When we talk about what it’s like to work at a tech startup, we need to understand what startup means. This is one of the definitions that I think fits best from the president and co-founder of Bukalapak about the meaning of startup.

Startups are businesses that seek to solve a problem with a solution that has not been tested, has not been scalable, or has not been proven to be financially sustainable. — Muhamad Fajrin Rasyid, President & Co-founder Bukalapak

We can take the keywords “not been tested”, “not been scalable”, and “not been proven to be financially sustainable”. This means that what is built by a startup may not necessarily be sustainable. Startups try to build a new product or solution that did not exist before, while seeing whether the solution is indeed valuable or not in the community.

For example, someone makes a supermarket or restaurant business, that business is not a startup. Because those efforts are proven solutions that work and the business model already exists.

So the key to startup is innovation. Startups will do something untested whether the solutions offered actually work in society. So startups must be able to combine creativity and logic to produce a solution that did not exist before.

Quality remains the main

Because startups will always innovate, tech startups need good quality talent. If we want to be involved in the startup industry, we definitely have to hone our skills and always learn the latest technology trends. Taking online courses or sharing knowledge with colleagues are some examples of things that can be done so that we can always innovate.

Updating these skills is very important because technology will always evolve. For example, we worked at a startup in early 2009, where smartphones at that time were not as widespread as they are now. So when we develop a website, we just focus on the desktop platform. Eleven years later, the majority of website visitors are smartphone users, so many companies, including tech startups, are competing to make themselves the mobile first company. So developing a website on a mobile platform is also important, and as a talent working at the startup, you must be ready for technology trends that will always develop.

Adapt with startup culture

After making sure our hard skills are met, then the next thing is to make sure that we can understand the culture in which we work and understand what startups expect from their employees. Of course, the culture of every startup is different. But in my opinion, the culture that definitely exists is:

A culture of always experimenting and innovating

As I wrote above, that startup will always innovate. In addition, no less important is the culture of experimentation. Usually startups provide leeway or flexibility for their employees to conduct experiments related to their field of work. We can simply get high-level directions without having to be given a list from A to Z of what to do.

This means that we are required to be mature in acting. Even if there is no micromanage, it is very important that we stick to our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or responsibilities, and be professional about them.

In Bukalapak, it has the core values of try, fail, and try again, so Bukalapak hopes that its talents will dare to experiment and also dare to accept when they meet failure, and learn from it. Another core value is to go the extra mile as well. Bukalapak also hopes that its talent will not stop when their KPI is achieved. But continue to innovate to achieve even better responsibilities in the future.

Culture to work fast

In general, all startups have a fast work culture when compared to corporate companies. Workflows at tech startups generally apply agile methods or something like that to produce results quickly.

In my personal experience, what I learned at Bukalapak (at that time I had only joined for three months) was far more than what I learned at the previous company, whereas at the previous company, I worked for about a year.

Here it is important for us to always hone ourselves. It is possible that the new responsibilities that we carry are areas that are not suitable or that we do not master. Or maybe the technology we learned years ago will no longer be relevant for the next few months.

Comfortable when working in a team

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

In the end, working in a startup is working in a team. Usually, startup employees work in teams consisting of various expertise and different fields. It is therefore important for us to empathize with one another and put the team’s goals as the top priority.

In my opinion, a product engineer team has members with different roles. In general, it consists of backend engineers, frontend engineers, mobile apps developers (android and ios), test engineers, data scientists, and is led by engineering manager, test engineering manager, data manager, and product manager.

This article is based on my observations, so it is very possible that there are differences and uniqueness in each startup. Therefore, we need to carefully study and observe the startups where we work. So that we can capture what the purpose of the culture in the startup is.