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Career advice please. What makes for a better career path?

I have to make a choice between a VP Finance role with an old stable company in a volatile technology sector vs a Controller/Finance Director role at an internet startup with good potential. The VP Finance role will play an important role in trying to grow the company and will involve a lot of technical issues (tax, accounting, M&A , FP&A, IT, International subsidiaries) which will significantly add to my technical experiences. The other position, the Finance Director role, will also provide the same except no IT and no International business and will be significantly simpler. However this second role will give me exposure to B2C internet business models. Which will provide greater path for advancing my career in the long run? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Answers

Nathalie Greene
Title: Vice President of Finance
Company: nContact Surgical, inc.
(Vice President of Finance, nContact Surgical, inc.) |

There are many factors to consider in making your decision. In my opinion, where you are in your career should be the first decision - are you early on, mid, or later. If you are early on to mid I would recommend taking a chance on the startup. It can be a lot of fun, a lot of work and highly rewarding. Generally the environment is smaller so you will be exposed to much more operationally both within and outside your current area of expertise than you would be in an 'older stable' company. In my experience I have found that you can gain more experience in a shorter period of time than in a larger company. It will give you a chance to build, implement, and streamline new processes and technologies. You will feel like you have really had an impact on the organization. The down side, is that it can be stressful and somewhat risky; but there is no real stability in today's markets.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I think Nathalie says it well. It sounds like both have the potential for growth and learning. I would look at your long term career goals and make a decision based on where you see yourself in five / ten years. Which one will better equip you in the future?

Anonymous
(Finance Director) |

Thanks Nathalie and Christie. The dilemma is getting better technical experience vs going with the fun startup which could potentially be a winner or a big failure. Given the last few years of being on the receiving side of downsizing (with large and small startups) I feel neither is really secure since all company seems to be acquiring, planning an exit or potentially failing and in each case, the G&A positions all always are the ones that gets eliminated first.

The first provides better experience and will equip me to take on more challenges but it is in an older technology sector that has few opportunities and given that it seems like most of the positions around silicon valley are with smaller companies with newer business models and having that industry experience under my belt may be better in the long run. I guess it comes down to what do employers value: industry experience or the more technical experience even if it is in another industry? My instinct is leaning towards the industry experience yet I know I may be missing an opportunity to gain more technical experiences under my belt. Much to think about. Thanks again!

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