Between completing my MA and beginning my PhD, I spent a year working in an office for a somewhat sizable, and no longer existent, company called Muze, Inc. Muze was a media/entertainment database company, which compiled technical information on media releases (CDs, DVDs, and books) as well as short blurbs. My time was spent writing those blurbs for new DVDs.
Muze was a fairly large company. There were six people in my department, including myself, and it was one of many. The company took up the entire floor of the building it was housed in, and there were entire parts of the office that I never visited once in the year I was there. I was friendly with the people in my department, but never felt entirely comfortable there – probably due to a combination of the office size and culture, and youthful shyness.
The dynamic at Berghahn is completely different. The company itself is quite small, less than twenty people, split between New York and Oxford. The majority of them are in our Brooklyn office. Since there’s only about a dozen of us in the office, you know everyone personally and establish some sort of relationship with them. The nature of that relationship may vary, of course, but nonetheless it engenders a feeling of togetherness that is much different than a larger company.
Here’s a right to left pan of the office, so you can get an idea of its size. As you can see, it’s not very much room at all for twelve of us:
In a larger office, it’s much easier to show up in the morning, do your work, and leave quickly and anonymously at the end of the day. In a small office like Berghahn, people wonder where you are if you’re late or call in sick. There are conversations that engage the entire office. Everyone’s has a birthday party, and there’s a seasonal outing as well. It’s my impression that these kinds of events are only feasible in a smaller office.
Finally, in a smaller office everyone is much more responsible for their work and to each other. None of the underhandedness or finger-pointing that might drive the academically-inclined away from the business environment happens in a small office. Because you know everyone personally, and hierarchies are much less stringent than in large organizations, no one wants to be the slacker and let others down.
So for those individuals who are seeking a post-academic career and worry about the environment, small offices may be ideal. There’s a stronger sense, from my experience, of togetherness and joint responsibility for company goals. You can see your work pay off in material ways. Given the ambition and work ethic that drove people into academia to begin with, that might be more appealing than the more anonymous large office, where one’s efforts are often less directly rewarded.
I hope that what I’ve written this week has been informative to those who have read it – both post-academics and those who are having doubts about an academic career. See you off campus!