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Why do you want to work at one of the big 4 tech companies? Software engineering is a very big field, you don't need to be really good at solving coding puzzles on a whiteboard to be a good developer. Hell, there are developers who do nothing but set up wordpress sites for their clients, and they're providing a needed, valuable service.

You can work as a web dev at a small company without being part of the mainstream silicon valley rat race. Sysadmin-type skills are pretty hard to hire for, and very useful at small companies. It sounds like you've got that going for you. I'd change your definition of success and focus on finding a job at a company with a culture you'd enjoy, and not worry so much about its perceived prestige.

As someone who used to work for a not-so-technical large consulting firm, it pains me to hear newcomers wanting to work for the "Big 4" in tech.

The reason why accounting, banking, consulting need their Big Four / Big Three is because it's hard to measure what their people actually do, so they rely on joining a big firm to reflect their worth.

In software engineering, you should be able to describe to someone in tangible terms what you've worked on in the past 3-6 months and what value it's brought to the company (and if you can't, start writing that down because you should always be ready to discuss that with recruiters or your boss when you want a raise). Because of that, we don't need the prestige of a namebrand company when we jump to the next job.

You should ask yourself why you'd want to join a Big 4 and if it's actually necessary. If it's for potential entrepreneurial connections, I can assure you that there are plenty of startup founders that are doing fine without the Google name. If it's for technical challenges, all companies have their own issues. You may not be working at Google scale, but trust me even with 5000 customers, there are still scaling problems that need to be solved for that particular case. And if you just want to work with smart people, they're everywhere. The company I work at was bought an East Coast company (outside SV!) and their engineering team are doing infrastructure things heaps better than we were.

This is an extremely humbling field and regardless of where you work, there's always something to be learned.

As a counterpoint, the prestige of the big 4 can be helpful going from a software engineer to a technical co-founder role. Investors like seeing external validation with that kind of weight.

While I can't speak about investors, I personally know of one highly-respected niche company that seriously favors candidates who have one of the "big 4" on their resume (AmaMagaGooBookSoft or whatever they're calling it these days). Ironically enough, a widely-recognized position at a major tech company unfortunately can be a stepping stone that gets you in the door at a place you actually want to work long-term. People are generally really bad at hiring.

It's kind of funny that a position at one of those companies is now the new mark of prestige instead of a college degree or something. Shows how far the university has fallen.

> Shows how far the university has fallen.

Does it? Unless things have changed, graduates of elite universities are disproportionately represented at the AppAmaGooBookSoft companies. It seems more accurate to say that those companies play a similar role to HBS and Yale Law.

>While I can't speak about investors, I personally know of one highly-respected niche company that seriously favors candidates who have one of the "big 4" on their resume (AmaMagaGooBookSoft or whatever they're calling it these days).

Is it Valve?

I wonder why, since Valve's way of working is very different from the way big companies traditionally work

... yes, lol.

When was that ever the case?

Even back before Google existed, having MS on your resume would open doors at software companies.

Google has always been a gold star.

But it isn't instead of universities, it is as well as. Stanford/MIT/etc will have the same effect.

The weird thing is not that working at big-name companies is impressive, it's that it's essentially a pre-requisite for some employers. The promise of higher education is that it will prepare you to take the best jobs in the industry. It's supposed to be the primary credential. That something is becoming the critical factor in employment means that universities are losing and/or have lost their status as the baseline qualification.

Maybe it shows how little I know, but I think Valve and other companies who do this are doing themselves a disservice by basically using Google's recruiting department as a passthrough (and, as an autodidact programmer, I feel essentially the same about people who put it all on educational pedigree -- this isn't an endorsement of the baseline credential, just an acknowledgement that what constitutes it is shifting). It feels like an admission that they don't know how to hire, so they're effectively offloading that responsibility onto companies whom they believe have thorough vetting processes.

Yeah, I agree and briefly hinted at that with entrepreneurial connections. It's the same thing as going to a prestigious school. I'm not going to discredit the benefits; it just means you gotta hustle harder if you didn't get in.

Also the Big 4 are changing every few years. Is Twitter still considered part of that group?

Was Twitter ever part of that group? I thought it was Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.

Last time I heard the expression it was Netscape, Oracle, IBM and Sun (vs Microsoft). I wonder how the OP would feel about working for one of them now.

+ Apple

Everyone always says four, yet swap Apple and Microsoft... This is apparently for historical reasons—there's always been a "big four" since the Great War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Four

It's clearly currently five. In order of market cap: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon. Note that these are now the five biggest publicly traded companies in the world, not merely in "tech" (a clearly archaic categorization).

I was about to write that you are wrong because how could Facebook and Amazon be on that list. But you are right. All oil and gas, conglomerates, pharmaceutical, financial services, electronics, retail, commodities, telecommunication, utility and automotive companies that crowded the list until recently have been displaced by IT companies. It is truly stunning.

The reason people typically don't include Apple is because they are diversified out of software, whereas Google/FB/Amazon/MS are all software tech companies.

This isn't exactly a strong line though, since all are at least diversified into things outside software.

Nevertheless, that was the original reasoning.

The other side of that is my experience: as a developer for a non-tech company, you're in a cost centre, constantly fighting for funding and (if you want it) recognition.

You forgot one: for a steady and very large salary.

Is the benefit of big four not high salary and great benefits? Google consistently ranks as the top company to work for.

Salaries are definitely high in the big companies, but compensation isn't everything. And rankings for best workplaces don't include smaller companies who don't have time to apply for those rankings.

Your points are valid, but they're not the complete picture. Otherwise we'd all be clamoring for jobs at Googlezonsoft, but as sentiment shows in this thread; that's not the case.

My main point was to emphasize that it's possible to find job satisfaction outside of the big companies and that one has to question and determine if a big company would be a good fit, or is it purely an ego thing.

I think I made a mistake in specifying that I'd like to work at a big4 company. Sure, the prestige and the open doors that come with it are nice, but I'm much more interested in the type of people that these companies attract. I've found that I work best and learn the most when I'm around highly successful people in highly challenging environments. In my (admittedly limited) experience, some of the best engineers I know work at these companies. I want nothing more than to be able to work with people like this while solving interesting problems. If that means I work at a big4 company, great. If it means I get to work at a startup, even better; I've done a startup of my own and been a part of another that made a very successful exit.

The main point point I tried to get across (somewhat unsuccessfully) is that I need to work in an environment with a passionate, hard-working, highly-capable team in order to justify the time I have spent (and will spend) on software engineering.

The main impediment I've found in turning this goal into a reality is the technical interview. The way I see it, I either improve and make it happen, or I don't and move onto something else.

Judging from this comment, I would say you lack confidence. Recruiters and interviewers can see this coming from a mile away. Perhaps, you are trying to jump up the proverbial software engineering ladder to fast...

I would highly recommend you read the book: Decode and Conquer. I would also recommend Cracking the Coding Interview and Cracking the PM Interview. If you can solve those problems on a white board, you can pass a technical SE interview.

I would also suggest you:

1. Work on a problem for a few minutes and try to solve it. If you can't, look at the solution and understand how the solution was derived. Go back and solve the problem again. You are not finished here. Go back a few days later and work on the same problem - repeating this several times a week. Over time, you will grow more confident and can quickly recall concepts that are potentially causing you to perform poorly on your technical interviews.


Couldn't have put this any better! Stop being hard on yourself and just focus on learning. You don't need to work at a "big 4" SV to amount to a lot. Look at glass door... Plenty of people leave them for similar reasons to why people leave "non-big 4" companies. Just focus on your own skills, build things you enjoy, and push on. Happy to talk more personally via email if you'd like.

I remember doing just this when first wanting to get a foot through the door... Offered to take on the task of building a website. I did just that and would go on to maintain, secure, and add new features for over a year.

The one thing I wish had been made clear to me beforehand was understanding just how little the non-tech and business savy people knew about what we do. As such, despite how much of a positive impact I had, my pay was not even close to what it should have been (first-year photographers were making more than me). It was a constant battle to explain why certain time was needed to complete various tasks, as well as why I was putting in the hours I had.

When I finally managed to get out of there, feeling underappreciated, it was THEN my once boss realized how lucky he had been. Nobody would come and work for the same pay while being asked to do all that I had done.

So be careful and at the very least prepare yourself if trying to go into smaller companies and businesses.

Well, I agree with your contentions on "finding a job at a company with a culture [I'd] enjoy." However, I'm finding that even these companies put their applicants through all of the algorithmic hoops that the big guys do. At this point, I feel like not being good at check interviews seriously limits my options.

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