Studies
Cultural Vistas
Global Experiences
GlobaLinks Learning Abroad
ProWorld Service Corps