What should be my career path in the corporate if I wanted to become an entrepreneur in the future?


I am currently working in a multinational company and leaning towards a leadership role in the short term. However, I am realizing that the corporate ladder is not for me and wanted to created something and leave a legacy and achieve something to contribute. If the opportunity as an entrepreneur is not yet there, I would still need to do a good job in my current role. My question is what should be the path that I should be taking in the present job to prepare me as an entrepreneur and a future business. Should I apply for more leadership role? Some say pursue your passion but I still in the pursuit of my passion. Any advice is appreciated.

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asked Oct 12 '11 at 02:33
21 points

6 Answers


It sounds like you have had some good exposure already but get an understanding of what it means to do each of the key jobs marketing, sales, tech development, support, PR, management. This will help you when working with your own team when understanding their specific issues and frame of reference. Take note of the complains/views each group have about each other. If you can smoothe these out in your own company you will make it run much better.

If you can get a deep technical understanding in an area, be the expert this will help shape your vision and give others comfort in the direction you want to take them.

Build up contacts along the way, the more people you know and have been out drinking with the better.

Build up your online presence, twitter and a blog about the area your likely to startup in, lots of contacts on linked in etc.

Practice with advertising on Facebook, google, etc just something small to get your head around it and around the analytics.

Write down your ideas, refine them and throw most of them away, eventually you will hit one that sticks with you.

answered Oct 12 '11 at 10:35
Robin Vessey
8,394 points


Good question.

Do what you like most and learn/know what others/other teams are doing. The best advice I received was "be nosy". Ask "what are you working on?" in order to keep sight of the big picture and how the divisions and roles interconnect.

answered Oct 12 '11 at 02:58
41 points


I would ask yourself whether or not this leadership role will get you the skills you need to pursue whatever your business dream is. If it's just going to be you starting out, will leadership skills really be necessary?

I did a stint for a large Fortune 250 company in application development, and it turned out to be a great opportunity to learn new technical skills and hone my existing ones by working with teammates who were far more talented and experienced than I was. And it's not like I was focused solely on development work; I gained plenty of project management experience as well.

When looking at any position, I would try and put it in terms of technical skills growth, management/leadership experience, and networking opportunities. Which is going to be more important to you personally, and by extension since it'll likely just be you, your startup?

answered Oct 12 '11 at 04:16
1,156 points


I wish you had given your background - it's vital for questions like these and makes it more relevant for others reading later.

Anyway, I was in that role till a few months back. I've worked at Fortune 500/100 cellular/semiconductor companies with Fortune 100/500 clients. My path went from technologist to handling clients/client accounts. I've a MS as well as an MBA. I'm now working on bootstrapping my own tech-finance company. That background is just for context of what I say next.

If you have a tech background: Especially tech creation, then switch tracks to (best) marketing or sales (2nd choice). You will be really powerful with a tech + marketing background. If you're not making stuff (engineering) nor selling stuff (sales/marketing) - then you're a support person in a back office role (eg. HR or Finance) . Those have no place in a startup. So hone your skills on making "stuff" or selling "stuff". Also, when making the switch to marketing, it's ok to switch sub-industries that you'd normally avoid as a developer. Example: from server security software development to marketing bluetooth headsets. It's the marketing experience you need, so you may need to compromise somethings to make that development -> marketing switch before you do the marketing -> entrepreneur switch

If you're in marketing: Try creating something out of existing technology frameworks or read up about technology that you'll be using. You would still need a CTO or engineers to build the actual product, but you won't be clueless when making decisions early on. Plus if you're clueless, you won't be able to outsource this or find the right folks to help you. The only time you can afford to be technically absent is if you already have a know-all CTO (with skin in the game) to fill that gap. By "Already have a CTO" I mean you've identified them, have an agreement in place - not "I'll find them when its right"

What to do till you start your company?

  • Save up!!! There is no way I could have bootstrapped my own company without carefully saving over many years. This way, you're already working on the company (financing the capital) without really quitting your day job.
  • Try doing both in parallel. Moonlight for your own company. Try reducing as much risk as possible without quitting. Quit only when the startup workload becomes "too much" (i.e. health takes a toll or wife/family/friends notice you're too busy to maintain healthy relationships). Do check your employment contract first and avoid using your employer's resources like pen/paper/cellphone/laptop/internet at work/etc - ever.
  • Have a plan, at least a basic business plan. Of course, well thought out excel models or a slick presentations are great. But even a plan offering answers to basic questions like "How does the dollar flow through my business?" or "My total costs are X% less than my total sales revenue" or "Customers will hand me their hard earned money because _ _ " will be useful.
  • Reflect on yourself. You will have strengths and weaknesses. Reflect on how the business plan fits with you the way you are. Think what gaps you need to fill in yourself and what partners you might need for other gaps that you cannot fill.
  • Think about your your spouse/family. Give her/him about 6 months notice instead of shocking them (too late) or keeping them jittery (too early).
answered Oct 12 '11 at 04:44
649 points
  • I had a 4 years course in Electronics and Communications Engineering. My career progression is from Sales Specialist, Product Development, and Customer Support & Supervisory, Project Management and currently Service Delivery Management. My passions and interests included wellness and nutrition, Time Management, fitness sports. I enjoyed an earlier hobby in electronics, car tinkering, and working with tools. I volunteered to work and be part of a youth organization and wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. Self improvement and personal growth. I am interested in Public Speaking. – User614 12 years ago
  • Cool-so you're already cross pollinating engineering and marketing. For me I did both for 8 months till I noticed my social ties were strained. I noticed a sense of regret of not offering my resignation earlier (excellent employer relationship btw). I started dreaming of finishing specific tasks (for my company) while at work for my employer! I was agonizing to get done at 'work', to come home and do some work! While there is usually a "worst time", there is NEVER a "good time". So I'll hand you off to http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html ... – Sid 12 years ago


How would Steve Jobs answer this question? He never graduated college, and obviously was not cut out for the corporate world.

I worked in the corporate world and found it wasn't for me. I felt a definite lack of freedom to try new things, learn new things in new areas. I was kind of stuck in my role. The only way out was UP, and that was a battle that strained my self respect and integrity.

When you're an entrepreneur, you HAVE to learn about EVERYTHING, become a jack of all trades, especially if funding is limited. You really have to use your brain, because those regular paychecks are not coming anymore, like they are in corporate. There's a lot of security in that world.

Then again, I'm no Steve Jobs.

When you're old, and your kids are at your bedside, I doubt that they would ever say, "...and dad one of the memories we value most is how you left early and came home late as you were fighting your way up the corporate ladder."

Time is so limited. What could you really learn working for big business that you couldn't learn faster going for your dreams as an entrepreneur? Think of how much you could accomplish out, on your own, instead of managing other executives and towing the company line?

Tough question to answer.

answered Oct 12 '11 at 04:57
128 points
  • Thanks for the great comment JFW. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. – User614 12 years ago
  • Are you saying that the kids would see their dad more if he does startups/is an entrepreneur? That is naive in the extreme. – Tim J 12 years ago


Consider communicating with your employer about your future plans. This worked very well for me: the leaders at my company are excited about my entrepreneurial interest, and have made arrangements for me to participate in various areas of the business so I can build up the skills that I lack.

answered Oct 12 '11 at 09:14
383 points

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