Workplace Spectra: big and small

Gavin Lee 2021-05-18 3 min read

Big and small. Photo by Alexei Maridashvili.

After writing my first post, I began to reflect on and compare my quite varied experiences in the workplace. In this post I’ll touch on three scales: 1. size of the organisation; 2. hierarchy (or lack thereof); 3. impact of work.

My first full-time role out of my bachelor’s degree was at Australia’s largest commercial bank. I worked on its mortgage portfolio - the largest in the country. It is also one of the largest employers in the country, with over 40,000 employees. At times I did feel like a small cog in a big machine, but there is a strong sense of affinity and belonging which develops after working in that environment. With a company of that size, there are usually benefits and perks which come along with it, whether it be for work or outside of work. As I had enough background knowledge and skills for the particular role, I dove straight into it, rather than doing a rotational programme, like many other early graduates. This meant I was put into a small modelling team with clear workstreams, filtering upwards to senior management. On the flip side, there was almost no chance of ‘trying before buying’, something that I think I would have benefitted on. Nevertheless, the hierarchy gave structure to my first year out of school and I certainly learnt a lot. I also found satisfaction from the fact that my work fed directly into the regulatory obligations of the bank, meaning it had a tangible onward impact on things like lending rates or projected earnings. I even had some positive technical communications with the regulators themselves and found that quite impactful.

My current role is far from the above description. Banks, certainly the anti-start-ups of the world, are certainly at odds with a small software development team housed in a higher education arena. With about 15 or 20 people in the team, covering all parts of the software development lifecycle, there is a feeling of self-sufficiency and entrepreneurialism. Thankfully, the internet exists and someone has probably answered the question you are thinking of. Otherwise, having a small team means less barriers to solving bottlenecks and iterating quicker on tasks. As someone new to software development, there’s been a slight learning curve, but I’m glad I’ve been able to spend time in this learning phase. I’ve been free to come up with my own ideas, take ownership of it and contribute in a meaningful way to the team.

I guess the take-away from all this is that for me, growing/learning and having impactful work are up there in terms of factors in choosing a job. Of course, the people who you work with are the most important, but I guess I have been lucky enough to take that for granted for most of the jobs I’ve been in.