I am trying to understand where my career could go in the near future; I have no experience of big organisations and I work in a small company where I am a specialist with no formal responsibilities.

(Edit: my role involves developing software for analysing clinical data. When I started this job I bought the servers, wrote the pipelines, created processes and data policies, etc.)

My company is a small startup which likes acquisitions. We have several senior managers who are under 40 years old and were C-level managers of some small startups we acquired. We will probably acquire a software development company in the near future; if this goes like the last few times, this acquisition will bring in:

  • Chief Informatics Officer
  • President of Software Development
  • VP of...
  • Director of...

History says that my next steps up the ladder are being kept warm for others. My question is: when one wants to develop his/her career in situations like this (small startups making acquisitions), is it worth staying, and why?

(I don't expect arbitrary solutions, I am hoping for common knowledge like "when companies merge they always create redundancies")

  • 1
    Other than being a "specialist" you won't tell us anything more of which department you'd fit into within an organization like IT, Finance, HR, or something else? You don't really say anything of what you've done, what credentials you have which makes it incredibly hard to give meaningful advice as a newbie graduate would be one case while if you've worked 30 years then it may be quite different yet you state nothing about either scenario here. – JB King Nov 30 '15 at 21:37
  • added some info – Monoandale Nov 30 '15 at 21:41

First, what kind of position do you really want? There are a few different possible roles I could see down the road:

  1. Strategic Advisor - You'd be someone brought in to analyze the code from companies that could be acquired to determine how technically good is the code and coder skill. This would require code reviewing skills and understanding various methodologies but could be useful if you want to be that person that helps a company make money.

  2. Integration Specialist - In this case, rather than scoping out new targets, you'd be the person that helps tie things together. Years ago for a dot-com there were projects of integrating the code for who we acquired that was rather interesting that could be something to be done here assuming you have an interest in Enterprise Architecture and would like to be an Architect of sorts.

  3. Director of Development - If rather than technical proficiency, you want management experience, this could be a stepping stone towards a CIO or CTO role within companies. There would also be Director of Infrastructure, Director of QA and other roles that can also exist within IT at the director level or perhaps you'd prefer to be on the product management side of things? That would be another idea here.

The key is where do you want to be in the organization chart and how does it look already? Some spots may have you be a mentor, some may be more for a mentee, and others can be a position of power in a sense.


There are no hard and fast rules in this area, except to perhaps vaguely say acquisitions often create redundancies or duplicate positions, but not always.

Unless you are directly involved in negotiations, you have no way of knowing what exactly the most valuable parts of the acquired company are, be it a product or service, certain tangible or intangible assets, the employees, or some combination.

As you say, there is a risk of staying in this type of situation. If you have a gut feeling that you are being excluded from longer-range planning, or if you have a history of being passed over for promotion in favor of newcomers, that's a good sign that it might be time to move on.

Having said that, as a company grows, it's common for individual contributors to do less general hands-on work (buy servers and write policies). If you are included in the planning for integration of the acquired company, and the potential overlap of responsibilities, that's a sign that your insight is valuable to the parent company. Having exposure to the workings of different companies and cultures during an acquisition can be a valuable experience.

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