Why leaving a startup is smart

About five years ago, I moved from Iran and embarked on a Ph. D at Sheffield University in the U.K. After graduation, like so many other students, I found myself at a crossroads. I was deciding whether to pursue a career with a startup or, as many of my friends were doing at the time, go after a role at a bigger, more established tech company.

I chose the startup route.  I don’t have any regrets about my decision and I learned a lot while there. However, in the back of my mind, I always wondered what it would be like to work for a company like Microsoft.

So I took the plunge and applied for a role working on Bing at Microsoft. After a swift recruitment process, I found myself on the Autosuggestion team in the Cardinal Place office in London. Now four months into my new role, I am loving it. You really get the feeling the people you are working with have been hand-picked for their intelligence and invaluable skill-sets. I feel privileged to sit next to some of the smartest technical minds in the world and even more fortunate that I will get to learn from them.

My biggest challenge so far has been moving into more of an engineering-focused role, when most of my previous experience was in research. For example, when people use Bing to search, many don’t know how to phrase what they are looking for. As part of the search engine Autosuggestion team, we not only have to pre-empt how people will search for things, but we also need to engineer a way to help users reformulate their search when they don’t know how to look for something. I find this both challenging and fascinating.

We cover so much more in the Autosuggestion team than you would expect. We need to consider the user’s history, as well as incorporate global search results, in order to find the best formula. This is the most exciting and creative part of my role. A lot of research goes into finding the intention of a user, as there is a lot of ambiguity in language.

For people who are considering whether to take a job with a startup or work for Microsoft, I would urge them to consider their top career motivations. At this point in my career, it is all about learning from the best in the industry, extending myself beyond what I thought I could or would ever be able to work on, and taking my career to the next level. Cardinal Place in London has more of a startup atmosphere than you might expect: It is light, airy and beautifully designed. I especially love the salad bar.

Do you think Microsoft could be the place for you? Are you interested in software engineering roles? You have nothing to lose. Apply.