Software developers, product engineers, designers, and strategists currently face a flourishing job market, rich with opportunities from a broad spectrum of potential employers. If you’re looking to make your next move, it’s important to find not only the right company but the right type of company. Between product-based companies, agencies, and consultancies, there are a myriad of options with their own short- and long-term benefits and drawbacks. As a Chief of Recruiting who has worked in all three, I know how crucial it is to pair your talents and preferences with the industry best suited to your needs. Understanding the categorical differences between product-based companies, agencies, and consultancies will help you to narrow your focus and set your sights on an organization best suited to your professional goals.
Product companies: Build something great, but be wary of narrowing your knowledge base
Product companies specialize in building their own products to sell directly to consumers or other businesses. On a large-scale, think Google, Facebook, or Amazon—though product companies can be small and scrappy startups and medium-sized ventures, as well. The options of working with a product-based team are enticing:
- You have ownership of your work and a sense of community that comes from creating it with a team.
- Your chance for upward mobility is considerable.
- You may have stock and equity options.
There’s no doubt that the fulfillment of developing innovative ideas with like-minded colleagues is an inspiring prospect. But the creative high may not last. In my experience, employees at product-based companies—from software engineers to product managers—often experience similar long-term drawbacks:
- You stay with the same technology stack indefinitely.
- After developing a primary product, you are typically tasked with support and maintenance.
- Without being tasked to consistently build something new, your ingenuity and creativity may be compromised.
Agencies: Develop a broad scope of skills and clients, but understand your growth may not be a priority
Agencies hire you to provide extra support for their clients’ specific projects, the work and scope of which is already defined on the surface, agencies can sometimes be difficult to spot.
(Accenture is one.) Some even call themselves “consultancies.” (Tata, for instance.) There are a few key ways to recognize if a potential employer is an agency. If your final interview is with an end-client and not with a company, it's an agency. If there's no management from the company delegated to the running of the project, it's an agency. And if there's no clear career path available and expressed to you in the interview process, it's an agency. This may sound unpredictable, but there are some advantages to working for an agency.
- You work with a variety of companies, providing quick solutions to immediate problems.
- You learn to use a lot of tech stacks.
- With the right clients, You can boost the cache on your résumé.
The downsides to agency life are clear. Software consultants and developers frequently experience similar frustrations, including:
- You may face a lack of challenging work, such as support and maintenance of a legacy system.
- The tech stacks may be outdated.
- The agency—, which often rotates its personnel—, is not set up to be loyal to you, and neither is the client. This makes you a hired head, with a lack of support for individual and professional growth.
- The client—–and the project—–can be cut without notice, leaving you without work. Be ready to regroup on the spot.
Consultancies: The sweet spot of product ideation, innovation, and stability
Consultancies are third-party development partners that hire their own teams to build and release complex solutions for their clients, which are typically product companies.
Full disclosure, here:TheoremOne is a consultancy, so we’re a little biased—but we believe consultancies are the best type of company to support innovation and variety while still providing stable growth paths.
Consultancies enter early in the discovery process when issues and needs are yet to be identified.This makes our consultants, developers and team members integral to problem-solving and ideation.. Unlike agencies, consultancies are not brought in at the end of the development phase to simply carry out tasks. A consultancy’s brainpower is its currency. Because of that, the advantages are numerous:
- You create multiple products over the course of your career, honing your ingenuity.
- You work with many verticals and technologies, broadening your skill base.
- You’re a part of cutting-edge solutions: clients spend their money on high-profile products.
- You won’t work on support and maintenance.
- Clear and defined growth paths are available and supported.
While this sounds like an ideal opportunity to hone your skills, remain challenged, and create products and solutions, some consultancies fail to cultivate a sense of community or ownership. Some consultancies, though, experience issues of community and ownership.… A couple of downsides worth taking note of include:
- It may be hard to develop a family-like feeling with others in the company if you work on one for an extended period of time..
- You are building a product that is owned by the client. This can sometimes distance you from your work.
Not all consultancies are created equal, which is why it’s imperative to search for the best prospective employer to suit your professional goals. At TheoremOne, our company culture is people-focused. Cultivating a sense of community and ownership is critical to our success, which is why we trust our team members to make autonomous decisions in complex environments. In short, we work—and win—as a team. Our inclusive approach to team-building recognizes that the collective sum of our individual differences, experiences, backgrounds, and knowledge represents a core part of our culture, reputation, and achievements.
For those searching for the right consultancy, the proof of a firm’s value often lies in its relationships with clients. During the interview process, we recommend asking the following questions:
- “Who are your clients?”
- “How long have they been your clients?”
- What are the most successful components of your client relationships?
Finding the right balance
While each type of tech firm has its merits, I believe that consultancies offer the best growth potential for software developers, product engineers, designers, strategists, and consultants—for skill sets, careers, and overall personal satisfaction.
Having worked at all three, it’s clear to me that consultancies—and specifically the right consultancies— provide the chance for team members to consistently innovate and to feel the significance of their work.
At TheoremOne, we think critically about the problems experienced by our client and create solutions for them. Solutions can range from product creation to process changes and anything in between. The important thing is to understand the full scope of the problem, apply innovative approaches, and deliver on a solution that meets everyone’s needs. To be a part of such a team is an empowering and inspiring experience—ideal for any candidate looking to find the right balance of innovation, growth and stability.