A Survival Guide for Your Team's Newest Developer

eagle wing

After a long-winded search for employment, including copious rejections, maybe you’ve finally landed a sustainable position at a well-grounded company, or maybe you’re still on the hunt. The job market ebbs and flows, but as long as you stay dedicated with your spirits up, you’ll likely be making this transition as well. I started my journey into tech a year ago, and I’ve now been working as a developer at my newest company, Olio Apps, for about 3 months. After a pretty great interview, I felt confident that I would be offered the position. Soon after, I had a start date to look forward to! As anyone would be, I was excited, but I couldn’t help but be nervous as well. I felt like this was a bigger opportunity than my previous positions at small start-ups.

Throughout these last few months, I’ve learned some things I wish I'd known beforehand, but there have also been things I wish I hadn’t focused on as much. Pulling from my quick onboarding process and other experiences I've had joining teams, I’ve written this guide as a roadmap for new developers, aimed at showing them what to focus on in order to be a successful hire. This "survival guide" should help new developers onboard more effectively, connect with their team in a meaningful way, and focus on the things that matter while joining a new company or team.

chickling stage

First Day

So it’s your first day of work!

You’ll likely be getting access to the company’s software and email (if not later, depending on the company). You’ll probably be introduced to team members or managers that you’ll be working closely with, then go over your first tasks. Make sure you know what to work on, who to report to, and which tools you’ll need to be an active part of the team. JIRA, Confluence, Slack, and the company Gmail were some of what I was granted access to on my first day.

I expected there to be delay on some of these things, since there always seems to be… But I was lucky to have a small and lightweight team that got things done quickly, compared to a larger company that might move more slowly on getting approval for a new hire. The first day probably won’t be full of excitement, but you’ll likely learn some basic details about the company and your place in it.

First day checklist:

  • I know my direct supervisor and who else to turn to for help.
  • I have access to whatever I need to perform my job (at least for the next day).
  • I understand my process for starting, working on, and completing a task (often, this could simply be moving a JIRA ticket from the to-do section to done).
  • I am as prepared as I can be to start the next day of work.
duckling stage

First Week

Your first week will be a great opportunity to reach out and connect with a few of your teammates. If there are any extracurricular activities, like happy hours or company meetups, make sure to go! If there’s a teammate around your level who’s been there a little longer than you, reach out and ask what they would recommend you focus on to succeed (after all, they’ve most recently been in your position with this team). Your first week is also a great time to get a feel for what level of communication your manager is expecting. Make sure to give updates on the tasks you’re completing, and if they’re still reaching out about your tasks, it may be a sign that you should be communicating a bit more frequently.

Whatever progress is made at this point, typically you’re still catching on to company-specific conventions and processes. Try to forgive yourself for any little mistakes that are bound to happen. During your first week, it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you’re learning from them. Also remember that, as a new part of the team, your work speed is important but not the most important variable of your job performance. I had conversations with my supervisor about how accuracy, independence, and then speed were important, and typically in that order. So don’t sacrifice one higher priority item for another, and always be aware of where you are putting your energy.

First week checklist:

  • I’ve tuned or optimized my dev environment for my position. Reach out to coworkers for tips on this one!
  • I’ve gathered company resources (such as handbooks, PR guides, etc.) in case I have questions.
  • I know who I can pair with on any problems I’m facing (you’d be surprised what experienced developers can teach you within the span of 15 minutes).
  • I’ve reached out to coworkers for advice they wish they had when they first started here (and why not add some of them on LinkedIn?).
  • I am periodically checking other employee’s work (i.e. pull requests) to see what coding patterns they use and what could be considered good or bad code.
geese stage

First Month

Around the close of my first month, I started to feel like a strong part of the team, but don’t be discouraged if it takes a little longer. At this point, you’ll probably be fully onboarded and set up for success. And really, the best thing about the first month is that it’s when you start to see growth. You’ve learned company processes, and now dividends are paying off for having a growth mindset and learning from setbacks.

Even though you seem to be establishing yourself within the team, don’t forget to focus on basics such as testing the functionality of your work and communicating effectively with your teammates. During my first month, I started to focus more on speed of development rather than accuracy and ultimately paid for it with pull request rejections. I then had to dig through non-working code to fix the issues, which can be a difficult process, especially compared to creating something correctly the first time.

First month checklist:

  • I’m starting to feel confident that I’m a valuable part of the team.
  • I’m asking for feedback on work when I’m not getting a clear understanding of what’s going on with my code.
  • I’ve started picking up smaller tickets of my own accord (as long as they’re within your scope of work).
  • I’m starting to feel comfortable in areas of the codebase where I previously may have felt confused or lost on what was going on.
  • I’m still welcoming code reviews and working on not repeating mistakes that have been commented on previously. (Your managers will notice this!)
eagle stage

Onward and Upward

By now, you will certainly know if you’re excelling or still need to make minor adjustments. Take the time to revel in the fact that you’re doing exactly what you want to do and getting compensated to do it! It’s a long road to get where you are, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Continuing to grow and develop your skill set will be important moving forward, but if you’re providing value by this point, you’re on a good path.

Remember to focus on the things you can control and that no hire is perfect. If you follow some of the core principles of this guide, you’ll have plenty of resources to work with on your journey, and your journey certainly doesn’t end here. Everyone on a team was the new hire at some point, and as time goes on, you’ll probably laugh at the nervous thoughts you had leading up to your first few days. Just know that no one here wants you to fail, and your coworkers want to enjoy working with you. Keep improving, don’t listen to thoughts that make you feel like you don’t belong, and you will certainly be just fine.

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