Here at New Relic we pride ourselves on making the “new job” experience as enjoyable as possible for our new hires. With a brief but informative orientation on your first day, a walk around the office, lots of introductions, and a couple of fun lunch dates, we do our best to warmly welcome everyone into the New Relic family. After a great onboarding experience, one of our software engineers chose to share her experience, and what simple practices any team could adopt to make this experience easier for their newbies.
It’s not that I expected my first few months at New Relic to go badly, exactly. I knew I was going to be doing work I enjoyed within a fantastic culture—that’s why I applied. And I knew I was joining a team of highly skilled, friendly, and all-around fantastic people—that’s what I found out during my interviews. But, nonetheless, I expected the first few months to be very hard.
I’m only a few years into my career as an engineer. I don’t have a degree in anything technical and I’m female. Not surprisingly, I am very familiar with “impostor syndrome.” From the first moment I sat down at a keyboard, typed some code, and ran it, whenever I’ve tried something new I fought against a persistent and sneaking feeling that I can’t possibly do this.
It’s a fight I’ve always won, because here I am today. But I know from experience how exhausting it is to have to convince yourself that you can do something on top of the work of actually doing it.
I was prepared to fight this familiar fight as I started here at New Relic. And then, to my surprise, I mostly didn’t have to.
Not having to start each day with a psychological battle kicked off a virtuous cycle. I used my extra mental energy to learn and accomplish more, which cemented the feeling of I can do this! I started contributing to customer-facing work/new features sooner than expected. I joined the Support Hero rotation (people who are available to help Technical Support with tricky tickets) sooner than expected. I did a live demo in a business meeting. I helped make an internal tool, then wrote an internal blog post about it (for the whole company to see). I’m blown away by the amount of new concepts and experiences I've been able to embrace in the last few months.
When I marveled to coworkers about this, some of them said, “Well, you’re lucky; you have an amazing team!”
I can’t disagree: my teammates are amazing, and I feel incredibly lucky to work with them. But who they are has not been the biggest factor in my great onboarding experience. The biggest factor has been what they did to set me up for success, practices any team could adopt.
That’s why I would like to share with you some specific things that have contributed to my fantastic first few months at New Relic, in the hope that you’ll remember them next time you welcome an early career engineer.
- A warm welcome. Team lunch is a first-day tradition for many teams at New Relic; mine was postponed, but I still had someone invite me to lunch with them, which really helped me feel at home. Some teams present newbies with cards, signed by everyone. However it’s expressed, hearing the sentiment “We’re excited to have you!” means a lot.
- A 90-day plan. Not only was it helpful to know from the start when my team hoped I would hit certain milestones, but having a 90-day plan helped me stay productive and proactive. When I felt stuck on a task, I had a list of alternatives, everything from must-read documentation to suggested connections on other teams.
- A list of starter tasks. My team curated a list of JIRA tickets for me to tackle in my first week, largely minor bug fixes. This helped get me comfortable with the codebase and our workflow early on.
- Enthusiastic knowledge sharing. My teammates have supported me by encouraging questions and embracing their role as teachers. There’s a world of difference between “What do you mean you don’t know about x?” and “Oh, you haven’t had the chance to work with x? That means I get to show you how!”
- A thoughtful approach to pairing/mobbing. When we coded together, my teammates actively made time for me to drive, knowing I would learn better by doing than by watching. When they needed to go fast to get something done on time, they debriefed with me afterward to cement my understanding.
- Involvement in planning. Around the time I joined, my team started the practice of writing JIRA tickets for each MMF (Minimum Marketable Feature) together, which has been a positive experience for all of us. From my perspective, it’s helpful to participate in high-level discussion about each project, so that even if I’m not directly involved, I understand what decisions went into it.
- Celebrating successes. From high-fiving me when I finally figured out a tricky problem, to making sure my name appeared on shared work, to expressing appreciation for my efforts in our team meetings, my teammates have sought out opportunities to highlight my accomplishments, which makes me want to contribute more.
These are things that have personally helped me. I imagine there is much more other teams and individuals could add to the conversation. But as your own company hires engineers who might be early in their careers or those who haven’t taken a traditional career path, I hope you’ll think about ways you can help make their first few months as surprisingly excellent as mine were.
Top photo of Rachel in her "support hero" cape by Caito Scherr.