7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Work at Atomic

Recently, I wrote a post about Why I Love Working at Atomic. In the spirit of transparency, I also want to share a few reasons you might not want to work at Atomic. As a disclaimer, I have only worked in consulting at Atomic. The examples below may be specific to Atomic, consulting, the role of a Delivery Lead, or a combination of these.

Let’s start with some basics. You shouldn’t work at Atomic if…

…You want to work fully remote

Atomic values in-person collaboration. Despite the massive shift we’ve seen towards remote work, Atomic is still a hybrid work environment. They’ve managed to create a place people want to show up to and be together. Even as a homebody, I can’t deny that I see and experience the benefits of in-person work.

…You don’t like interacting with people regularly

Every Atom is a client relationship manager. If you are looking to be left alone while working the majority of the time, Atomic likely isn’t for you. You’ll pair with your coworkers and demo to clients. You will have critical conversations with your co-workers, manager, and clients. And don’t think that because you are just an intern or Accelerator you are exempt. You need good communication skills and a drive to flex your people skills.

…You are looking to float

Life comes in different seasons. In some seasons, we are looking to challenge ourselves mentally, lean into learning new skills, or increase our income. Other times, we might focus on job flexibility, reducing the cognitive demand we experience at work, or seeking less dynamic work. All are okay. However, there isn’t a role at Atomic that allows you to float along. It requires effort and an almost constant willingness to be challenged to work in the unknown. Know yourself and where you are at.

Now, let’s get a bit more specific about the nature of our work. You shouldn’t work at Atomic if…

…You want to work in a specific lane

Atoms are generalists, so ask yours if you want to work with a specific tech stack. Do you want to work in a specific sector of the industry? Is there a particular problem or issue you want to contribute to solving? If any of these apply to you and you want to be doing that now, you might want to look somewhere else. At Atomic, you will be staffed on various projects from diverse sectors and ranging in team size, duration, technical needs, and scale.

…You want to work with a product throughout its lifecycle

If you value getting involved in the entire lifecycle of a product, you likely won’t get to experience that at Atomic. Projects range from a few weeks to a few years. Most often, we onboard for a specific job, and when it is over, we move on to something else. We do get recurring clients, but it isn’t guaranteed that you will be staffed again with them. This can be great for folks who want exposure to a variety of clients, industries, and technical challenges.

Lastly, let’s look at personal success. You shouldn’t work at Atomic if…

…You want to go into traditional management

Officially, Atomic has a very horizontal structure but there is some amount of hierarchy. We do, have: team leads (Delivery Leads, Designers, Tech Leads, QA), Practice Leads, Career Development Managers, and Managing Partners. That being said, if you are looking to be a Design, Development, or Delivery Manager, you won’t really find that here.

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a manager! We’ve seen examples with our Chicago and Raleigh offices of how folks from a variety of roles can move into management if they desire to. Just note, you’ll likely be running an office:)

And if you are someone looking for a command and control environment, this is definitely not a good fit.

…You want a clearly-defined path to success

One of the biggest learning curves I had when starting at Atomic was how self-directed EVERYTHING was. No manager is looking over your shoulder telling you what to do. No rubric defines what success looks like. There’s no protocol of how to get to the result. Most things are fuzzy. Most things require a lot of critical thinking, self-awareness, and creative problem-solving.

Heck, even projects aren’t clearly defined and are almost constantly changing. Yes, things clarify over time (with lots of feedback), but they’re often nebulous at the start. You need to be self-directed and exercise good judgment on how to use time responsibly.

Closing thoughts

Atomic isn’t for everyone. But knowing what you want now and in the near future can help you make a more informed decision while considering Atomic. Similarly, I hope folks just starting at Atomic will consider some of the challenges of working here. Hopefully, this can help them manage these better and find more success.

Note: Some of these have been my personal experiences, others I’ve observed. To my fellow Atoms, what did I get right? What did I miss? What has been different for you?

Looking for more articles to help you understand what it’s like working at Atomic? Check out Working at Atomic, 25 Reasons I Love Being an Atom!, and Reflections on the Atomic Accelerator, a Two-Year Retrospective.


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