Onboarding a new engineer can be time-consuming. But if done correctly, it can have a positive impact on the new engineer’s ability to start contributing to the team as soon as possible.
Usually a new engineer is hired after one has left and the team has been short-handed for a while, leaving them with little free time. But scheduling time for engineers to share information with the new engineer will ensure that the new engineer gets up to speed quickly and performs to the standards and policies in place in the organization.
Here are a few basic tips for onboarding a new engineer.
Meet the Team
Introduce the new engineer to the current team members. It may sound basic, but a quick introduction and then scheduling time for the new engineer to sit with the team members really helps build bonds.
Make a List
I often did the initial onboarding of new engineers and I found having a “new guy” list to be very helpful. The list included things to discuss such as links to documentation (you do have documentation, right?), departmental processes, getting logged in, setting up IM, reviewing departmental policies, etc. A comprehensive checklist will ensure a smooth transition.
Spending every minute working side by side with someone is hard on the person who has work to get done as well as the new engineer who has to absorb it all. Having the new engineer take a break from working with team members to review departmental documentation will provide breathing room for everyone while advancing the new engineer’s capabilities to contribute.
The best thing you can do for an engineer, is pass on tribal knowledge personally. Having a new engineer meet with a current member of the team to discuss things like types of e-mail they will receive (and what to do about it), what to expect during on call (and who to call for assistance), what types of deliverables to expect from meetings and other such things will help to create a bond between the engineers—helping to create a team that works well together.
This will take precious time from the current engineer’s day, but the payoff is a new engineer that performs well as a member of the team and ramps up quickly to assist in the environment.
Sometimes people learn better from seeing something done. A good practice is to have the new engineer shadow a current engineer to watch not only what they are doing (the new engineer will generally have the technical knowledge already), but to see what the “gotchas” are specific to the environment and organization. Every system is different in some way and having a current engineer show the new engineer the ropes is always beneficial.
After a few days, when the new engineer has met and worked with some of the team members, give them a sit-down with a senior member of the team to review what the new engineer has learned and find out what questions the engineer may have. Use this time to plan future tasks for the new engineer.
And finally, communication is key and should be ongoing—even when the “new guy” isn’t the new guy anymore.