Getting the hang of big companies

It occurred to me that many people don’t know what it’s like to enjoy working at a large company.

What is it like?

What I love the most about it is the ease and frequency with which I work with amazing people. No matter what the topic is, there’s bound to be someone who has thought long and hard about it and who’s passionate about it. If I’m lucky, there’s even a community of interest around it. It’s like the diversity of passions and interests you’d find on the Internet, except with a shared culture, clear identities, and ready access.

I like the fact that there’s always something happening. There are always new systems to explore, new tools to try, new ways to work.

I like the scale. I can share something that other people can build on, I can build on what other people have shared, and we can work on big things together.

I’m sure I’d love working in a smaller company or on my own as well. But hey, big-company life isn’t as bad as people sometimes think it is. Even in a company of more than four hundred thousand people, you can still find a way to rock. How?

Figure out what you do well and what you’re passionate about, and help people make the most of that. In a large company, there are plenty of opportunities, so find your way to something that fits you. For example, I enjoy helping people collaborate and I love building tools and systems, and my work has evolved to take advantage of those interests.

Get to know people in different parts of the organization. Take advantage of your organization’s size and scope by familiarizing yourself with what’s going on elsewhere, so that if you need to do something outside your area, you can get help from people who specialize in working on those things. I love using internal social networking tools to keep up with the exciting things going on in other departments.

Deal with the processes. A large company will have many standardized processes to keep things consistent. Don’t stress out about it. Adapt. If you have great ideas for making things better, figure out what and how you can influence, and be patient. Sometimes things are they way they are for good reasons beyond your experience, and sometimes things are ready for change. For example, our annual personal business commitments can seem like just another routine, but I use them to really think about what I want to do and how I want to measure success.

Take care of yourself. Take responsibility for your happiness and career growth. In a small company, it might be easier for people to relate personally, but you’re still responsible for your own growth. In a large company, it’s even more important that you realize that the best person who can look out for yourself is you. Me, I make sure I have the time and space to breathe so that I can keep bringing my passion and enthusiasm to work.

Empower yourself. Vision isn’t just the CEO’s job. Figure out your bigger picture. What’s your vision, and how can the company help you make things happen? The more your personal vision and the company vision are aligned, the easier it will be to work with the company to achieve big things.

Hmm…