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Simon Mannes
Simon Mannes

Posted on • Originally published at mannes.tech on

10 Great Questions To Ask To Become Familiar With a Huge Codebase

You've made it.

You got through the interview process, and now you’re part of a new team.

But as you get access to the repository, you’re overwhelmed. It’s huge. And full of stuff you know nothing about. So. Much. Unfamiliar. Code.

Ask Questions

Your mentor, colleague, or lead dev has created a meeting to walk you through the code base. Here are some questions to get the most out of that time:

  • Understand the goals
    • “What are the goals of this project?”
    • “What does this software do?”
  • Learn about the history
    • “When did this project start?”
    • “Who started it and how big was the team at first?”
    • “How many people have worked on this over the last few years?”
  • Get to know the architecture
    • “Which technologies do you use?” Go through dependencies, e.g. in package.json.
    • “Did you do any major refactorings recently, or are you currently doing a major refactor?”
    • “Which architectural concepts do you follow? What should I read up on?”
  • Find out more about their processes
    • “What is your process regarding pull requests?”
    • “Can you walk me through your release process?”

Apart from that, someone should take you on a tour through the codebase.

Your First Task

Your first task should be small and easy to start with, because:

  • You’ll need to get everything running locally
  • You’ll get familiar with the processes from assigning a task to merging a pull request
  • You won’t need to get too much into the code base

That’s it. Now you’re ready for your first big task.

3 Tips For Your First 3 Weeks

Three tips for your first few weeks:

  1. Do tasks and ask questions.
  2. Pair program whenever possible.
  3. Let the team know how the onboarding experience was. Point to outdated documentation or unclear parts of the codebase.

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