How to succeed in the start-up scene
Philipp Kruse is currently studying the Master’s in Managing People, Knowledge and Change. From 2014 to 2018 he was HR responsible at one of Germany’s fastest growing digital start-ups. During his seminar “Working at a Start-up – Overrated Hype or the Next Big Thing?” he shared his experiences with students at the School of Economics and Management.
What’s it like working in the start-up scene?
“After my Bachelor’s studies in European Business, I was eager to start working in a permanent job. I found this start-up business, which was growing at a quick pace and started as Junior HR Manager. Starting with mainly recruiting for our operational teams, I quickly got more responsibility, which also meant I could work more strategically. We started with two people in the HR department, and after two years I became Head of HR, which by now was a department of five people,” Philipp says. He continues:
“Start-ups can have quite a bad reputation as a workplace. When people think of start-ups, they often think of workplaces with low salaries, chaotic work environments, or inexperienced management teams. Job security is also an issue. There is a lot of ‘window-dressing’ in this industry. Companies seem really fancy like the next big thing, but then there is often bad business structure behind it, and they eventually fail. Still, it's important to see that it's not like that everywhere and start-ups offer a lot of chances, as well. You need to be critical and know what you're getting into beforehand.”
Could a start-up be the foot in for a new graduate wanting to gain experience?
“When you enter a start-up company as a junior with little practical experience, they may expect more from you than in more traditional companies. You are expected to get to the tasks and help the team immediately. This means you get a lot of experiences and responsibilities. You learn super-fast. But still, it can be quite overwhelming. In those situations: Reflect and take your time. Don’t forget to say ‘No!’ from time to time,” Philipp explains.
What did this experience teach you?
“The start-up years taught me to be proactive. Nothing gets handed to you in a start-up. You are most of the time responsible for finding your own paths and shape your position yourself. And I learned to be pragmatic. It allowed me to develop an efficiency-driven mindset and encouraged me to be brave in terms of trying things out because start-ups thrive from failure. I learned the basics of HR work and built up more and more responsibilities over the years. Something that I would not have experienced in a bigger traditional business where you almost never see ‘the whole picture’. Which doesn’t mean that I would rule out working in a more established company in the future. I feel start-ups prepare you quite well for having a successful career in other environments, too” Philipp concludes.
Picture from the seminar.