Different types of companies for a developer

For those thinking of a tech carrer

Last updated on 1 August 2022. Created on 26 July 2022.

You might be thinking of becoming a developer. And if that's the case, let me explain some things pertaining to the different types of companies that are available out there. This should help you get an idea of the most popular options and not get discouraged along your journey.

But let's start with a warning. Or two.

  1. If the sole reason you would like to become a developer is because of money - stop reading this. It will not help you in any way. Very little things will help you, and this isn't one of them.
  2. If you want to become a developer because you like playing games... you might want to rethink a bit. You like listening to music? Why won't you consider producing music?

With those details out of the way, I will now assume that you are still reading this because you are curious by nature, you have a certain passion for programming and you are just getting started.

Sooner or later, you will start asking yourself some questions regarding your career and the options available to you.

Let's start with the obvious one. The most approachable option is to start freelancing. It allows you to take on as many projects as you can, gradually increasing the number and, later on, the complexity of the projects. This flexibility has a lot of initial perks. You get to build a nice profile. You earn some experience and so on. Likewise, you also get to set your own schedule and work wherever you like (or afford).

Downside is that most "clients" will probably treat you as a code monkey. Which gets tiresome after a while. Also, most of the time, you will reach a higher limit in terms of the number of projects you can take and your hourly rate.

Besides freelancing, getting a job at a company is another valid option. But you should know that not all companies are the same. I'm not talking about comparing a no-name company with 4 employees with MAMAA (Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet, Apple). I'm talking about different types of companies, different DNA which translates into different opportunities for you.

Here's how I differentiate things:

  • MAMAA or similar
  • big companies/corporate with a strong tech division (think Automotive or Financial industry)
  • agencies, companies that provide various services to other businesses
  • tech startups
  • outsourcing companies
  • small companies with legacy products

Having said this there's no straight right or wrong choice. It all depends on:

  • the type of person you are
  • what are your main goals
  • your values

Let's say you are interested in learning. Great. You also have two choices here. You would like to expand your knowledge horizontally, or expand vertically and be a top player on a specific topic. Depending on your preference, some places might be better suited. For instance an agency is great for horizontal expansion since you get a lot of variety, different projects, clients, topics, industries etc. In a tech startup you also get to wear many hats so that might be a good option too. On the flip side, you will get the opportunity to dive vertically in a bigger company where your responsibilities are much more focused on a particular subject - and you usually have a lot of peers which can help you out.

What about the people? Fortunately, a good team and/or a good manager or mentor can be found anywhere. Unfortunately though, those are quite rare, regardless of the type of company.

Last, but not least, there's one final option available to you: Starting your own company. This option doesn't rule out the others. In fact, it's pretty hard to start a (successful) company having no experience and no funding.

So you might start out freelancing and later on in your life have an idea which you will act upon and transform that into a service or a product, wrapped up as your own company. The same can happen after years of working at various companies. Finally, "never" is a valid option too when it comes to having your own business. The number of new companies that start and then crash and burn after 3-5 years is huge. So it's definitely not easy. Luckily, nobody will force you to do this - but it's good to lay it all out.

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