Staff Interview: What It's Like to Work at a Startup

We spoke to Pom, a Junior DevOps Engineer at Cutover, about what it’s like to work for a startup like ours.

In a nutshell, what does your role involve?

My role is quite wide-ranging, as I work between Dev and Ops; wherever I can be most useful. My main focus at the moment is automating our deployment process to make it quicker and safer.

Do you have general day-to-day duties?

I rarely work on the same issue all day. We discuss our aims in our daily stand-up meeting and then see where we are at the end of the day.

Is this the first startup you've worked for?

I worked for a startup during my second year of university. It was really fascinating to see how quickly you could build something new and exciting. I loved working within a team that was always striving to improve the product as quickly as possible. I think it was probably that experience that fuelled my interest in technology and drove me towards getting involved in a startup now.

How is the culture in a startup different to other places you've worked?

Before Cutover, I worked for a couple of larger companies who had already decided how they were going to do everything, which made sense for their respective businesses, but I found it a little impersonal. At Cutover, if you feel strongly about changing how things work, everyone will give you a chance to do so, regardless of your experience or role. That’s something I find really exciting.

Did your previous experience help you to prepare for your current role?

Having studied Philosophy at university, I wasn’t sure how my skillset at the time would connect with my strong interest in tech. I decided that I would learn to code and completed a three-month intensive course in London called Makers Academy. After completing the course, I worked for a company that runs Accelerator programmes, assisting all the participating startups in a coding capacity and getting involved across a wide range of work. So, when I joined Cutover, I’d built up quite a bit of useful experience. But my real learning began at Cutover. I’ve learned faster here than I could have imagined.

What other skills do you think you need to work in a startup?

I think you need to be able to embrace uncertainty. The big advantage of working for a startup that’s growing is that you get a level of responsibility that may not be possible at larger companies. When I first started at Cutover, I was pleasantly surprised that somebody might say to me, “Can you plan how we are going to run our deployment procedure?” - something I had no idea how to do! With things you’re not sure of, you can either ask the team for advice or figure it out for yourself; something that was a little daunting at the beginning but that I now relish.

What advice would you give to somebody moving into a startup?

I think that a startup is only as good as its team. You should give great consideration to the people you’ll be working with, and the things they’ve previously achieved, when you join a startup. Of course, the company vision and idea are hugely important, but it’s the team that is key. If they share your attitude, then it’ll be a great experience.

What do you like about working for a startup?

Something that’s great about Cutover specifically is that we have quite a senior team, so you get to spend a lot of time with really intelligent, experienced people, from whom you can learn so much.
Working for a startup can be tiring and stressful at times but that makes it all the more rewarding when you make progress.
Because of the smaller team size, the culture is very supportive; if you need help or explanations, people are very willing to oblige. Everybody wants everyone else to succeed because you’re all driving towards the same goal.

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