The freedom of startups calls Aussies to new opportunities

 Trading a stable job in a large organisation for a gig in a startup is not for everyone. But for those who make the leap, the rewards can be significant.

The benefits can include greater autonomy, role variation and rapid up-skilling, not to mention a more relaxed working environment.

Here’s why three employees made the move, and why they’re loving it.

F Blackman article image

From the world's top companies to a new business venture

Farley Blackman has held executive positions with some of the world’s largest companies, including BP, GE and Motorola, and has worked all over the world.

Blackman’s most recent career move to head up YBF, a tech hub focused on advancing Australian tech entrepreneurs, might seem like an unconventional choice. But Blackman, 52, says when the offer came through from YBF Chairman and former ANZ CEO Mike Smith in 2017, the decision was easy.

‘I had the right corporate experience, was up for the challenge and willing to take the plunge,’ he says. ‘I have taken the approach in my career to take on roles that are challenging and have the potential to create real value.’

As CEO, Blackman holds the unique position of understanding startup recruitment from both executive and new employee perspectives.

‘Startups and small companies are not for everyone as they require true multi-disciplinary skills and the fortitude to weather ongoing hurdles. With that ¬¬said, the ability to have almost every action taken effect real change and provide tangible results is very rewarding. Wearing a t-shirt and jeans every day is also pretty awesome.’

Blackman says diversity of mindset as well as gender, orientation and origin is key to a well-rounded and high-performing startup team.

Natalia Amber article image

A new start in a new country

Straight out of university, Brazil-born Natalia Puga landed a dream job at Latin America’s largest pay TV network. In 2018, she needed a change and set her sights on opportunities abroad.

In Melbourne, she was referred through contacts to Chris Thompson, an entrepreneur who had just founded Amber Electric.

Puga, 24, says she jumped at the chance to work for an exciting new startup, but the transition from her old life was dramatic.

‘It was a big change because I used to work for a huge company, with 2000 employees in four buildings, and then I came here where it’s just Chris and myself.’

Accepting the offer to run marketing for Amber soon reaped its own rewards.

‘It’s really good to have this 1-on-1 relationship with Chris. We can talk all day. And there’s no interference. He lets me be very independent with my choices, in terms of what I want to pursue with the strategy. He gives me a lot of freedom.’

There’s also a sense of purpose that sets the new job apart. As Australia’s only electricity company that delivers wholesale prices direct to ordinary Aussies, Puga says she feels good about the work she does.

‘It’s very hard to find organisations that are really committed to true change,’ Puga says. ‘The best thing about Amber is we can help people understand the truth of the electricity market.’

Campbell Weddell article image

Campbell Weddell (top right) and the Folk Architect team.

Rapid upskilling in the design world

For Campbell Weddell, 32, the decision to shift to a very small architecture firm, Folk Architects, was a simple one – he wanted to work in a team and for clients focused on beautiful design, and not limited by time and cost restraints. The benefits of working for a small firm quickly became apparent.

‘Smaller firms give you a lot broader experience base and a lot more quickly,’ he explains. ‘It allows you to be across a number of different things, everything from design, client management through to dealing with builders on site. You get exposed to every facet of the game. If you go into a large firm, as a junior you’ll often do the same task over and over again.’

Weddell says the chance to navigate a range of situations with a variety of stakeholders has provided him with invaluable learning opportunities.

‘I felt in putting together my career, it would be quicker to upskill (at a smaller firm). Folk’s portfolio covers commercial, retail, residential, galleries, and also public infrastructure – so, it’s very broad.’