I just finished school and have no work experience in web development other than a few small freelance projects. I have received two job offers and am wondering which path would be best for continuing my learning and getting a better-paying job in 5-10 years. Since this will be my first real job, learning a lot is my highest priority.

Small Company is a small software startup. They want me to do graphic design, front-end development, UI/UX design, mobile app design, content writing/editing, analytics, email marketing, etc. They currently contract out a lot of this work to ad agencies and freelancers. I would probably be the only in-house employee doing design/development work, but I would get to occasionally participate in meetings with UX consultants and agencies. Their main website is running on Wordpress, they've never heard of CSS preprocessors, and their UI is a total mess.

Big Company is a large nonprofit. The want me to do mostly front-end development but also participate in UI/UX design. I would be working as part of a small but very talented UI team within a much larger IT department. They are already using SASS, HTML5, icon fonts, their own custom grid framework, and all of the latest and greatest web technologies. They are in the midst of a transition to a more mobile-friendly interface.

At Big Company, I would be working under people who are better and more experienced web developers than me, so I feel like I may learn more there. Plus, I would be focusing almost exclusively on front-end development, which is the area I would like to improve on the most. At Small Company, I feel like I would be more responsible for my own learning, but I could maybe learn a lot from working with consultants and contractors, and I might have the opportunity to work with a wider variety of tools and technologies and could narrow my job description as time went on.

Do you think I would learn more working at the startup or the larger company?

Which do you think would look more impressive on a resume when applying for a future front-end development or UI/UX-related position?

I apologize if I was too specific, but I tried to limit my question to the general topic of which size company is best for learning and not just ask which job I should take.

  • This question seems to contain what you are looking to find here. – enderland Apr 3 '14 at 19:37
  • Thanks! I read that question on the pros and cons of startups vs. big companies, but I would still love to hear from anyone who has an opinion on what size companies are best for entry-level developers to improve their skills. – anonymous116 Apr 3 '14 at 20:10
  • This is also getting into "what job to take"/"what skills to learn" which we can't easily get into in this forum... – bethlakshmi Apr 4 '14 at 13:56

Ultimately, how much you learn depends on you. Since you are interested in learning, you will learn a lot at either company.

However, the different environments mean you will learn different things. I have worked for small companies (<10 technical employees) and larger companies (>100 technical employees). In all instances, I have learned a lot.

At a small company, you will be tasked with a much wider range of duties, and it is likely they will be less concerned about doing it "right" as they will be as doing it "now". As a result, you will learn how to kluge your way through an awful lot of things. Obviously this is both good and bad.

At a larger company, you will likely be tasked with a much smaller range of duties. They will probably be more concerned with doing it "right" (which does not mean it will be the right way, but it will be a consistent way) than they will be with doing it quickly. As a result, you will learn proper methods and processes to do whatever it is you are tasked with. That is not to say you will never have to kluge anything, just that it will be the exception rather than the rule.

You must also consider that a larger company will probably have more resources available for training/continuing education than a small company or a startup. The small company simply cannot afford (this likely has nothing to do with money) to send you away for a week to do training.

As an aside, you should really base your choice on culture. If you hate the people you work with, or think the company rules are idiotic, you will have a rough go. Finding a company that is a good fit for you is more important than just about anything else when it comes to job satisfaction.

  • Thanks! This is kind of what I was thinking, but it helps to hear it from someone else who has actually had experience with both. I think learning to do things the "right way" is definitely pretty important this early in my career. Unfortunately, I don't know enough yet about their company cultures to base my decision on that -- everyone seems really nice so far! – anonymous116 Apr 3 '14 at 21:29
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    I wouldn't say larger company did things right, but uses so called procedure to be able to sell a job based on processes instead of creativity. If you like to create and evole quickly goes into small company. – user14433 Apr 4 '14 at 4:59
  • @user14433 It is much easier to be creative at a large company (if the culture is respectful) because there are more big problems lying around waiting to be solved. At a small company the founders have already solved the basic problem at some level, or they think they've solved it, and just need some helping hands to finish what they've started (within some framework they've already defined), or get it good enough for the company to get acquired so they can cash out. – personal_cloud Jan 20 at 6:54

It seems to me you are just interested about learning.

In my opinion , in a start up:


  • You get to be involved with a lot of tasks.
  • You have more responsibility so you learn a lot also.


  • You don't have really mentors (or seniors to guide you)
  • The team is small, you wont get the experience of working in big teams.

In a large company basically it is the reverse.


  • You get to work with seniors/mentors, which will boost your skills
  • You get to experience working with big teams


  • You will most likely not have a lot of responsabilties
  • You might not be involved with different tasks

Some people hates large corporation and rather work for start ups and other prefer the opposite.

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    From personal experience, just because there are senior workers in a large company, it does not mean they have time or will to mentor and train new hires. – Juha Untinen Apr 4 '14 at 8:08
  • You have a valid point, all I am saying learning from seniors is a great addition. Now are they willing to teach you thats something different – Al Pacino Apr 4 '14 at 14:23
  • In my experience, responsibility is larger at a big company. At a small company the bosses tend to micromanage (because they can get away with it) which limits you to laundry lists of tasks (really important tasks perhaps, but the boss makes the everyday calls on how you spend your time). At a big company you have more ways to prove yourself and get to that next level of responsibility, and there are more voices to challenge bad decisions that limit your responsibility. – personal_cloud Jan 20 at 6:47

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