Whether you’re a fresh faced college graduate in need of income or an industry veteran who is starting over in a different city because Stacy took the kids, you’ll often find yourself donning the new hire mantle throughout your career.
Lucky for you during my five+ years at DealerOn I’ve been a new hire, hired new hires, and even in rare cases watched in sadness as new hires were escorted out the building while I looted their desks for leftover office supplies. So let’s just say I have some experience on what it takes to make the new hire journey a successful one.
So sit back, relax and I guarantee that if you use the following tips that you just might possibly have a decent shot at most likely becoming a successful new hire.*
* ᴿᵉˢᵘˡᵗˢ ᵐᵃʸ ᵛᵃʳʸ
The following conversation may or may not have happened.
“Hey man welcome to the development team. My name is Justin and I’ll be giving you the brief office tour. You ready?”
*5 minutes later*
“…and that was Nick who mainly stands in that corner all day. Well that’s everyone, got any questions for me? ”
“Nah, I think I’m fine for now Bob.”
As the conversation above alludes to, it’s going to be very easy to be overwhelmed by all the new people, processes, tools, and frameworks that get thrown your way at your new job. One good way to cope with all this new information (besides crying yourself to sleep at night) is to take detailed notes whenever possible.
What was the name of that good looking developer with a heart of gold that gave you the office tour? • Are you supposed to branch off of the dev branch or off of the super-refactor-bless-up branch? • Is this blue screen a good or bad thing?
Being able to refer back to your notes which contain the answers to all these questions will not only decrease the amount of on-boarding time you require and make a good first impression, but will also serve as valuable documentation (a developer’s only weakness) for any current and future co-workers.
But that was a mistake on my part. Rather than a weakness, asking and answering questions should be seen as an opportunity to not only strengthen the knowledge of the person asking the question, but also as a opportunity to strengthen the knowledge of the person answering the question.
I often find that as I’m answering a question out loud, I’m raising other questions that I never thought to ask in my head.
That being said there is a fine line between being the great new hire that asks valuable questions and the annoying new hire that keeps asking you where the coffee machine is, so keep the following two rules in mind.
Do some minor research on your own first. Not only would you be surprised at how often someone already has the answer you’re looking for, but doing research on your own often shows initiative and effort which makes your coworkers feel way better about taking any future questions of yours.
Try to the best of your ability to not to repeat the same question more than once. Listen to the answers you receive and abuse the power of note taking! Your co-workers’ time is valuable and they’re already doing you a solid by helping you out, so don’t make them think their time was wasted.
…or at least learn the name of the person sitting next to you.
Ever get cut off in traffic and as you’re approaching the offending car notice that its driver is your next door neighbor, so you have to quickly toss away the baseball bat in your hands?
Why did you toss away your baseball bat? That’s right, it’s because of the social connection between the two of you (and knowledge that he knows MMA).
Our work involves a lot of idea clashing. Code reviews, architecture decisions, coding guidelines, technology choices, and where to eat lunch, to name a few. I find that a social connection builds empathy which helps change the dynamic from two opposing sides arguing to two people on the same side attempting to find the most optimal solution.
Now I’m not saying you have to stop making up excuses to get out of Elfalem’s after-work drink shindigs, but breaking the ice can have a big impact on your new work environment and your career.
So if you google some conversation starters and steal your brothers Netflix account, I promise you’ll have enough topics to form at least a minor social connection with your new co-workers.
Let’s take a look at two scenarios.
Justin ‘ best developer in the world’ Thomas:
“Here’s your first ticket, let me know when your done.”
Justin ‘ best developer in the world’ Thomas:
“Here’s your first ticket. The fix itself is very simple and will probably only take 3 hours at most, but I want you to spend the next 2 days really examining the code architecture. I’ll sync back up with you in 2 days and we’ll look over everything together.”
“Okay sounds like a plan.”
Which scenario would you rather be a part of?
People have a nasty habit of holding themselves or other people to certain expectations without ever verbalizing them. Getting on the same page expectation-wise can build a level of trust that can last throughout your entire time at your new company.
It is very common at a new job to be worried that you aren’t contributing to the team fast enough or that you’ll never obtain the level of knowledge your co-workers are demonstrating. In those moments bring out the list of expectations you gathered and take an honest look at where are you currently fall.
I think you’ll find more often than not that you’re exceeding the current expectations set for you and are having more of a impact on the team than you think you are.
There are plenty of books out there on how to work with, refactor, or eliminate legacy code and processes, so I’m not going to touch on any of those points here.
Instead all I want you to do is treat legacy code and processes like you treat your farts after your lunch time Chipotle, very carefully.
Look I get why you would be so gung-ho about changing things. That one hundred line switch statement that Alex wrote four years ago looks as appetizing as pineapple pizza* and it seems to throw random exceptions that aren’t being handling anywhere.
So why not make your mark as a new employee and go slightly out of scope to refactor those lines of code?
Because there’s a high chance of the following happening. Your change is released and some systems immediately go down. It turns out that another separate system (not documented anywhere) was actually relying on those random exceptions to run correctly. Now you’re stuck in a meeting with your boss (who wrote legacy code) and your bosses boss trying to explain how your small unscheduled refactor was worth the $200,000 of loss revenue.
Now I’m not saying you should never change legacy code or processes, I’m just saying you should only attempt the change when you understand the full scope of the legacy code or process and you have the full support of your team.
Change can be very rewarding, but as a new employee make sure any change you put forward is well planned.
* ɴᴏ ᴩɪɴᴇᴀᴩᴩʟᴇ ᴩɪᴢᴢᴀ ʟᴏᴠᴇʀꜱ ᴡᴇʀᴇ ʜᴀʀᴍᴇᴅ ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴀᴋɪɴɢ ᴏꜰ ᴛʜɪꜱ ᴩᴏꜱᴛ. ɪ ᴀᴄᴛᴜᴀʟʟy ᴛʜɪɴᴋ ᴩɪɴᴇᴀᴩᴩʟᴇ ᴩɪᴢᴢᴀ ɪꜱ ᴏᴋᴀy ʙᴜᴛ ʜɪᴅᴇ ɪᴛ ꜰʀᴏᴍ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀꜱ ɪɴ ᴏʀᴅᴇʀ ᴛᴏ ꜰɪᴛ ɪɴ.
Now I know what you thinking. But Justin! I know you’re one of the sexiest developers I’ve ever seen, but I was just hired. Shouldn’t I be working fourteen hour days to get up to speed as soon as possible and show my commitment to the company that just brought me on?
Listen, unless your new company is a hectic cesspool (If so DealerOn is hiring and they give out referral bonuses), enough time has already been budgeted to bring you up to speed in as sane a matter as possible. The best thing you can do for yourself and your new company is to not run yourself into the ground before your ninety days have even been hit.
A life outside of work has already been proven to be a effective stress reducer, but I’ve also found that it gives a unique perspective on work situations.
Like when you’re at a barbecue with a group a friends chatting and you suddenly realize that threatening to report Tim to HR for not refilling the coffee pot might have been an over reaction. Or when the answer to a problem you’ve spent all Friday trying to find comes to you while you’re playing a game of Rocket League. Sometimes a break from work is the best way to stay efficient at work.
So go on weekday hikes with friends or binge watch Netflix shows alone on your couch while slowly making your way through a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Just try to go home on time and do something else. A new job can be a surprisingly stressful experience and you deserve the relaxation.
So here’s a quick recap to summarize and catch up the people who skipped to the end.
Take notes whenever possible because knowledge is often fleeting and hard to pin down.
Questions aren’t a sign of weakness but a sign you’re attempting to gain more knowledge, so don’t be afraid to ask them.
Develop a social connection with your co-workers, you’ll be spending forty hours a week with them and a connection makes that time fly by.
You can only beat the game once you know the rules, so pry those job expectations from your new employer.
Tread carefully around legacy code and processes because, like my Momma always says, it brought you into this world (made the company enough money to hire you) and it can take you out of it.
Lastly have a life outside of work. Stress and perspective are two powerful things that could have a positive impact on your work and your life.
I hope these tips help you have a successful and fulfilling new job. And if you find yourself looking for a way to repay me, I need an alibi for the night of March 22nd, so throw me an email.