Transitioning from a Large Company to the First Employee at Small Company

Most of us have been in this position at some point in our lives: You know the ropes at your current job; you are deeply involved in several projects there, have great friends at the office and are generally pleased with the work environment. However, despite the fact that you are content with your position, it isn’t giving you everything that you want out of your career.

There is no doubt that considering an employment change can be very stressful for a person. The fact is that in today’s job market it can be very easy to get comfortable in the position you are currently at. The thought of potentially moving to another city or state, knowing you will have to acclimate yourself with a new company and new projects…these are all things that can make a job change seem to be more hassle than it is worth.

About three years ago, I was in this position. I was working for a large government contractor that employs over 70,000 people across the country. Things were going very well for me at the company. I had just received a promotion, and I was excelling at the projects I was working on. Life was very good. However, I still felt like something was missing. In my case, working for a large, very mature company, meant that I would mostly be contributing to large, very mature projects. Many of the tasks that I was assigned revolved around project maintenance, bug fixes, and add-on feature implementation. There is nothing wrong with this type of work, they are all completely necessary parts of any project’s lifecycle. However, in my case, I wanted to feel like I was truly innovating, and I didn’t feel like I was getting that at my current position.

At this point, I decided to start doing some research to see what other, more fulfilling jobs, might be out there. Because of my current position, I was hesitant to look for open positions at other large companies. This led me to Neya Systems.

Parag and I had previously been introduced to one another through a mutual business contact. I knew that he was heavily involved in the robotics industry, and since I had previous robotics experience I thought I would reach out to him to see if he knew of any open positions in the field. It just so happened he was just starting to spin up Neya when I contacted him, and few short months later I was signed on to start as Neya Systems’ first employee.

So what made me take the plunge and accept a position as the first employee at a company? Here are some of the key points that helped me make a decision.

Transparency. Joining a small company can be scary, joining a company as the first employee can even be scarier. The financial viability, the reputation, and even the management of the company can all be cause for concern in a small business. From day one, I felt as though I had a clear idea of the fiscal health of the company, how it is being managed now and will be in the future. It is this kind of transparency that helped me to feel extremely comfortable joining.

Work-life balance. This is a slightly personal one. Joining Neya Systems was going to allow me to move back to my home town of Pittsburgh which was something that I really wanted to do. However, I knew that working for a very small company would require hard work that might even extend beyond normal business hours. This was something that I was completely alright with, I have never had a problem working hard, and living in your ideal city, in my case, was worth a lot to me.

Technology. I was looking for innovative work, and the robotics industry is the place to find it. After speaking with Parag, I knew that I would be able to contribute to some amazing projects. In addition, since the company and projects were young, I would be able to get in on the ground floor and help to shape the way they are developed. As a software developer, this is something I find very appealing.

The transition from working for a large company to working at Neya Systems has truly been a smooth one. While the work environment is obviously very different, the benefits of joining have greatly outweighed the risks. As the company continues to grow, it has truly been a pleasure to watch it evolve from two people in a two room office to eleven people in three different states, and I look forward to seeing what the future brings.

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About the Author


Jordan Shelley is a Software Engineer that was hired as Neya System’s first employee in May of 2010. He specializes in graphical user interface and middleware development in the fields of unattended ground sensors and robotics. Previously, he has held Software Engineer positions at Northrop Grumman and The Penn State Applied Research Lab.