What’s It Like To Work In A London Tech Startup: The Interview

Tech startups are all the rage. Their culture is flexible, fast-paced and exciting. As part of our startup stories, we interview Ed Kleiser, from London tech startup, Huddle

Tell us about yourself, how did you end up working for Huddle?London tech startup

Hi my name is Edmund Kleiser (Ed) and I am a Senior Project Manager here at Huddle. I have worked here just over a year and a half, having previously worked at IBM’s consulting arm for around 8 years. I decided to make the move to Huddle because I wanted to gain real agile methodology experience. Larger IT suppliers are starting to move towards adopting agile practices. However uptake is slower whilst they convince traditional customers to run projects in that manner.

Another attraction was to work in the currently hot market of cloud content collaboration – there is a real buzz around this business, as more and more organisations look to the cloud for greater agility, scalability and cost efficiency.

I was also already familiar with Huddle and the team as a couple of the management team were previously colleagues of mine back at IBM.

What’s it like to work for a startup like Huddle, how is it different from corporate life?

I originally became a project manager through the route of software development and design. Then as I became more senior I moved from development team manager to project management. In a large enterprise, seniority can take you further and further away from the product design decisions. The product itself and its evolution are really important and motivating to me.

At Huddle, outside of my normal day job, I am invited to product workshops where I have thrown many ideas in the mix that were subsequently implemented in the product.

I have a number of live projects in my portfolio at any one time here at Huddle. This keeps things interesting and allows me to maintain skills across a breadth of delivery lifecycle roles. For example on some projects, I work as the customer and product manager where 3rd parties deliver a service; in others, I am the delivery manager providing solutions to large organisations like the US Federal Government.

What was the interview process like and how does it differ to corporate interviews?

The interview process was less about assessment centres and group role play which I have experienced at larger firms. It was more intimate and focused on the exact job at hand. In interviews for a comparatively smaller firm they have to make sure you are an exact fit for the required skills but also that you will gel with the rest of the team. When preparing for an interview at a startup it is also important to be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the company’s business, competitors, and likely challenges as these are what the whole team are focussed on tackling day in day out.

Often employees in startups can complain about a lack of career development or training, is this a problem?

It hasn’t been a problem for me. I moved to Huddle for the exact reason of developing my skills and career in new areas. On top of that there has been a comparable training budget which I have been able to utilise. Large firms will often have in-house training and certification, whilst this is useful for standardising the skills of your workforce it often leaves employees with certifications which are not widely recognised outside of the organisation. I have since gained industry standard certifications since joining Huddle.

Career paths in startups aren’t always as obvious as they are in larger hierarchies, often there aren’t as many opportunities to progress, how do you manage this?

In any organisation, there should always been opportunities to progress your career. Large companies usually have a well mapped out process, however startups have plenty of scope for career advancement. The very nature of a startup is that it must grow rapidly, meaning you can often expand horizontally to take on additional responsibilities. Vertical moves are also often required as the business grows and new divisions are required – and who better to take the management roles than those who already understand the business and have the trust of senior management. 

What advice do you have for anyone looking to embark on a career in a startup?

In my opinion a background in one of the big consultancies is invaluable. It gives you credibility and a sense of how to get hard work done. If you give a piece of work to an ex-IBMer, you know it is going to get done or have the reasons ahead of time on why it is unachievable. However I also believe that life is about trying new things and getting a variety of experiences. Having worked at a start-up has been a real rollercoaster ride, extremely rewarding and I’d recommend it to anyone.

My advice would be find out who works at your startup of choice and talk to them about the roles and culture. The websites will no doubt have information on who to contact in recruitment and they are likely to be able to give you a few contacts to talk through the available roles. Also do your homework and make sure you are ready for the interview. You won’t have long to impress and being able to reel off pre-prepared answers to interesting experiences in your professional past will be put you in good stead. Personality goes a long way in a start-up so don’t hold back, whilst remaining professional of course!

Are you hiring for anyone right now?

Yes – huddle is always growing and looking for talented people to join the team. Follow us on Talent Rocket and get notified of any jobs with us.

Read more about some awesome culture ideas here: http://blog.talentrocket.co.uk/43-company-culture-ideas-actually-work/