Opportunities at High Growth Companies
Life as a lawyer offers many things: a long-term career path, a clearly defined day-to-day role, and an easy way to explain what you do for a living. Having read Law at Cambridge and trained at a leading global firm, the legal treadmill was already turning under my feet - but in April, I stepped off it. I joined a company my friends and family had never heard of (AlphaSights), to do a job they didn’t quite understand (introducing AlphaSights to new client groups) - and I’ve never looked back.
Although my legal education and experience gave me a solid foundation, I knew from early on in my training contract that a legal career wasn’t right for me. At the time, I would have struggled to articulate what drew me to AlphaSights (and away from law), but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s largely due to the company’s fast growth.
"Not only is it more meritocratic to be judged on results achieved rather than hours worked, but it’s far more personally rewarding to concentrate your focus on making an impact"
In Google’s early days, Eric Schmidt famously advised Sheryl Sandberg that fast growth is the only criterion that matters when choosing a job. At first blush, I thought this sounded trite and reductionist, but after four months at AlphaSights, I’m inclined to agree. He argued that growing companies have fewer people than things that need to be done, the corollary of which is that slowing or shrinking companies have the opposite. The ramifications of this reach far wider than I could have anticipated before joining AlphaSights:
Output, not input
One of my biggest frustrations during my brief legal career was the sheer volume of duplicated or unnecessary tasks. This was reflective of a wider culture which values input over output, which can largely be attributed to the billable-hour model (the subject of frequent criticism by those outside the industry).
Duplication and inefficiency wither in a high-growth environment. The demands of a fast-growing company trim the fat from your daily role by forcing you to focus on the things that actually matter. What does this mean on a personal level? Not only is it more meritocratic to be judged on results achieved rather than hours worked, but it’s far more personally rewarding to concentrate your focus on making an impact, whether that be helping a client make better strategic decisions, or (in my role) helping the company grow by bringing in new business.
For a high-growth company, the only asset more valuable than its time is its people. With more things to do than people to do them, there’s no place for a “wait-your-turn” mentality. AlphaSights places a huge emphasis on identifying the best people and entrusting them with significant responsibility from day one. Two of my colleagues in the Client Development Team (CDT), both recent graduates, have been instrumental in developing our marketing strategy. From the outset, they were given autonomy and responsibility that would have taken years to acquire in a larger, more slow-moving company - and they’ve thrived. As a result, they’ve accomplished and learned far more than they would have otherwise.
Learning outside your role
Not only can you learn more quickly within your role, but there’s enormous scope to develop outside your "remit". From recruitment to business development, there are always opportunities to put your shoulder to the wheel and get involved with initiatives outside your core responsibilities. The immediate benefits are obvious: breadth of experience at an early stage in your career. Less obvious, but equally important, are the benefits reaped by the company as a whole. When you’ve helped, say, a colleague from the talent attraction team with a recruitment drive, there’s a much greater sense of collective buy-in and personal fulfilment as the company continues to grow.
This sense of shared success is one of the most rewarding aspects of working at AlphaSights. The word “culture” is often incorrectly conflated with “perks”. Don’t get me wrong, lunch-time talks from successful entrepreneurs, summer retreats to Barcelona and office ping pong and beer pong tables are all great fun, but the heart of AlphaSights’ culture is the feeling of being involved with building a great company, and being valued for your contributions towards it.
AlphaSights isn’t for everyone. Larger organisations and well-defined, vocational career paths offer far greater brand recognition and predictability - both of which are perfectly valid reasons for pursuing those options. But what high-growth companies may lack in these respects, they more than make up for in opportunities to learn, grow and develop.
Jason joined AlphaSights in April 2015 and serves as an Associate on our Client Development Team.