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by Cathy Vandewater | April 14, 2011


Crain's #1 place to work for in New York City, ZocDoc, sheds some light on what it's like to work for a start up—and why beer pong is vital to employee satisfaction.

"Culture fit is huge for us," says Ben Sussman, an applications engineer at ZocDoc. "We're all dressed up like crazy idiots—we're about to have a beer pong contest for the non-techies. For the techies, we're willing to take a slightly less zany culture. But for the engineering team especially, we're zany people, we like to have fun."

As he says this, Sussman is dressed up in a surgeon's uniform, complete with gloves and mask, at the NYC Startup Job Fair. His booth is by far getting the most attention, in part because of the eye-catching costumes, but also thanks to the beer pong, and the algorithm contest—which awards passers with $100.

Less than 5% of contestants pass the very difficult test, Sussman estimates—but those that do get an interview. Sound tough? Actually getting hired is much harder. "I think the last time we did the math, it's something like 500 to 1," founder Nick Ganju says. "For every 500 applicants we hire 1 person."

ZocDoc is in a luckier position than most startups—since being named Crain's top company to work for in the New York City area last year, the company is sought-after enough be picky. But even the company thinks it's been singled out for characteristics many startups have in common—and ZocDoc representatives sang the praises of small, young companies everywhere. Here's why they think startups are the best places to work:

Work Hard, Play Harder

Sussman says his company can be picky about hiring because they want all employees to be able to participate in the geeky conversations—and want to continue them after most people call it a day. "We really want to make it so that people feel comfortable at work, and that so when people come to work, they don't want to leave," he says.

Culturally, it's also a little different than your dad's company too. "We work really hard, we write a lot of software all the time… but we drink a lot of beer, too," says Sussman. "We listen to a lot of Kanye West."

You can make an impact:

Sussman once worked for a software giant, and says the corporate bottlenecks turned him off of big companies. "There were so many problems—the products moved slowly, there was bureaucracy everywhere I turned," he remembers. And coworkers didn't geek out on their jobs. "People didn't have a passion […] they just wanted to get their products done and go home."

The difference at a start up, he says, is that you're close to the product—and its success—making it a much more satisfying experience. "To to be able to show your friends 'I built that' […] It's not like oh, I built this small corner of Amazon web service that manages the big table scale […] blah blah blah. It's, this is the page I built; I designed the databases," he says.

Being so integral to the team translates to a real sense of pride and importance, too. "It's really cool to be able to tell people that I'm so important at this company; this company really feel strongly about me because I'm the 35th employee," Sussman says. "I have to be good, otherwise the company's not going to do so hot."

You'll have room to grow

Most of Sussman's team is under the age of thirty—and no one suffers a lack of responsibility because of it. "In a team of ten, there's so much work to do that I work for a huge portion of the site," Sussman says. His work at ZocDoc has been a great jump start to his skills—and his career. "Every page, I have had my hand in," Sussman says. "And not only that, I also work on new products, on different features of the ZocDoc framework […] I'm able to learn a lot about different fields […] I'm only 24 years old I've already started my own company. In a startup, I'm able to learn so much per day. There's no question."


Filed Under: Job Search
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