Why I’m choosing to work in a product company instead of consulting (and you should, too)

Olli Mahlamäki

I’m a 37 year-old software developer, and with more than a decade of working experience, I feel I can impart some wisdom on others. This “one person’s opinion” type of blog post is also sort of a letter to a younger me, so hopefully it will be helpful to others.

For the last 2 years, I've worked at Wolt and I think that it not only is the right choice for me now, it's a choice that I should have made several years earlier.

I’ve worked for most of my career in consulting, including 6 years at Futurice and 2 at Reaktor. Both are excellent companies (I would say top 2 software consulting companies in Finland) and great places to work: they truly care about the employees’ well-being, career-progression etc. and all human resources processes are smooth and well ironed out. If you’re considering software consulting work, they are good places to apply to – although this is a bit obvious, kind of like recommending NHL to someone who likes hockey. Yet, for the last 2 years, I’ve worked at Wolt and I think that it not only is the right choice for me now, it’s a choice that I should have made several years earlier. I’ll try to explain why that is. (Note: The initiative and the content for this blog post came 100 % from myself, this is not a Wolt-commissioned mission to change other people’s minds.)

Here’s my experience of a software consultant’s work: you work at a customer – typically a fairly big corporation – that can afford to pay the high rates of good consulting companies. You sit in the customer’s office and work as part of their team. Basically, it’s almost like you work for the customer, with a few exceptions that make it much nicer to work as a consultant: you have an active Slack with different teams where you can bounce ideas around, ask questions and just have fun. You have a company card, and if you want to have a team night or go for beers after work on company dime, you just do it and nobody complains. You might also make a bit more money than the internals. Twice a year, you go on a paid weekend trip to somewhere in Europe and have fun with your coworkers.

All in all, working as a software developer is fairly similar wherever you are.

Now for my experience in a product company: You also sit at the company office and work as part of a team. You can also have team nights on company dime, but you may have to clear it with someone first. At least in a startup, the HR processes may not be as smooth as in a top consulting company, and the paid weekend getaway is just as fun but held in Finland (although it’s during the week, because you don’t have to care about losing valuable billable hours). All in all, working as a software developer is fairly similar wherever you are.

When you go work for a product company, you choose the "project" by choosing the company you work for, so you have so much more power.

So why do I recommend a product company? I would argue that the actual work is the most important part of what makes work enjoyable or not – the team you work with, what you’re building, the technologies used; how much power you have over the end result, do you define what makes sense for the end users, or do what you’re told as a feature factory. That is the 90% that matters – the free stuff and the nice perks make up for the last 10%. As a consultant, what project you work on is more important than which company pays your salary. Sometimes you get a great project, sometimes it’s not all that wonderful, but you get stuck there for a year or two and “rotation” is really difficult (it requires that the customer is sold the idea that they should replace you, someone with plenty of domain knowledge, with someone new – who has none). You also have to hope that someone is willing to take your place. When you go work for a product company, you choose the “project” by choosing the company you work for, so you have so much more power. Looking back to my life as a consultant, if I had been assigned to a project similar to my work at Wolt (leading the courier team, building the Wolt Partner app and related tools), I would have high-fived everyone and considered myself really lucky.

If you are a software consultant and don’t like your current project, consider “rotating” to a product company instead. Experienced developers have plenty of options so think about what you want to do, what companies could match that and then apply to those – recruiting is as much about finding the right company for you as it is about the company finding the right person for the job. I did the above and ended up choosing Wolt, but whatever your choice ends up being, make it yourself rather than letting the sales guy decide for you.

Want to develop our products? Check our job openings at https://wolt.com/jobs.