Should I stay or should I go?

17 Nov 2010 - 12:03pm
5 years ago
10 replies
898 reads

I have been out of school and working for 4 years, the last 2 as UX Engineer at a small VC-funded Canadian internet startup (Company A). It's a delightful place to work, conveniently close to where I live, with a good salary and a great CEO who understands and appreciates the design process and generously provides any resources I need.

At the same time, I have been freelancing on the side on non-competing projects (aside: we had a mutual understanding with Company A about this). One of those freelance gigs has been ongoing UX design for an even smaller US startup (Company B). This has been mostly a labour of love. I loved the idea behind it, and also knew the founder, so I did all the work for them remotely and at a discounted rate (in exchange for options in the co.).

At this point in time, both of the products [which I did the design for] have been built and deployed. While they both enjoy good adoption rates, Company B's product has been by all accounts the more successful of the two, and they have just raised additional funding. By contrast, there has been a more subdued atmosphere around the office at company A for the past 2 months, and a lack of clear direction about what we should work on next, now that the original product isn't performing as we expected. There has been endless talks with major companies going on for months, about possible collaborations or selling the product to them, but seemingly to no avail. There has also been a lot of talks about potential products we can build next, but we haven't committed to any of them yet.

Company B, just having received additional funding, made me an offer to become full-time. The new position would be Director, UX, with stock options and a 30% increase in salary. I initially rejected the offer because I was not ready to move to the US, but they still wanted me, and they agreed to me working remotely from my home in Canada. (aside: I only get the benefits if I decide to move there).

It seemed like a logical decision to move; I had freelanced for them for 1.5 years and enjoyed working with the CEO. I let Company A of my decision last week (and told Company B I have accepted their offer).

Now, Company A has come back to me with another offer: promotion to Director, UX with additional stock options, a slightly higher salary than what Company B is offering me. Plus some other perks and I get to keep my health benefits.  The CEO shared my concern for the lack of direction and promised that there will be a change of direction, with an amazing new idea that we are going to be working on (no specifics). He also reminded me of the options I have already vested, and how much I would lose if the product we have built would get acquired.

As you can see, I am faced with a big dilemma:

Should I switch and start [almost] fresh with Company B, working remotely from home, but on a product that I enjoy working on that has enjoyed modest success?

Or Should I continue with the company I have been with for 2 years, accept the slightly-better financial offer, and the promise of exciting things we are going to be working on?

I am having an extremely hard time deciding. I was hoping some of the board members who have switched more careers than me could share their insights. Hopefully this can help other designers who are in a similar situation as well.






18 Nov 2010 - 12:05pm


Not a bad problem to have. Have you given company A everything you
can? If so, draw the line. Move on. It's all about what do you want at
this point on your career, the better money, or the better work.
Whatever you do, do it with respect.


18 Nov 2010 - 7:10pm

There's more to life than money, as any number of people who chased higher incomes in the boom of the mid to late 90s will tell you.

Advice from random strangers who know--really--nothing of your life should be considered dubiously.

19 Nov 2010 - 7:34am

Being "the remote guy" for long periods of time can drive you potty and it won't do your upward mobility any good.

19 Nov 2010 - 2:05pm
Wendy Fischer

My estimation is that if you are a Director of UX, you will not be as effective if you are remote in Canada versus if you are actually in the office of the company and building a team and collaborating with coworkers and doing strategy.

At this point I would say I'd stay with company A if you aren't ready to make the commitment and move to the US where Company B is located. I think that for the long term, I just see it not working out because Company B will want more from you, particularly if you are a Director, as opposed to just a part time freelancer.


19 Nov 2010 - 3:05pm
Rhonda Ranney

My other questions would be: Where would you have the greater opportunity for growth, and where would you have the most creative freedom? A bigger salary is only good for so long, though in this market I understand people still need to eat.

Once again, best of luck. And like earlier stated, not a bad problem to have in this job market.

Rhonda :)

19 Nov 2010 - 3:05pm
Lee Andrese

I've been in staffing for 25+ years. What I share comes from exp. and research that was done some years ago. Today, I'm a UXer in training.

Most people who make a decision to leave a company, accept another offer, then accept a counter offer from the existing employer, typically leave the company within 6 months anyway. In other words, you're more than likely going to leave your current employer within a year.

Do not make a decision based on convenience or frustration. Look at what you stand to gain or lose in both positions/companies, trade offs, and above all, the type of work you'll be doing. What excites you?

If you have reservations about the position in the States, don't take it. Stay where you are until you find something that addresses the majority of your needs. You have options.

Make sense?

19 Nov 2010 - 9:05am
Rhonda Ranney

You mentioned that company A increased your stock options and salary. Company B, if you worked remote you would have no benefits, though freelancing at a discounted rate you currently are buying into stock options.

Would staying with company A, and continuing your remote freelancing work (with stock options) with company B be a win win?  

Best of luck,
Rhonda :)

19 Nov 2010 - 10:05pm

1st, congratulations on being in such an enviable position. Nice to be wanted huh?

Having been in similar positions, I recommend the following:

1) Create a table. Y-column, put top criteria for your professional happiness, in descending order, with most important criteria 1st. E.g. Salary.

X-column, 2 columns, 1 with Company A, 1 with Company B. Then do a comparison: '+' = advantage; '--' = disadvantage. Sample below

Criterium                    Company A  Company B
Salary                       --         +
Title                        +          --
Location/flexibility         +          --
Long-term Growth Potential              
Financial options                       
Product/Idea/Customers       --         +

Fill out & see which company comes out ahead with more '+'.

2) Get an objective, 3rd party opinion on the products of both companies. Do you know any VCs? Are there analyst write-ups for both companies. Company B, in getting a new round of funding, seems to be on a surer footing. Company A's CEO, while a CEO, can't guarantee anything. He/she can be replaced if the product continues to perform poorly.
Maybe call up a few customers from each to get their reviews of the product/company.

3) Also, what would your options be worth in each? Do some rough calc.

4) Check your gut. Which company/culture/people product do you like more? There are no guarantees in life, and no bad choices if you've done the above. One thing always leads to the next. So, do your due diligence, and do a gut check.

Good luck!

-Annie Miu Hayward

20 Nov 2010 - 4:05pm

There is a reason these companies are competing for your services. I am a second year interactive media and web design student in Chicago. I would love some insight on how to be successful and in demand. What are some of the traits and skills that you exhibit and posses that make you stand out from all the other developers and designers? In a sense what makes you good?

30 Nov 2010 - 11:15am

First of all, thanks for all the wonderful feedback. The quality of insights here never ceases to amaze me and I am really delighted to be part of this community.

Here is an update on my situation. In the end, I took Company B's full time offer, and convinced Company A to keep me as a part-time employee. Company A is now working on a product idea that I pitched to them on the day I was supposed to give them a final answer. Coming up with the idea (which came to me out of nowhere!) gave me the extra bit of leverage to convince them on keeping me part-time.

In this new arrangement, I get to try the new experience at Company B, while still getting to work with the great people at Company A. It's going to be a lot of work for me, but I was essentially doing the same workload when it was the other way around. I know I can pull it off and I'm very excited about it.

William, I'm humbled by your question. I can only tell you my personal experience and background. One of the things that has helped me a lot is the technical knowledge I aquired through studying engineering at school. I'm not a programmer, but being able to understand programming concepts and even roughing out a few lines of code has helped me immensely when it comes to communicating and interacting with CTOs and developers. The ability to take the design from the hand-drawn sketch all the way to coded front-end mockups has been a desiarable asset to all my employers. They don't have to hire another person to code the designs into working front-end code.

Of course, what I gained by studying engineering, I lacked the design skills you learn by completing a formal design curriculum. But I tried to make up for that (and continue doing that every day) by reading and learning those design skills on my own. Having a passion for design, and freelancing since high school gave me the perfect opportunity to practice what I learned and hone my design skills.

If you work for smaller startups, your ability to put on multiple hats will also impress your bosses. For example I did some animation work for the demo videos we made for our products. It was not part of my job specs, but it was a great fun project and I learned a lot as well. Everyone appreciates when you go beyond what you're originally asked to do (as long as you can do it well).

In the end what it comes down to is really this: hard work!! Use your time in school to work on as many projects as you can (not just the ones you have to do for your courses). And don't shy away from learning stuff they don't teach you at school on your own. Mastering html/css/javascript will give you a real edge. Good luck with whatever you do.

And once again, big thanks to everyone for their advice and insights.




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