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Onboarding New Software Developers

Tips and tricks for acclimating new team members

Some senior software developers show a natural understanding that it is important to get new developer team members on the right track early on. These senior developers understand the feeling of not being able to contribute to the team for several weeks. Not being able to contribute creates unnecessary anxiety and is not the best way to welcome a new team member.

If necessary permissions to needed systems are set up there are several tactics that can be done in the week that enable quick wins for your new team member. These quick wins depend on some important prerequisites which include:

Prerequisites to an effective on-boarding experience

  1. Organized code branching system that is based on common industry standards.

  2. A defined Pull Request process

  3. Well organized code base (none are perfect) but some are much better than others

  4. All necessary permissions and access to tools need to be set up prior to arrival or first few days.

  5. New person needs to be aware and have access to all regulatory or mandatory training

When the prerequisites are in place it is easy to do the following:

  1. Assign the new team member a development task that is simple, for example, changing the text on an error message, changing the color of a button.. This may seem overly simple, but the process provides the by products of opening and debugging the code, practicing the pull request process your team has adopted, seeing how the story they have contributed to fits in with other tasks being worked on by other developer.

  2. Have the new developer work on mandatory learning (security, HR...) when they are not interacting with the team in meetings or active development tasks.

  3. Anticipate the new technology via discussion so the new developer can explore the related code or research the topics though formal learning or informal research.

  4. Invite the new developer to all the relevant meetings, meet afterward to answer questions about new company specific practices or jargon.

  5. Make yourself available to answer questions and screen share to solve issues.

If you have done the job of initial mentoring well, the new developer will be contributing to the team much faster than if your team had taken the "sink or swim" approach. Many senior developers are so engulfed in the issues they are trying to solved that they don't take the time to onboard new team members. Effective onboarding is a way of sharpening the saw but is sometimes treated like technical debt and swept under the rug.

In my experience about two weeks into the new job the developer will not need as much assistance but will know they can come to you with questions/issues as needed. You have provided the tools an guidance for the developer to self navigate and more quickly contribute to the team.

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