First and foremost, I am excited to officially announce that about a month ago I started working at Collective Idea. Collective Idea is made up of an awesome set of folks based in Michigan with a handful of us working remotely around the country. The company impressed me from the get-go with their interview process focused around pairing and getting to know me as an individual, the folks on their team that constantly highlighted the importance of work/life balance and provided numerous examples of when the company ensured that people and their families came first, and their desire and openness to individuals taking iniative to step up and see areas of improvement within Collective Ideas processes and structure.
I accepted an offer at Collective Idea a full three weeks before my actual start date. At first I thought that was great! I would actually have some time and space to get things done! And at first it was great… until I started thinking about my new position. That’s when the doubts started creeping in… will they fire me in the first 20 minutes of my first day? What if they’re disappointed in my abilities? What if I can’t deliver what they’re hoping I can? Not to mention the fact that I’ve never worked in a consultancy before so didn’t really know what to expect.
Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve been at the company for over a month now and I’m still employed! I think I’m adding value and hope that I’m seen as a good hire. But that got me thinking… being new is hard! I honestly (and almost laughably) thought that after I had my first developer position, all other job starts would just happen without issue or concern. But there are new and different concerns you have when starting another developer position. For me, these concerns were things like, what would I be expected to know? How quickly should I be able to pick up new things? What is my role/responsibility as a more experienced developer outside of a technical capacity? How many questions are ok to ask? How much time should I allow to learn things? and the list sort of goes on.
As a new person on a team, here are the things I found myself doing:
Ask a lot of questions, but try to learn who to ask which questions to. This is slightly more complicated at Collective Idea because there are no managers, PMs, etc. Everyone works as a team, recognizes what work needs to happen where and steps up to do it. Therefore, I ask technical questions to people on my project team (and sometimes outside of my team depending on availability). I ask company process questions to either a few of the people who did my initial introductory onboarding or my 1:1 peer. And I ask company technical questions to learn about preferences like Rubocop, etc. in our general channel. By asking questions to a variety of people in a variety of places, I’m also able to connect with different people at the company and not bother one person all the time.
Try to pair. This is definitely a personal preference but I love pairing and I know that pairing is the fastest way for me to ramp up and learn, especially now that I’m working on greenfield applications, something I haven’t done in years. I’m sometimes worried about asking in a general room to pair so it’s also been really helpful to have a handful of other folks in the company outside of my project ping me to offer to pair. In general though, pairing is encouraged and I’ve found myself pairing a majority of the week which also helped me quickly build bonds with colleagues, especially as a remote developer.
Get a handle on the slack channels. At some companies there are literally hundreds of slack channels so this can be difficult but at ours, the number isn’t so overhwelming. It’s really nice to scroll through them and pick a handful, as well as ask for recommendations, to learn where some of the off-topic banter takes place.
Learn the company vibe. As a person who’s got a signficant background in management and company culture, I always feel like that’s where I can provide value fastest… and I ALWAYS want to try to prove myself as quickly as possible, but this often isn’t the right approach. As a new employee, I need to understand the company vibe and flow, the individuals there, how things work, and how people interact in order to effectively make suggestions or contribute new thoughts and ideas down the road.
Get some face time. This tip is particularly important for those working remotely but if you’re working remote, try to get some face time in. The first week I was at Collective Idea, I mentioned in our daily standup, and on slack, that I would love to do get-to-know-you hangouts with anyone who was interested. A few people took me up on it and it was great to get to know and a handful of people on the team. Additionally, I was lucky because a company retreat was already planned for three weeks after I started which was the best. Since a majority of the company works from an office in Michigan, it was really great to get out there to visit, chat, and get to know everyone. While I don’t think working from an office every day is necessary, face time with individuals and building that rapport is a must.