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Why a startup is the best place to kickstart your software engineering career

by Karan Kajla on Apr 15, 2019

So you’ll be graduating soon and are on the hunt for your first software engineering job. Your first job is a pivotal stepping stone towards the rest of your career so it has to be perfect, right? The job needs to be technically challenging so you can grow your skills as an engineer but should also have a variety of technical responsibilities that allow you to find your passion. Most importantly, you’ll need opportunities to grow as an individual and in your career. So where can a fresh college graduate find such a role? The answer, a startup.

Startups provide a way to improve upon engineering skills by constantly presenting opportunities to solve complex problems. The fast-paced environment allows individuals early in their careers the chance to learn quickly, because many startups exist to solve difficult problems that haven’t been tackled elsewhere. Startups are built to be lean and agile, so the problems that need solving naturally outnumber the people available to solve them. As a result, efforts across the team result in direct impact.

At AppLovin, we have a team of about thirty engineers building and maintaining a mobile advertising platform that operates globally and serves billions of requests daily. The problems our team tackles include scaling data processing and storage, creating mobile SDKs, designing robust web services and UIs, and much more. If that sounds like a lot for a team our size, it is. But it also means that each one of our engineers is crucial to the company’s success. Since I started at AppLovin, I’ve gained experience building complex data intensive UIs, tuning website performance, and maintaining a scalable codebase that helps the team move quickly. I’ve also had several opportunities to build large pieces of our codebase from scratch, an opportunity that’s not always available to new engineers outside a startup environment.

This variety of problem-solving has helped me grow my technical skills immensely and allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the entire web stack. By being exposed to so many different challenges, I’ve built a better understanding of what I actually enjoy working on. Some engineers, myself included, simply love to build and solve problems so it’s fun to work on any part of the tech stack. Others are partial to a specific technology or part of the stack. Either way, it’s impossible for an engineer to understand their passions until they’ve had a chance to try different things. Startups allow team members the flexibility to step outside their comfort zones.

One of the most beneficial aspects of working at a startup is the wealth of opportunities available for growth and career advancement. It may sound cliché, but working at a startup truly is what you make it. It’s the perfect environment for those who jump at opportunities when they’re presented and as a result, offers the ability to make a sizeable impact on the company. At startups, roles aren’t as strictly defined so there’s flexibility in how value can be added.

Recently at AppLovin, we’ve been looking to grow our college recruiting pipeline for engineering roles. When I heard about this, I saw it as an opportunity to get a better understanding of recruiting and to build my non-technical skills. Around the same time this initiative formed, a few of our engineers and recruiters headed down to UCLA for the LA Hacks event. At the event, I was able to mentor students at the hackathon and help recruit a few interns and full-time hires. As a UCLA alum, I was excited to help the next generation of engineers jump-start their careers.

Having worked at AppLovin for over a year, it’s clear the startup environment has made me stronger both professionally and personally. I’ve had the opportunity to build upon the skills I learned in school while expanding on other skills that will stay with me throughout my career. If you’re like me and value a culture of growth and enjoy seeing the impact of your work, a startup is the perfect place to kickstart your career.

If you’re interested in working at AppLovin, check out our open positions here.

Karan is a Software Engineer at AppLovin.