I've recently joined a medical robotics startup as an Embedded Software Engineer after working for four years in large organizations in the wireless and semiconductor domain. I'm grateful for the full-time role and have already started contributing positively.
I have taken the initiative in documenting processes and setting standards, which my manager appreciates. However, my curiosity about the business side led me to arrange brief interviews with all employees, including the CEO. This was well-received by the engineering team, but caused concerns with the non-engineering staff, leading to a reprimand for inappropriate conduct.
Previously, I endured a difficult experience as a contractor with non-technical managers who were dissatisfied with my work despite my hard efforts, failing to convert me to full-time. I now find myself in a better situation but am still haunted by past experiences and need guidance to navigate this new environment.
Could you provide advice on how to integrate into the startup culture and reconcile my curiosity for learning with appropriate professional conduct? How can I heal from past trauma while embracing new challenges and opportunities in my current role?
Sorry to hear you went through this - It's... weird. I don't think it makes sense for you to get punished for talking to non-engineering folks and wanting to learn more. I feel like this is good behavior? Maybe leadership wants different pillars to be more siloed or something.
Could you provide advice on how to integrate into the startup culture and reconcile my curiosity for learning with appropriate professional conduct?
Going forward, I think you should just ask your manager for permission when reaching out to folks outside of your org. I wouldn't overthink it.
When it comes to succeeding in a startup, I recommend these:
How can I heal from past trauma while embracing new challenges and opportunities in my current role?
What's done is done - There's no need to dwell on it. fwiw, I personally think you did a good thing, and if you learned a lot of valuable information you can apply to level up your own impact, be proud of yourself for it!
+1 to Alex's advice. It's nothing personal.
Some added thoughts & a couple practical suggestions as someone with a "glue person" personality, so you can learn from this faster than I did without thinking you need to change yourself:
When others don't see your role as a "glue person" role, questions outside of your daily tasks can feel like someone is usurping their responsibilities or undermining their value to the company or like you're shrugging off your own tasks.
Sometimes it is an unintended effect of the delivery style, or a difference in team culture, or folks who are sensitive from previous experiences in different ways.
It can take time to be culturally embedded and accepted into a workplace, especially if you're cross-functional and there's historical friction between pillars or teams that you might not be fully aware of.
I don't know what your reprimand looked like, but one of my favorite supervisors in college would word such feedback as, "FYI this is how that's received, but also don't do that again." Maybe it can take some of the sting off to internally reframe your feedback that way too.
I hope that over time, management & non-engineering teams come to see that you're genuinely inquisitive out of love of learning, but even if it doesn't, I hope you find a pace of work that you can enjoy & find other ways to scratch that itch! Maybe you can keep a running list of questions you have that don't block you from doing the bare minimum at work, and then update it when you get the answers indirectly, and/or bring them to your manager towards the end of check-ins.
Thanks for the prompt responses, I really appreciate it. I think 'reprimand' might be a strong word; it was more a point of guidance. Your insights have been enlightening, and I feel more equipped to navigate my new environment. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.