2. What are you struggling with now?
No two software development teams work the same way. Within one company, things can vary greatly from one team to another. Joining a new team is usually very exciting, but it can also be intimidating if the onboarding process does not include answers to these questions. In most of my onboarding experiences, these answers were not provided to me, and I had to search for them.
In my opinion, there are many questions you should ask to have the highest probability of success in your new job, but here are the 5 most important:
in the previewus, I’ve had times where I failed to meet expectations because it wasn’t delivered to me. Instead of waiting, I realized I needed to start ordering them in advance.
Starting with alignment and then staying in line with the expectations of your teammates, managers, and the company are the keys to meeting or exceeding them. Learning to handle and manage expectations is often the highest predictor of success or failure in my experience. Most companies also use goal setting to manage expectations, but you can reverse this and use forecasts to create your goals.
Software engineers are usually the best creative problem solvers within an organization. If you want to make an immediate impact, start by discovering the biggest challenges within your organization currently and then find ways to fix them.
If the difficulties are technical: scaling, reliability, code quality, etc., start looking for ways to fix them or use prior knowledge in those areas to fix them. There are almost endless free resources for all tech fields available on the internet, and the right combination of keywords will usually get you somewhere.
Likewise, if the difficulties are collaboration or process, there are also plenty of free resources on improving collaboration, communication, or various process issues (code review bottlenecks, for example).
Note that it is usually undiplomatic to join a new team and immediately start making changes, which is why you should start small and build a relationship with one or two other established team members. Next, approach them individually as to what they think of the idea. It may have already been discussed and dismissed, or they may be referring to something you may have missed.
But if they like it, congratulations – you just signed up! If the team environment is very open and non-judgmental, you may be able to suggest it directly to the team, or you may want to ask this person to sponsor directly. Sponsorship is a great way to implement your ideas, as this person actively joins your cause.
As an engineer, it is important to know how to build, run, test and develop your projects locally. If this is missing from your setup documentation, you’ve just found an instant way to make an impact – start creating the documentation for it. This will save labor time, effort and costs down the road whenever any new employee needs this information.
When you are looking for information: technology, project, colleague, communication, process, etc., you should always know where to start looking for it. You may not always know where you end up looking, especially if the company doesn’t have one specific place to document, but as long as you can get started, you can then safely ask someone else for that information if you can’t find it. If your new company or team doesn’t have a single place to document, this is another great suggestion that you may need support from an existing senior leader who can sponsor the effort.
Documentation is not limited to wikis, many companies use Slack or similar platforms to communicate, which can serve as great documentation of decisions, technical questions, historical context of projects, etc. Ideally, you have multiple places where you can find information before you ask someone else.
New employees should always have a place where they can ask questions, and some of them seem to be very basic, even for new hires/senior staff/new hires. When you need information or clarifications on something, you should always have a place to direct that question to – your manager, a trained friend, a senior teammate, etc. You have the answer.
This is especially important for new engineers who may lack the network, confidence, or communication skills to frustrate themselves or solve a problem on their own.
Joining a new team is an exciting opportunity for most engineers, but it will be a time full of learning and mystery. We hope these questions help you with the preparation process and your chances of success in your next new role.
This blog was originally published here.