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Enjoyable experiences at large companies

I sense a pervasive tendency on this board to prefer small companies to large ones.

While I certainly understand this tendency, I've had as many enjoyable workplaces at large companies as I've had at small ones.  Some of the small companies I've worked for were very weird, which was frustrating.  OTOH, one of my favorite workplaces was at a very large company, where a group of about twenty of us worked on a government contract.  We had a great time.

Can anyone else share positive experiences at large companies?

Brent P. Newhall
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I've had a pretty positive experience overall and the company I work for has about 10,000 employees shared between Houston and Florida. 

Our organization of 250 seems to be its own little company within the larger company, so it makes it a little more personable.

It is frustrating though dealing with company-wide policies that don't apply or waste time.  Promotions seem to be completely base on time served, not performance.  I had Level 6 work responsibilities after two years but the guideline for promotion was three years.  On my 3rd anniversary I was made Level 6, but none of my duties had changed.  Just little things like that bug me.

On the positive side, we have pretty much sailed through this depressed economy like the Queen Mary through an inflatable raft.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I enjoyed most of my 16 years at Thomson/GE/RCA when I worked there.  The best thing about a large company are the resources:  we had great people and a great capital budget.  If you needed some expert advice, you could find it.  The bad years were after the GE buyout.  The best years were 1990-1998 after the Thomson buyout.  They invested heavily in R&D and empowered their engnineers.

Nat Ersoz
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

"...and empowered their engnineers"

Were you also able to synergize?  ;)

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I just read an interesting thing in the book "Tipping Point"
Most of the book is marketing blah blah. The interesting bit is that there is a maximum group size humans prefer. The number is 150. Beyond that you can not know everyone or know someone who does.

Doug Withau
Tuesday, October 29, 2002


Daniel Shchyokin
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Empowerment, baby.  :)  Its the one buzz word that actually meant something to me.

We had a (Scottish) director of engineering in North America who said to us engineers "whether they know it or not, everyone else in this organization is here to support you."  And he meant it.  Because engineers generate the new products and maintain the existing product line - and in the end revenue is all about products.  Keep the machine well oiled and fueled.

Nobody got in the way.  Implemetors architectected.  Our true architects were helping to write ISO and ITU specifications and keep them implementable.  One of our architects was a PhD in image compression and contributed heavily to the ISO MPEG-2 video specification.  *That* is the role and model of a true architect: someone who is sufficiently skilled in the art to hold sway among his/her peers, both within the company and outside it.

Nat Ersoz
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Schwab = forced cutbakcs = 4 day work week = heaven = it sure must be!

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I think if you were able to ask all the American programmers who have worked at or for a large corporation in the last 10 years you would probably hear most of them say that they have had both good and bad experiences.  Of course, I believe the same thing can be said for experiences at smaller companies as well.

Sometimes, I hated the work that I was doing for a large corporation, but enjoyed working with the people there.  Sometimes, I loved the work that I was doing, but couldn't stand to be around certain individuals working there.

Btw, I haven't sensed a pervasive tendency on this board to prefer small companies over large ones. 

Note: I am not saying that your statement is incorrect, I am just wondering why you believe this to be true?

Was it the popular "The Brickie Programmer" thread or is it something else?

Charles Kiley
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

This is an interesting thread.  Unfortunately, I can't add any good experiences with big companies.  The only good experience I have had has been with a small company and even that wasn't consistent.

A few large companies have a reputation as a good place to work.  In most cases that I have heard of these companies are privately held.  Perhaps the ability to plan for the long term, rather than being concerned with cutting costs to look good at the next quarterly report has something to do with it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Hey Bella,

had a contract there loved every single minute of, now stop whining

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Brent, can you describe some of your "weird" experiences at small companies? 

Were there any experiences that you thought would most likely happen at a small company and not a big company?

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

As a non developer - McKinsey Inc. (yes the consulting firm) equals heaven.

Work like slaves, play like kids, and get treated like kings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I worked for a particular company when they
had just 1500 employees.

I also worked for them when they had 50000

It was very fun and minimally stupid at 1500.

It was less fun and more stupid at 50000.

Stan Krute
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

As to where I see a preference for small companies over large ones:  I fully admit that I may be misinterpreting things on this board, but I've felt it in "Mocker of stupid motivational office posters" and "Providing Salary History Info?," but it's less of a recent phenomenon than an overall tendency I've seen in the posts on this forum over the months.  :shrug:

As to my weird experiences at small companies:

I worked for a small company that started as a law firm, then decided to become a software development company.  So, they fired all their lawyers, hired a bunch of programmers, and started bidding on government software contracts.  No joke.  They also bought an ISP, because it was doing so well.  This ISP had nothing to do with their business model (if they had one), but it was doing well, so the numbers worked.

The main issue was that, because it was a small company, the head honchos could do pretty much whatever they wanted to do.  And they did.

I later worked for a start-up named Intersect Software ( ), which is still around.  It was a great place, but again, there was no accountability.  The marketers focused on only a couple of early paying customers, and when most of those didn't pan out, we were in trouble.  So, of course, they let a bunch of engineers and testers go.

And I acknowledge that these incidents were not necessarily caused by these companies being small, but the fact that they were small allowed people freedom to make stupid, bizarre decisions which wouldn't happen in a larger organization with more structure.

Personally, I like large companies, because there's a lot of accountability.  If someone tries to make a boneheaded move, there's usually somebody to whom you can appeal to stop them.  And IMO, if you're working for an excellent small team in a large organization, you get a lot of the benefits of a small company without a lot of the drawbacks.

Brent P. Newhall
Thursday, October 31, 2002

>>> the fact that they were small allowed people freedom to make stupid, bizarre decisions which wouldn't happen in a larger organization with more structure.<<<

New Coke

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Coca-Cola actually ended up with greater market share after the New Coke "fiasco" than before.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 31, 2002

"And I acknowledge that these incidents were not necessarily caused by these companies being small, but the fact that they were small allowed people freedom to make stupid, bizarre decisions which wouldn't happen in a larger organization with more structure."

Change that to "... in organisations with better structure." and I would agree :-)
Better structure is not reserved for large companies. And more structure might encourage stupidity just as much as it might prevent it.
In the end, it is the people that count, with some support from structure to prevent or minimise damage from the occasional human mistake.
No structure can help you if people are determined to be stupid :-)

Friday, November 1, 2002

And here was me thinking that the strap line meant that the thread was about sex in the workplace.

Not that umm, no, although there was that time.  But no.

Simon P. Lucy
Friday, November 1, 2002

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