While adding tags to my posts I tagged some of them with “Corporate Life“.
Having worked in both startups and big companies made me realize there are different rules between both. It is hard to build a mental model of working in startups since normally they are chaotic and each story is different. But I can argue with big companies there are similar patterns that hold true to some extent across all of them.
It takes time to build the mental model of the corporate world. I notice it the most with friends who move from small companies to large corporations. At the beginning they are shocked and don’t understand the world around them.
There is the time dimension. Things take a minimum of a week and up to years in the corporate world. When people move from smaller faster environments they are shocked at how the people around them are slow.
There is the motivation. In a small company one is connected to their peers including the company founders. In a big company the culture leans more on the mercenary side and the incentives are different. You can think of it as more exploitation less exploration.
Then there are the different corporate personalities and what I call “game of thrones”. There are typical corporate profiles that behave in a certain way, and there are certain situations where the moves are as obvious as the opening of a grand master chess game. A good introduction to those personalities can be found in books like The Phoenix Project. I don’t know a good book on the “game of thrones”. My corporate expert recommends Robert Greene books (So evil, I know).
I am not the best corporate player. I am good at understanding what’s happening around me, but I am not good at reacting properly. Part of it is laziness, part is lack of discipline, and part fear.
I have friends who are corporate stars. One of them is unstoppable. I call him to consult whenever I am in a situation and don’t know what to do. Although he is young, he had the talent from day one. He is my go to person for all things corporate life.
Finally I try to not put disclaimers at everything I say to avoid it being misinterpreted, but for this post I have to. I am not writing this to say corporates are bad. I am a big believer in capital markets and building big great companies. I am just saying big companies are a different breed and have different rules of play. And if you want to be successful, you have to know the rules and play by them. The good news is there are well known patterns. You just need to find them out, and get a mentor who helps you through. Good luck!