Remote Onboarding Tips — Week 1
3 min read
Onboarding to a new company can be an overwhelming experience, even more so now that everyone is remote. It’s easy to get into a state of information overload. As a developer, you’ll not only have to handle general onboarding, but engineering onboarding as well, which can be an overwhelming experience in itself.
I started a new job as a Software Engineer last week, and I kept notes on what went well while onboarding. These are a few key things that helped me have a successful first week.
Get to know your team
One of the biggest downsides of being remote is missing facetime with your teammates.
Set up 1 on 1 virtual meetings with the members of your immediate team. I set up 30 minutes with each teammate. In hindsight, I should have set up 45–60 minutes. 30 minutes is good for a brief intro, but it’s hard to do much more than that.
The meetings themselves don’t need to happen during your first week, but it’s a good idea to create them early on.
In these meetings, get to know your team members. Introduce yourselves, and see where the conversation goes. One question I like to ask everyone is: “What do you wish you knew when you first started?”
I’d recommend making these recurring meetings. An hour is not enough to get to know someone.
You should also ask your manager who they think you should meet outside your team, and set up 1 on 1s with them as well.
Keep a list of TODOs
During the first couple of days, you’ll likely have lots of questions. You’ll also have a growing backlog of forms to fill and documents to read. This can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to forget some of these as you jump between tasks and meetings.
When you get an article to read or a form to fill, instead of doing it immediately, keep a list of TODOs. When something new comes your way, create a TODO with enough context so that you can pick it up later. The same goes for questions that arise, create a TODO with the question along with who to ask.
This lets you control the information flowing your way, and reduces context switching. It will speed things up as well as give you a place to check when you’re not sure what to do next.
Take your time with engineering onboarding
Onboarding as an engineer takes time. To onboard completely and be autonomous it can take anywhere from 3–6 months.
It can be enticing to try to set up your local environment and get coding right away. But, I’d recommend holding off on this until all your logistical HR-related tasks are out of the way. Setting up a development environment can be time consuming. It’ll take even longer if you’re constantly context switching.
You’ll also likely run into issues while setting up your environment. It’ll be easier to tackle these issues and troubleshoot if you have uninterrupted time to focus on it.
Personalize your workstation
If you’ve received a fresh company laptop, it’ll take a while until it’s set up the way you’re used to.
You will need to install several pieces of software (make sure to only install approved software). You’ll also want to customize your terminal, and adjust other preferences to suit your needs.
I found this to be the perfect activity when I needed a break from my TODO list, or had some downtime. If you have a list of software and customizations then great, just go down the list and install each one! If not, this is the perfect time to create a list as you go, so that the next time you get a new laptop, you won’t be starting from scratch.
This is a set of general guidelines that can be applied to most onboarding situations. Every company does onboarding differently though, so I’ll leave it up to you to take what works for your situation.