Decisions - Small Consultancy or Huge Corporation?(Bay Area)


I’ve made my decision, so I’ve removed all the possibly sensitive information here. Thanks for all the advice!

Take the one with more money. It’s a job, not an internship, and after having suckled the teat of the cushy corp gig for a while you should be able to command more $ at the next place. The next place can be corporate or agency.

On the down low: corporate gigs with their stability and pace may allow for freelancing/moonlighting. Ask for forgiveness not permission but this can satisfy your need for aesthetically pleasing fun stuff while having the security of the added dough.

If you are even considering a commute from SF to anywhere else in the Bay Area you will need the bigger paycheck. Lots of people scrape by in SF and keep on doing the hippie communal thing, but trust me it’s not that fun. Rents are exorbitant, gas prices make the news, and CA taxes everything.

I started out with the small and very small firms. Sometimes there’s fun stuff, and sometimes I was on 24 hr work weeks. As in, 3 days a week.

If you want new shoes and toys and the ability to spend at all the awesome places in SF you will need the cheddar.

If you want a long term career in design, think long term.

Corporate gig -because the other is an internship that COULD lead to a job. It could also lead to you being unemployed after busting your ass for 3-6 months, and not have anything new in your portfolio that you can legally disclose to a new employer.

In the corporate gig you’ll be getting paid more money, and while you may not find you are tremendously interested in the product, as a new grad you’re going to learn far more about what it takes to get a product to market then you will in a consultancy role that is going to expect you to work like mad and hand off the design to some other corporate designer.

Money is also really fun to have. So is a job that lets you go home at a reasonable hour. You’re young - soak up the corporate experience because it will be VERY valuable and stockpile all the cash you can while you’re at it. If you want to go out on your own or switch to a consultancy later you’ll have a much better understanding of corporate politics and manufacturing then you will by jumping into a more fun internship. And in this economy that stability will be very worthwhile.

A: lots of concrete statements about products, pay, relocation, etc…

B: lots of “mights” and “coulds”.

Lots of people “move west” to seek their fortunes. I did too. Got lucky being in the right place at the right time.

Just don’t confuse the things you want to happen, with the realities in front of you.

Read the Melian Dialogues by Thucydides, about the Athenians giving the Melians the smack down after the Melians say “might” and “could” a lot.

I feel like thats being pessimistic though. B said there is a very strong possibility of it becoming full time, if I perform well (which I have the confidence that I will). Option A sounds great on paper, but I’m not sure I’ll enjoy my job day to day. And if I ever want to move back to designing consumer products, I won’t have any real experience in that field. I don’t want to be pigeon holed into designing a single thing so early in my career.

If theres any time to take risks and try something exciting it would be now in my career right?

That’s called the “dangling of the carrot”. It’s not to say it can’t happen, but it’s very easy for them to say “if you work out”. If anything you may need to be more up front and say "I have an extremely compelling offer on the table, but I would like to work for your company, are

Just because option A is designing one type of product doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get good experience from it. So if you want to switch to the consumer space later, there’s nothing stopping you. When someone hires you it’s because you have a set of knowledge and skills. There’s no reason you can’t go to consumer electronics at a later time because working in a corporate world is going to give you real world exposure to manufacturing, tooling, engineering, and the rest of the stuff that makes the world go round.

If the consultancy is mostly in the role of handing off the design and then moving off, you won’t get that experience even if you have a large array of products in your portfolio.

If option B was a full-time Jr. position I wouldn’t feel as bad about this…but if they are picking you up as an intern, if business isn’t great in 3 months then you will be the first one out of a job. Especially if another promising intern comes along that they can continue to get good Jr. level work out of for half the price.

If you loathe the idea of working at A, then don’t take the job - but be prepared to be on the job hunt again in 6 months.

One thing to consider is that this consultancy differentiates themselves by concerning themselves with the engineering and production of the product a well. They specifically said to me that they don’t “hand off” work as much as other consultancies.

Somebody told me that everybody has to do stuff they don’t want to when they’re young. Might as well get paid an insane amount to do it?

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I first started out was at an IDSA conference when someone told me “Your job should be about learning, once you stop learning, then it’s time to move on”. I think there’s still going to be tons you can learn even at a “Boring” company, even if it’s less exciting.

Being able to have healthcare, a great salary and stability certainly does not hurt. If you want to design consumer electronics you can always freelance as was mentioned above, or do projects “for fun”.

You should be happy doing it, and the corporate culture can kill your soul at times, but if it’s a good gig you should pull all you can out of it and then move on when you’ve proven that you’re unhappy or stopped getting anything out of it that will further your careers.

Plus money is fun. Theres no doubt about that.

It sounds like you have made up your mind. “The usual positives and negatives” of the corporate job are something you seem to dread, (despite working at a consultancy since graduating) so it doesn’t sound like it’s worthwhile.

Money and security and health plans and 401K are nice, but more important to someone with responsibilities… family, house, new car, vacations to warm places, etc.

Working corporate has had many more opps for “deep process” than any consulting job I’ve had. Meaning, very early in the proposal phase, to long design phases, to examining production lines. This is not typical of consultancies.

You could just get a waitstaff job in SF, live off your savingsand credit cards, and paaaarty.

You could try to see if you could push back the corporate offer by a few months, take the internship, and if things don’t work out there, go to corporate after the internship ends.

Being young and in the same place as you, I tend to lean toward something more exciting. There’s a chance of you becoming complacent / losing your motivation at a corporation, especially if you don’t have the support of your peers in a new town (happened to me a few summers ago). Take risks while you can. I’d take the internship. If it’s where I think it is based on the hints you provided, I think you’ll enjoy it.


Should probably add that I went through a similar process just recently from internship to full-time. Just blow them away and make them want you. Display your passion and your ability to learn, and become really good friends with them. Even if you don’t get the job due to the economy, they can always give you a great referral. The consultancy world is small.

Thanks for all the advice here. Its really helping me think things through.

I’m definitely not ruling out option A, even though I may be leaning towards B. There is much to be learned at a large corporation, and I do have to consider the future. Will working at a huge corporation right off the bat look great on my resume and open more doors for the future? Probably.

@tarngerine that is definitely an interesting proposal. I’ll have to see how the timings might work out. They might not. I see your point of view, and agree with doing something exciting while I’m young. Both options are exciting to me though at this point.

I’d like to introduce the possibility that the “boring product” may become interesting as well once you get to know the challenges and start seeing opportunities. And if you get to see the whole process, deeply involved with product managers, engineers, marketeers and sales, you will start seeing more opportunities for innovation. You may get to pitch an idea for an ad, or suggest a collaboration with some cool vendor or whatever. Then, comes the greatest learning experience at the corp gig - how you play (with) the others to make your vision reality and not just sketches in a portfolio.

Considering experience with engineering and manufacturing at the consultancy - sure they may do more than just a Rhino model, and actually consider wall thickness, pick out some screw dimensions etc etc… but in the end it’s the client who has the ultimate responsibility and will deal with all the problems that will arise (at least if you have the big brand names as clients) A consultancy will likely hand off, and not hear anything for 2 years until they suddenly find the product on the shelves. They will be bitter that the client’s engineers changed a bunch of stuff, but they won’t know why. Sitting inhouse you will have a better chance of hearing about the problems and get a chance to influence solutions to maintain design intent. Then you won’t run in to the same problems on the next product and be a better designer.

BUT - I’m not saying take the corp gig. Follow your heart and do what you feel is right. We all wish we had more fun when we look back. For some that means stability and money, for others living in the moment. It will all work out in the end.

Glad to see you’ve decided on a direction. I just caught this post, so thought I’d add to it for future reference.

There is no bad experience. I’d think it would be better to take the job over the internship. You’ll learn different things in a corporate environment especially if you haven’t worked in one before. Finding out what you don’t like about a job seems to impact your future career choices more than what you do like about a job.

I’d go with the actual job offer most likely, not knowing what the two companies are.

Got some help, too… Thanks!

So what was your decision out of curiosity?