Finding Your 5 Questions
I don’t know about you, but I treat my job search like a full-time job. I begin by writing lists of “must-haves —” boxes that need to be checked — about what I want for my next position. Only after finding a job that checks those boxes do I begin to consider making the move. Everyone has their own list of reasons to join a new company, and hopefully, the five below are helpful for anyone else in the same process!
1. Is the company mission exciting?
I get asked almost every other day what I do at Merge. And frankly, when I start to explain how I’m in the “B2B SaaS API space…” eyes begin to glaze over. Despite this, I’ve found a benefit in having to explain why I like working in “B2B integrations:” I actually have to convince people I like it.
Now, if my answer was to simply rely on brand recognition, “Oh, I work at DoorDash,” I’d be able to explain away my job while not actually having to reveal how I feel about my job. But every time I explain how Merge is “trying to be the default API that all B2B companies use for customer-facing integrations” (a mouthful, I know) I show nothing but pride and excitement. And that’s what’s telling: I truly believe in the problem we’re solving and the products we’re building — and it shows in every conversation I have about the company.
Now, you may ask yourself how can the author possibly think "integrations" are exciting? It's entirely subjective, but ‘exciting’ work for me means products that bring customer delight, and integrations can definitely do that.
2. Does our product provide customer delight?
Some of my, and maybe your, favorite moments in tech have been made possible because of some standout integrations. I remember the first time I connected my bank on Venmo through Plaid and paid my best friend, or set up a card on Apple Pay and walked through the turnstile in the NYC subway by just tapping my wrist. Take it from me: integrations done right can spark as much joy as a Gorillas delivery appearing on your doorstep in 7 minutes.
Similarly, Merge's product allows our customers to seamlessly build brand-new use-cases. Merge customers have engineered auto-provisioning credit cards, wicked-accurate headcount planning, and auto-sending employee swag (shoutout to SwagUp and Goody!). These are magical experiences only made possible through years of work in, you guessed it, building out integrations.
Integrations require a lot of intricate, time-consuming work, but the end products speak for themselves. What motivates me at work is seeing happy customers use something I built to improve their day-to-day. It’s probably why I ended up in solutions engineering. Working extremely hard to get a customer to that ‘a-ha!’ moment makes the job that much sweeter.
3. Are we in a growing industry?
There is no use in building something if nobody will use it. If you find yourself facing that situation, chances are that you've created a solution to a non-existent problem or that the industry isn’t ready for. That's a challenging position to be in, especially when you're risking a ton of time and money working for an early-stage startup. Merge is fortunate to already have product-market fit: over 1,000 organizations have signed up for our platform in under 8 months. This evidence was a huge factor when weighing risk vs. benefit, especially when coming from a larger, already successful company.
Merge is also lucky to be in a rapidly growing API space with some of tech's most prominent companies like Stripe, Twilio, and more. Merge further specializes in an even more specific, ever-expanding segment of Unified APIs, with new companies being launched almost daily. If you're interested in learning more about Unified APIs, check out our co-founder's post on them here.
Competition is another good indication of solid market interest. Competition is healthy because it's a definitive way to confirm a strong product-market fit, and Merge is fortunate to already have a few competitors. I say ‘fortunate’ because competition drives faster innovation and elevates the importance of customer experience: crucial things for long-term company success.
4. Do I have the opportunity for ownership and learning opportunities?
You would be hard-pressed to find a large company offering more ownership and growth opportunities than an early-stage startup. This was a central part of why I only looked at small companies in each of my job hunts, and I highly recommend people early in their careers to do so as well. There's nothing like learning and adapting by being thrown into the ring with your (well, the company’s) life on the line. In such a large industry like tech, startups are also the fastest way to discover what you enjoy most. They provide you the benefits of:
- The pleasure of building something from scratch and watching people use it
- The fast pace of development and innovation
- The ability to meet other founders and forge relationships through mutual respect
- Personal development by learning beyond the bounds of your own role
5. Is there trust and positive team culture?
“Who the heck are these founders, and can I trust them with my career?”
This might be the hardest thing to judge as an outsider because studying a Linkedin profile can only get you so far. I find that the best rule of thumb is looking at the people hired thus far. Are they qualified? Can they explain their work? Are they humble? Are they proud? Most importantly: are they excited?
I knew I had nothing to worry about with Merge in this regard after my first call with Shensi Ding, Merge’s CEO and co-founder. She was full of energy, beaming from ear to ear, and couldn't stop talking about just how incredible her team was. But I didn't have to take her word for it. Every person I spoke with corroborated that the office was loud and energetic, ideas were thrown around freely, and leadership was in sync. They mentioned the team was super collaborative and were some of the friendliest and most talented people they had ever worked with. And then, of course, I still LinkedIn stalked everybody. My findings confirmed the founders not only knew what they were doing, but they had found a team with extremely impressive backgrounds and tons of relevant experience.
And so, I signed my offer and haven’t looked back since.
There are countless boxes to check when joining a startup: investors, capital raised, revenue growth, market trends, location, perks, and much more. The above were just a few of the big boxes I check whenever considering a new gig. Some of it is subjective, so make sure to apply your own experiences and perspective. Still, I hope it's helpful for anyone out there on the hunt for something new!
P.S. If you read this and want to apply to Merge, you're in luck! We're hiring across the board: https://www.merge.dev/careers/