New Hires Onboarding — The Two Sides of The Coin

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

“Every single job is a challenge. You are walking into a new set, a new character, creating a world and trying to get comfortable to do your best work.”

— Felicia Day

One of the most delightful responsibilities I had recently was guiding new hires throughout their onboarding process in the company.

As a "Buddy," I assisted new hires in onboarding themselves into the team and prepared them to become autonomous team players.

My mission always starts with making them feel at home as soon as they arrive, teaching them to use the coffee machine(very convenient), visiting a few departments, and getting the required equipment/office supplies.

And then, for the following three months, I synched with my "Buddy" daily, which involved me being in a few hats, a friend, a mentor, and a technical point of contact.

I will summarize my experience after a few successful onboardings in today's article. And I will share a few tips that can be very valuable for anyone making the first steps in the tech industry.

Let's dive in.

The perspective of the employee.

As a new hire, this is the start of a long and exciting journey, an opportunity to learn, implement and deliver fresh and innovative designs and ideas.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg; there is much more you can or should do whenever joining a new company.

One of the most valuable quotes about careers I have happened to read recently is this one:

“The biggest mistake you could ever make is to think you work for anyone but yourself.”

— Brian Tracy

If we ponder this quote a little bit, we realize that our careers are our property, while our work is for the company employing us — the decisions we make, the paths we choose, and the impact we bring to the workplace rely primarily on us.

The following tips are among the most valuable tips on succeeding the onboarding from the perspective of the employee I usually give to my "Buddy":

Take a deep breath, enjoy the process, and make the most of it.

The first few weeks in a new place can quickly become overwhelming and tiring. However, you can choose to make it a better experience.

Breathe a lot, and don't get sucked into the technicalities.

You'll meet new people during the onboarding process during lectures, work on some items, lobby conversations, and during coffee breaks.

Keeping yourself cool, fresh, confident, and poised is integral to enjoying the perks of quality conversation.

Write down all the technical details you come across and brush on them regularly when you have time and focus.

Get to know the people that will be working with you.

Every meeting, discussion, and small talk is an opportunity to mingle with colleagues, cultivate friendships and extend your network.

It would be best if you aimed to humanize the relationship with everyone you get to meet, as these are the people you'll get to work with at the end of the day.

So basically, better relationships at work guarantee increased efficiency since friends will be more willing to help and promote you.

Get to know the product, the industry, and the competition.

Talk is cheap — But very valuable.

You will have a lot of opportunities to meet people who can bring new dimensions to your life.

It would help if you were poised to ask the right questions and get the best insights into the company's business, product, and competition.

Gathering this information can be valuable in looking for Impact and Growth opportunities.

Sports and hobbies are beneficial in this period.

Having a stress reliever hobby or sport is invariably worthwhile all year. But during the onboarding period, it becomes even more beneficial to have such activities.

Being in your best mood and focus will help you learn and absorb valuable data and cultivate and maintain friendships.

Sports/Hobbies usually are an excellent opportunity to meet colleagues outside work.

Get to know yourself and your potential.

Getting to know your value and strengths is pretty advantageous when it comes to career advancement.

Yet there is a lot more to that.

This personality test I came across a few years ago was one of the best tools I got for understanding people and analyzing/solving conflicts at work.

The key is that every individual is a mix of the four types above.

Some people will be higher in "DRIVER," and some people will be higher in "AMIABLE," whereas some people will have a tie, for example, between "DRIVER" and "ANALYTICAL."

The test will give you the scores for each of the four personality types.

Then you may use the results to understand conflicts such as the "Driver" Manager's conflict with the "Analytical" employee. You will learn, for example, not to tell long stories and give the bottom line only when dealing with the "Driver" Manager.

This knowledge can also help understand the "Expressive" and the "Ambiable" people and their needs.

The perspective of the employer.

The employer's perspective is a bit different.

In this period, the employer will look to see if they have made the right decision when hiring you.

The employer will provide you with everything you need, equipment, knowledge, and guidance(a "Buddy") and will wait for you to prove you can deliver what you promised you were capable of when you interviewed for the role.

Let's have a look at the following real-life example.

In 1–3 months, you will:

Complete our onboarding process and familiarize yourself with your colleagues, our workplace culture, and our tech stack.
Familiarise and become comfortable with our engineering environment.
Start work on building out our proxy generation system to reduce strain on resources and allow for real-time playback.
Assess and make recommendations around our HDR rendering, color profiling capability, and our video pipeline in general.

In 3–6 months, you will:

Start work on extending our video container support, both in breadth and depth.
Detail color requirements to ensure top-tier color grading and profiling capabilities.
Reiterate and improve existing implementation and conceptualize new features, technologies, and workflows.

In 6–12 months, you will:

Have built functional video containers.
Completed the proxy builds and directed the engineering team on requirements for handling HDR for HDR10/HDR10+/Dolby Vision.

For instance, in the example above, after the onboarding, the expectation from the employer's perspective is that:

1. Employees are familiar with their colleagues, the company's tech stack, and the engineering environment.

2. Employees are ready to start working and contributing to the product and the company as individual team players.

So how to manage in three months and become an individual contributor to a tech company?

The following tips are among the most valuable tips on succeeding the onboarding from the perspective of the employer I usually give to my "Buddy":

Keep organized and use tech to learn tech.

Although I am a big fan of whitepapers and whiteboards, I found that using software like Microsoft's OneNote and Visio or Google's helps you understand technical details better, and keeping organized help you recall stuff much faster and more efficiently.

Try understanding the big picture first rather than getting sucked into the details.

Unless you are Funes the Memorious :) (A Borges character: the young man who, after a riding accident, finds that his memory is faultless in its recall of detail.), it is so typical to forget a lot of the technical details that you will learn in the first months, and that is why it is important to keep organized.

But this tip is all about the big picture; try to prevent yourself from asking many questions about complex and deep technical areas during the onboarding unless it is inevitable. Your focus instead should be on understanding the big picture. Your main interest should be the why? And not how?.

As a "Buddy," I always helped new employees draw the line between what is important and what is less during the first few weeks before getting actual tasks.

For example, when the topic is about system architecture, then it totally fine to achieve 50% understanding, as this knowledge will build up with time. However, if the topic is Git Workflow or Working Methodologies, it is better to achieve maximum understanding.

Be BFS-oriented rather than DFS-oriented when working on your first tasks.

So now you have the big picture, are familiar with the environment, and got to work on your first task.

Assuming the task is well defined and in a specific region of the code, my tip is not to go around and try to understand all the surrounding modules and technologies, as this will be hard to achieve and waste your precious time.

So I suggest going with a BFS(Bread First Search) approach rather than a DFS(Depth First Search) approach and trying to learn the minimum that is enough to accomplish your current task.

Aim to improve your "DRIVER" side, but don't sacrifice quality.

Be task-oriented and eager to show fast progress; this is important for your image and your growth in the company.

If you are an "Analytical" type, that is excellent, meaning you chose the right profession. However, you'll need to improve your "DRIVER" side in fast-paced industries.

You'll find excellent courses around the web about efficiency and time management, and many great books can also be found on this topic.

That said, don't sacrifice the quality of your work to achieve better progress.

Learn the fine art of asking questions.

As a newbie, you'll have many questions and need to ask people around to get answers.

As a "Buddy," I didn't have all the answers, and many times, I was trying to teach how to ask questions instead of providing answers.

I'm leaving Soft Skills and Persuasion Skills aside as entire books can be written on these crucial qualities; let's concentrate on the technicalities.

The What?

The first thing you need before asking a question is to get minimal knowledge about the situation, so you can formulate a well-defined question and explain it to the person you are asking.

The Who?

The second thing you need to know is who is the best person to ask; feel free to ask around for the domain expert or point of contact for specific areas, topics, or work items.

The How?

Some questions are better asked in a quick visit to the cubic, others can be asked on WhatsApp or Teams, and some are for an email. How to ask usually depends on the level of details, the urgency, and whether you have already met the colleague you wish to ask or not.

You may need to schedule a meeting if you have multiple questions for multiple people.

The Takeaway

You are in the right place at the right time, working with the right people, and you should have all the motivation to start.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” — Zig Ziglar

For long-term career advancement and growth, focus on your soft skills more than hard ones.

This interesting research by the Carnegie Foundation concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).




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