What’s it like working at an early-stage startup?


By Carina Ly

Before attending Stanford, I had very little knowledge of the startup world. However, after taking MS&E 472 (Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders’ Seminar) and MS&E 178 (The Spirit of Entrepreneurship) last year, I learned a lot about the business models and fast-paced dynamics in a startup environment. As a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career and was open to trying new roles, but didn’t find any job postings that exactly allowed me to explore my wide variety of interests.

One day, I was browsing LinkedIn and came across Refactr, a Seattle-based startup in the cybersecurity and DevOps sector. Having had some experience and interest in marketing from being a part of Stanford WiCS, I decided to reach out and apply for an internship position. A couple of weeks later, I got an offer and started working in July 2020.

Working at Refactr was definitely an important experience for my personal growth and career development. Having interned for a big-tech company the previous summer, working at a startup gave me the chance to make a sizable impact on the company in a short amount of time. In general, startups put a lot of responsibility on their employees and expect for them to help out in any way they can, even if it’s outside the job description. In my case, I was originally hired as a Marketing & Social Media Intern. But because I had some background in Computer Science, I eventually transitioned to writing technical documentation for their software. Especially since startups are structured to have no middle management, I had the chance to work directly with the co-founders and senior engineers of the company, so I was truly learning from the best employees within the organization.

At the beginning of my internship, I was given a week to familiarize myself with the cybersecurity industry and learn about the company’s niche product for IT teams and software developers. Afterwards, my manager let me explore different areas of a company and the business development field. For example, I wrote a blog post about the famous Conway’s Law in regards to DevOps companies and published it on a cybersecurity news website, which increased the perception of the startup’s industry expertise for readers. I also worked on expanding brand awareness by conceiving and executing two new social media campaigns for the company. For a few weeks, I also helped increase opportunities to capture marketing and sales qualified leads by conducting user research and mocking up strategic website designs on Figma. As one can tell, I was working on a variety of tasks that both helped me find my career interests and positively impacted the company.

All in all, I learned a lot from working at Refactr and enjoyed having the opportunity to work on real-world challenges that I know will benefit the company as a whole. If you’re hungry to learn about the latest tech and explore different parts of a company, then there’s truly nothing like working at a fast-growing startup to accelerate your career.

Carina Ly is a sophomore at Stanford studying Computer Science, with a concentration in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and Economics. If you have any questions about Stanford or working at a startup, reach out to her at: carinaly@stanford.edu



Stanford Women in Computer Science

Stanford Women in Computer Science is a student organization that aims to promote and support the growing community of women in CS and technology.