“Time-to-Useful”, Tips for Onboarding a Newly Graduated Employee
From the point of view of a Junior Software Engineer
My biggest desire, as I started my first software engineering job, was to become independent, as soon as possible, so that I could start bringing value to Torii. Gladly, Torii made my onboarding process smooth and effective, and while I had my share of frustration as it was completely remote, open communication and process transparency were critical success factors.
It’s no secret that starting your first job as a software engineer can be intimidating. Bridging the gaps between what you learned at university and the technologies used by your new company, while absorbing the work methodologies and the company's code styling, can be exhausting.
I would like to share with you the 5 most important aspects of my onboarding to Torii:
1. Have a dedicated onboarding buddy
This is important because new employees know no-one.
I didn’t know anyone in the company nor their responsibilities. I felt uncomfortable “bothering” my coworkers with too many questions. Questions that might seem obvious, irrelevant or annoying (maybe it’s just the “girl” in me).
Having someone who was responsible for my initial training and successful onboarding, made it easier as I knew it was my buddy’s responsibility to support me.
Obviously, it wouldn't have worked if my buddy was not available when needed, patient when asked to explain things multiple times, knowledgeable about Torii’s product and willing to share his/her knowledge.
2. Include several team members in the training plan
This is important for team building. New employees need structured meetings to help them integrate into the team.
Do I really need to elaborate on the importance of teamwork?
Collaboration within a group can help solve problems. The team is a good place to exchange ideas and come up with creative ways to do things.
As part of my training plan, each team member was responsible for introducing me to a different subject. This helped me understand each team member’s strength, experience and unique knowledge. Getting to know my teammates, professionally, helped me know who to approach on which subject.
3. Make the onboarding tasks ahead transparent
This is important because it allows new employees independence, enabling them to manage their progress more efficiently.
Don’t let your new employee wait for the next task, it is frustrating, and a waste of time and company's resources.
During COVID, we worked from our homes. Employees with young children found working from home more challenging and they were not always available for video sessions. So, setting up a meeting to learn a subject, as part of my onboarding tasks, required more flexibility. Thanks to the detailed onboarding plan, I could pick other tasks while waiting for my colleagues to teach me.
4. Internal documents and knowledge base
This is important because it’s the best and most scalable way to share knowledge internally.
I was overwhelmed with information during my first month on the job. NodeJS, MySQL, Torii’s system architecture, code styling, HapiJS, customer success-product-engineering workflows,... All I wanted was a “safe place” to revisit concepts I had learned, so that I could reflect and deepen my understanding.
The documentation should include workflows, “how to..” guides, FAQ, common errors and solutions, tips & tricks and system architecture description.
5. Virtual Socializing
When you can't have coffee with your team or share your thoughts with the person at the desk next to yours, how do you stay connected with your coworkers?
There are plenty of ways to have fun and enjoy that sense of “togetherness” even from afar.
At Torii, to get to know each other and retain team intimacy, each team member sets a (virtual) “coffee-date” with the new employee and we have bi-weekly (virtual) happy hours. We celebrate events together, for example, each teammate received a cocktails-kit at his/her home, and on New Year's Eve, we made (virtual) toasts and shared our past year’s experiences.
A bit of reflection
After 8 months with Torii, it’s obvious to me that the most important factor in my successful onboarding was Torii’s values and culture. Everyone was super nice and wanted to help with any questions I had. They made me feel it was ok and that they were all “here” for me. The culture at Torii made me feel that I could ask any question without being judged. My manager spoke to me as an equal and made me feel that there was a place for my ideas and initiatives even as the new kid on the block.