Jose Aguinaga

@jjperezaguinaga

A tale of two brothers — his corporate job, my startup life.

He’s been working for the same company for twelve years. I’ve worked for four startups in half of that time.

The last time I saw my brother, I was heading out to San Francisco, California. I had scored a great job in the heart of the city with a very promising startup, and was already packing my things despite having moved from Switzerland to Mexico only a few days before.

“Are you excited?” he asked me, while I was collecting the very few items I had at our parents’ place. Our home in Mexico was our headquarters, and usually the last place we would meet before my next trip.

“-I am. The company has shown a solid growth in the last year, and hopefully my experience in the Fintech industry can help. Maybe I can even help to raise a Series B round for us.” I told him this, knowing for sure he had no idea what I was talking about. He nodded happily anyway.

Sometimes I forget that outside of the startup world, most of those terms mean nothing to people. I finished packing my things, and got ready to move yet again from my country to chase yet another startup dream. My brother would go on working on Monday to continue climbing the corporate ladder at an international company in my city.

Personalities

My brother and I have very different personalities. He comes across as a very charming and inviting person, and has a very easy-going and warm personality. He is, what most people call, a social butterfly. He graduated with honours as an Industrial Engineer from one of our best universities in Mexico, and quickly scored a great job with an international company in our city, better known for being a second alma mater for very qualified students.

In contrast, I’m more of an introvert. I can be very outgoing, sure, but I really enjoy my personal space, and avoid excessive noise. I found prolonged peace within programming, so I chased a career in Software Engineering. Within college, I decided I wanted to travel, and started taking jobs outside the country. By the time I graduated, I had completed two career-relevant internships in Canada and Switzerland. Soon after, I started chasing startups to work with them in Western Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia.

For better or worse, these traits have put us on the path we are on today: my brother just completed his twelve year anniversary at his company, and I just relocated (again) to help another company to build the first officially registered technology bank in Switzerland. He has had nine positions in his own company, while I’ve had over four jobs in the last six years.

Age

Part of the difference between my brother and I is our age. He is older than me by seven years, making him a member of Generation X. He purchased a car, got an early mortgage on a house, and started saving for the future. Myself, proud member of Generation Y, better known as The Millennials™, own no car (hi Uber), own no house (hi AirBnB), and have no savings (how you think I traveled so much?).

From the Goldman and Sachs web article “Millennials”

We have completely different priorities, both in our personal lives, and in the workplace. He values stability, family, and the ability to have a clear foresight of the future. I value challenges, innovation, and freedom. Not having to settle in a specific city, or to a specific future is something I consider an asset, while my brother wouldn’t agree to relocate anywhere without a clear plan on how it will affect him and his family. For instance, he loves to be close to our family in Mexico, while I wouldn’t hesitate to relocating to Tel Aviv for a position at a Barclays Techstars program.

This generational difference is also part of the reason behind our job choices. For instance according to a Gallup publication, millennials are considered the “Job-Hopping generation”. Most of my friends have had at least two jobs in the past four years, or have lasted at max three years. My brother’s friends follow a similar pattern like my brother, and have been working for at least six years or more in a big name company.

Experiences

Our experiences due to our jobs are completely different. Every Christmas we gather to talk about the crucial differences between our jobs, our pains or benefits, perks or injustices. Here are some of the most remarkable ones:

  • While he has a career plan for the next 5 and 10 years outlined by his line manager, the companies I work for don’t even know where they will be in the next 3 years.
  • He has 1:1 meetings. I have stand-ups.
  • Team changes within his company require meetings, planning, and careful consideration which can amount to weeks or months. I usually change teams by talking to the team leaders and moving my chair.
  • He learns processes. I learn the Agile flavour this startup uses.
  • While he has a couple Fortune 500 shares that fluctuate a few dollars every quarter or so, I had thousands and thousands of shares that are yet to be worth a penny. But one day…
  • My brother has an office. An OFFICE. You know, that thing that has a door that closes? It even has windows. I usually share tables, couches, kitchen furniture, apartment floors, hacking workspaces.
  • He almost always get a bonus, I’m lucky if I get a paid beer.
  • His company cares about the price of oil, market regulations, and geopolitics. The companies I work for care if they are mentioned by TechCrunch, got featured in Product Hunt, or mentioned in HackerNews.
  • His wardrobe increases as he progresses in the company. Mine shrinks through every relocation.
  • My brother has relocated for his company to multiple cities in Latin and North America. I have lived in multiple cities in Europe, taught programming in Indonesia, and worked remotely from Vancouver, Quito, Stuttgart, Paris, and Dubai.
  • Did I mention he has an office? That’s still crazy to me.
  • While he gets global certified training programs to learn how to give a presentation to his team, I’m here on Saturday working my way through up a marketing page that will be seen by thousand of users.
  • His training programs are usually full-day seminars that take months. The latest compliance training meeting I had took an hour.
  • He needs to submit his vacations in a defined process that probably gets supervised by another process that most likely is regulated as well. I sent an email to my boss that I’m not coming tomorrow because I need to finish my Udacity online course homework.

Achievements

We are both hard workers. Coming from a low-income background usually pushes you to sink or swim. But our achievements also come in different flavours.

I would say that my brother’s greatest professional achievement was in 2015, when his team broke a Guinness World Record to organise the biggest cereal breakfast in the world, a campaign he coordinated through 5 cities. It became a great branding campaign for Kellogg Company that spread through Latin America, and later on caught up in the UK through their “Most cereals toppled in a domino fashion” record last year.

El Desayunote Kellogg‘s” was the Guiness record for the greatest cereal breakfast in the world in 2015.

The achievement I’m most proud of is to have spent two weeks in Bali, Indonesia, teaching programming at The Institute of Code. Not only because of the purpose of the travel, but because it was my first experience in Southeast Asia, working and learning with entrepreneurs from Australia, future programmers from Germany, California, and social influencers from Namibia (shout out to The Candourist).

Teaching code has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

Who’s living the job?

I love the startup culture. Sure, it’s hard to enjoy a culture where overwork is celebrated, drinking is a must, and failure is always glooming over your company, but I wouldn’t trade the excitement for anything. I just love being so close to the decisions that make an impact on a daily basis, while having as much control as possible of my professional career.

My brother also loves his job. He has learned to love the values of his company, and spread them through multiple cities and countries across the world. He really believes in what he does, often more than I believe on what I do. He has managed to put someone’s team shirt on, and commit to work for it for the past twelve years. I really admire him for that.

To my brother and to me, there’s no better or worse. Just different. Maybe the startup culture is for you, but maybe you will do great in a multinational. Hopefully, you can take some time today to think what’s important for you, what you care about, and find what would be best for you, and only for you. Because sometimes, we make our decisions very early, and never look back. In our case, we were lucky.

My brother and me.

I dedicate this article to my lovely new nieces Ana Pau and Maria Jimena.

Cover picture “View of two different shoes” by Wavebreak, Creative Market standard license.

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