Working At A Start Up As A Self-Taught Techie

Learning is embedded in the everyday lifestyle of a self-taught techie. In fact, learning comes everywhere we go. With learning comes reflection. With reflection, comes action for moving forward and improving.

In concurrence with the thematics of career changes, there are a handful of things I have learned and reflected on that I would like to share by working at a start-up.

This post relates to:

  • Newbie's starting their junior role in a start-up

  • Career changers looking for some tips & tricks in the start-up life

  • Advice for working in a Start-up

  • Insight for working at a Start-up

  • Just for knowledge; a thought catalog.

In no particular order:

1. Be Challenged & Learn Everyday

Life is a craft and in order to build your best craft, you need to sharpen your tools.

Start-ups are always about rapid growth, challenging the norm, pushing you to get out of your comfort zone.

The start-up culture is all about embracing new ideas, adopting new technologies, and constant change.

What does this all mean?

Simply put, embracing challenging moments, growth, and learn daily

Over time, learning will become a lifestyle and not something we tick off the 'to-do' list.

2. Ask Questions

Looking back on my entire experience in formal education, I have probably asked more questions during my time at a startup than my entire experience in formal education.

Depending on your role in your team, everyone in the company has something valuable to offer. While you may or not be a particular expert in your company's service or product, there is always something out there that is worth asking.

The ubiquitous phrase that was constantly reiterated during school growing up, "there's no such thing as stupid question" remains relevant to this day.

It's all about getting out there, asking questions, and working together as a team to share ideas to work towards a common goal.

As Michael Jordan stated:

"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships."

Regardless of your role, asking questions will enhance your performance and knowledge for your working and personal morale.

If you're a career changer and new to the whole technology environment altogether, here are my suggestions I find particularly useful and worth asking:

Question about the workflow and strategy behind decisions at your organization.

What are some ways you can grow in your new role, the flexibility of roles and ways you can better contribute to your team and company?

How does the particular sales process works, the techniques used by the Customer Success, Sales, and Product team?

Even more so, getting involved in multi-disciplinary teams and their functions. For instance, the basics of coding in the Engineering team or the graphic design process by the Design team.

The world is your oyster here, there is no right or wrong question.

3. Be Like Water

We live in an age confronted by digital transformation and technological advancement. While things seem to be moving at the speed of light, there is one constant that has gone without saying.


Change is the constant and forefront of the technological era.

Leading us to adapt to change.

If I were to choose an element, I would be water. H20 to go!

As Start-Ups are young and open to trying new things, things can often be changing at a faster rate than normal.

It is important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

To survive the game, you have to be fluid and adaptable to the constant change that is happening in this millennial era.

Science has also backed this.

In the theory of adaption in biology, Charles Darwin proposed that the species that survive the longest is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent, but it is the one that is most adaptable to change.

I encourage you to be forward with change, open with the change, and make a mental note that you will be mentally and emotionally challenged every day.

My advice? Normalizing this thought will make all the waves coming your way, easy and tasty like cake.

4. Regular Mentoring 1:1 Sessions Are Vital For Professional & Personal Growth

Having the opportunity to engage in 1 on 1's with a mentor or manager was one of the greatest initiatives I have participated in my career thus far.

Being able to engage in an open discussion weekly does more wonders than you think. A two-way conversation about progress, feedback, concerns, and overall observing changes and monitoring progress is essential for continued growth, professional and personal.

Your manager has too many meetings and always seems 'busy'?

Avoid putting yourself at a disadvantage by thinking that way.

Sometimes it is best to make the first move or take the initiative to organize meetings and mentoring sessions with your manager. In the end, you will gain the most out of it.

Which leads me to the next point.

5. Taking Initiative

The formula for learning is incomplete if one does not take the initiative to be continuously curious and do more.

This is a lesson in life where inspiration and motivation to learn comprises the first half of the equation, but demonstrating the initiative and desire to learn completes it.

In conjunction with the above point, taking the initiative to organize meetings, 1-on-1 feedback sessions, all in all, you have everything to gain.

6. MESSY - Organized Mess

Start-ups are young, highly ambitious & innovative. At the same time they are passionate about digital transformation and disruptive technologies in the market.

Having said this, they also come with multiple nuances, just like any organization.

Remember, start-ups are not like your traditional companies. Unstructured documents, convoluted workflows, unnecessarily complex yet somehow made sense processes in the use of software to collaborate.

From my experience, there was a sense of an organized mess in the use of the tech stack used in the company, from one collaborative tool to another, jumping from structure to unstructuredness. In a sense it was an organized mess.

Synonymously you find yourself jumping from one platform to another, just to complete one simple task.

Yet we continued our days, overtime rendered senseless to the unnecessary complexities, ensuring we complete our work which was the main thing.

Is there a better way to do things?

Hell yeah.

This is the start-up world.


My natural sense of working lifestyle comprises of an equal balance between strong collaboration within a driven team, but also appreciating the beauty of working autonomously.

With a culture embracing strong autonomy, working at a start-up taught me to assess my own risk, taking responsibility for the tasks I carry out, taking ownership of the initiatives, and mistakes I make.

It didn't matter if a mistake was bound to occur, what was more significant was the character to take ownership of my actions, and what I would do next and do better.

Having a plan and the next course of action was highly appreciated.

Now YOUR turn

As demonstrated in the learnings above, #TheKatieKode is all about pushing your boundaries, inspiring you to BE better and DO better.

Wherever you are and whichever stage you are in your career, what are some learnings you experienced in the last month? Or six months? A year even? There are no boundaries here, I'd love to hear what you learned.

Comment below to share or drop a comment on my Instagram account

Strive For Change Today.

Thrive Better Tomorrow.

Yours truly,