The rise and fall of a startup, and what I learned as a developer
The story of Octerra is one that is sometimes exciting, sometimes bitter, and unfortunately, very common. I worked at a startup from its conception through its end, where our funding ended up falling through, and there are a lot of things I learned in the process. Even though I consider myself a junior developer, I was able to walk away with important lessons on what makes a team really work, how to approach conflict within a small team, and why intentional culture is vital to building a company worth working for.
What’s it like to be a junior at a startup? Is everything on fire all the time?
I originally worked for StudioNow, which is the sort of “parent” company that spun out Octerra. You can read more about that here. I already knew the team when I joined, and felt extremely comfortable joining as a junior. The company had a track record of hiring junior developers and promoting within, so I knew what I was getting into. About 8 months in, it was announced that our entire tech team would be spinning out of StudioNow and creating a new startup around the SaaS platform that we created. While it was exciting, it was sort of nerve-wracking too. Most of the devs on the team knew what could happen as a startup (you could hit it big and get rich quick and work at one of the most exciting companies to ever exist, or you could crash and burn and lose your job, or anywhere in-between), but I certainly was less than prepared for the bumps in the road that we ended up going through.
Working at a small company as a junior typically means one of two things: you touch literally every part of the software, or you sit and fix bugs. Fortunately, I worked for a boss who passionately believed in the former, so I was thrown into the fire (with plenty of teammates to bail me out when I needed it). I highly recommend that you thoroughly vet the team that you’re interviewing for if you’re in this position, so you know what kind of role they’ve cut out for junior developers. Though it’s not ideal for everyone, being thrown into the deep end with a teammate for a life raft was exactly what I needed. I learned so many different things…