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Introducing Connect: How we onboard people in the tech team

By Michael Backes
Tuesday, June 29 2021

#StartupLife

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Scaling a company from 2 to 100 requires not loosing track of how to get great people the tools and things that they need in order to succeed. That’s why in our engineering team, we have receeve Connect.

Connect is our program that helps plug people into the tech, the processes, and importantly, the people. We had just started the process when COVID hit, and with the impact that had, we doubled down on building the process from the ground up with all of the learnings that we had out of how our world changed overnight.

Before someone starts
When someone comes into our engineering team, they start receiving things in advance. We have a great HR team that begins with all the basics, getting people kind of the initial orientation, the things that they need to know in general about us. We’re certified, so this includes all of the basics so that people understand why and how we operate in order to ensure the highest standards in our work and processes.

In the background most, if not all of the basic provisioning for accounts happens. Depending upon the role and how new it is, there are probably a few things that happen in the first couple of days, but everyone is able to log into their email, start seeing appointments to meet team members before they start.

What someone doesn’t see is that the engineering and product teams have already started picking out things that new people can get to work on. We try to align initial work with something that can bring them the most value short term.

Day 1
The day has come to start. There may just one person, there may be 5+ all at the same moment. The focus at the beginning is to get the initial conversations going with people that new hires can go to for help for things that are not technical.

The focus is to make sure that people get a good introduction to the basics and how we do things at a receeve level.

“It is not just adapting a new hire into a team; it is also important for a team to know where and how the new member will fit in. In my case, my role and responsibilities were promoted very well before I joined so all my interactions with my team mates fit in a context which helped the team to direct me into the right path when I needed help and helped me to have my experience in a smooth way.”

– Hakan Kaya, Head of Engineering

First Week
The names that we abstract in Slack or email now become real meetings and people get to learn their team members during this phase. Being remote, we are constantly working to improve the level of documentation that we have so that way people can do a mixture of conceptual learning asynchronously, while then using the time connected with each other to do more hands-on learning types of activities.

It’s at this point where also a mentor in the team is assigned to a new hire. Depending upon the role, the person may end up in a different team to start with while learning. Our architecture usually requires some getting adapted to, and that ah-ha moment comes usually a few weeks in. But there are plenty of things going on that get people involved right away into shipping productive code.

It can be a mind-jarring amount of information to take in, and so we break it up into smaller chunks, and people are itching to get started usually quicker, but we to lower frustration by helping make sure our setup is understood.

Weeks 2-8
During this phase we are looking for people to be warmed up into being really productive. Out of that first week, we’re getting the mentoring and checking in running more smoothly and trying to ensure that people are not getting stuck. Because we know we are still filling in the gaps on documentation, it’s critical for us to make sure we keep touching base regularly. Also, it’s a good way for new people to get to know their colleagues. It might be that they switch mentors a few times during this period of time.

It’s also the point in time where they start to branch into other parts of the system, depending upon the role. The scope starts to expand and piece by piece, things that were not 100% clear at the beginning start to fall into place.

New people at this point have seen a full build cycle. Our current rhythm runs over about 6 weeks, and follows something like the Shape Up process that Basecamp created. We use that because it’s important to shift back and forth between thinking and execution modes. We value craftsmanship and really relying upon the things we build, and owning the results (bugs or wild success). So this process allows higher degrees of involvement, and is also something a little different to get used to.

We also have venues to meet other parts of the team, like an open forum for asking any questions that people may have. There is also the standard set of updates so people know where things are heading, and then I will stop by to team meetings just to give updates from what’s been going on out in sales, or other things that are being discussed in the company.

The next couple of months
People should now be in more of the team that they will be a core part of. They’ve seen different parts of the system, but maybe not everything. There are hundreds of services, so people won’t touch them all in short order. There are connections built to other parts of the team. The various tools that we use should be known at this stage, and people should start to really move towards being comfortable towards being real contributors. We also do not believe that one group architects and the other develops. If you grab a concept, you go end to end with it. Of course, we follow our principles in how we make those decisions and how we then build, but the environment is intended to push people to think and not simply be there.

At some point, the new folks get the chance to play firefighter for a week as well. This usually gives even deeper insights into how things are connected in the system. All of our environments are true replicas of each other, but it is still always interesting to see how a real client uses the technology or how the interactions between services behave “in the wild.”

The future of Connect
We will constantly be working on this. Not only will the difference between adding 10 or adding 100 force changes, but as the last 18 months have shown us, adaptability will remain key to success long term. You can be assured that how this program looks in a year or two is different, better, and more evolved.

Want to work with us? Check out all the job postings on our careers page

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