Which engineering workplace culture is right for you?

Which engineering workplace culture is right for you?

Imagine this: You turn up for your first day at your new engineering job, only to find that your casual attire doesn’t blend in with your colleagues’ expensive suits. Your clear backpack is a far cry from everyone’s leather briefcases. And your preferred way of working—listening to your favorite music—is simply “not done.”

This kind of “fish out of water” scenario usually has a happy ending in Hollywood movies. But in real life, things can be quite different. And that’s why it’s so important to know what kind of workplace culture is right for you when you’re looking for a new job. In “9 Ways to Build a Great Engineering Culture,” Alex Salazar shows how, while every culture should be different based on the team’s strategy, there are common elements for engineering found in the very best teams.

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture — also referred to as “organizational culture” — encompasses the values, beliefs, and behaviors people share in the workplace. According to Susan M. Heathfield in her article titled “Culture: Your Environment for People at Work” for The Balance, it has an impact on language, symbols, stories, decision making, and daily work practices. 

It’s important to consider workplace culture during your job search. Why? Because an environment where you feel welcomed, at ease, and encouraged to do your best is conducive to your overall performance and productivity, as well as your happiness. In his article, “How to Build an Engineering Culture that Focuses on Impact,” Edmond Lau discusses how engineers make tradeoffs that can depend strongly on the values behind a company’s culture. Consider reading the Forbes article, “Why Your Engineering Culture Can Make Or Break Your Company” for more quick insight.

In contrast, if you feel like an outsider and don’t have the support you need, it can be detrimental to your performance and career—not to mention your mental, physical, and financial health. As Sujith Nair notes in the article, ”Focus on Culture When Building an Engineering Culture,” there’s a direct correlation between a successful engineering culture and the success of the company.

What type of workplace culture is right for you?

Although every company has its own unique workplace culture, experts state that there are various main types. In their FastCompany article titled “Three Types of Work Culture and How to Hire for Each of Them,” David Rock and Khalil Smith list three distinct types: 

  • The entrepreneurial culture, where employees are expected to work autonomously, with little to no supervision. People who do well in this kind of environment are independent, resourceful, and focused. They possess the ability to set goals, make plans for achieving them, and execute those plans effectively. 

  • The collaborative culture, where high value is placed on collaboration. You’ll succeed in this environment if you enjoy teamwork, place the team’s success before your own, and are clear on how you contribute. You’ll also need good communication and interpersonal skills. 

  • The changing culture, where employees need to be driven, adaptable, and resilient in order to help the company navigate a transitional period. This is a good fit if you’re agile, have a growth mindset, and are able to turn negatives into positives.

If you’re not sure about a company’s workplace culture during the hiring process, simply ask the recruiter or hiring manager for more insights. Then, by combining what you’ve just learned about the different types of culture with your knowledge of your own values and beliefs, you’ll be in a better position to accept a job in an environment where you can thrive. 

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