Before Michael Borozdin left his job at Microsoft in 2006, he was an outstanding performer at the company.
He was in charge of some Windows-related projects, and said he received raises and promotions that gave him more responsibility.
But Borozdin left that position after working at the company for more than three years to try something new. He joined DocuSign, a service that lets you sign documents using your mobile device.
Although DocuSign now has more than 50 million users, it was a small company with only a few employees back in 2006.
“At that point in time it was a 25-person startup that rented part of a storage space,” Borozdin said to Business Insider. “They literally rented part of the storage floor, with junk being in one part and DocuSign being in the other. We had an elevator that only worked about three quarters of the time.”
That’s drastically different than Microsoft, which had 71,000 employees in 2006 according to data published by Statista. Borozdin said he initially joined DocuSign because he had previously worked with Tom Gonser, the company’s cofounder.
And he wanted the type of recognition and responsibility that comes with working for a smaller company.
“My name was never going to be on any of the outward-facing Microsoft [products],” he said. “I [didn’t] want to be the guy in the back room, that doesn’t seem like a fun way to spend the next 10 years.”
The move from an established corporation to a small startup is a common one in the tech industry. Employees from companies such as Google, Apple, and Amazon among others sometimes leave to start their own companies or join a startup that aligns more with their interests.
Borozdin said the biggest cultural change he noticed was that things tend to move faster when you’re part of a smaller company — a common observation among those who have made similar choices.
“I felt like in a big company, I had some innovative ideas and I felt like I spent months upon months discussing it with everybody,” he said. “It was just one of those things that was really frustrating…[DocuSign] is a very action-oriented culture.”
Another major difference is that at a startup, you end up performing a lot of tasks that aren’t actually covered under your job description.
“When you join a company, and it’s only 25 people, you do a little bit of everything,” Borozdin said. “…At that point in time everybody did whatever it took, including our executives. [They] were involved with moving furniture when we moved from one office to the next. Our CTO was carrying the table.”
Regardless, Borozdin said it’s important to spend time at larger companies like Microsoft at some point in your tech career. It’s a great way to learn how to structure teams and projects — a set of skills that are definitely necessary when working for a startup.
“I would advise young people to do some amount of working at a big company,” he said. “They really put a lot of investment in you. You go to a smaller company, and at least you have the technique down. It’s like you get coaching.”