Invest in onboarding (continuously)

6th May 2014

Every time new devs join the team, they get a mentor, they get some onboarding docs, they ramp up, and they become wonderfully productive people. 

Considering that we’ve had ~50+ (?) people flow through some sort of onboarding (counting our ~25 person dev team and 3 classes of summer interns), we might think we’re done with “working on onboarding”. Our onboarding is reasonable, with docs about the dev environment, code review, unit testing, style guides, what to expect on your first day / week / month…

…but we don’t update them as much as we should. There are pages that mention workflows that have completely changed, eg post-commit code reviews with mercurial/kiln when we’ve long switched to pre-commit code reviews with git/phabricator. I looked around today, and some pages literally make no sense given our “new way of doing things” – but how would a new dev know that? (Thankfully they have mentors to guide the way, but we shouldn’t have confused them in the first place!)

Our docs have a bunch of potholes that our brave new devs encounter, and though each blip might take just a little bit of time, they can certainly add up to a whole afternoon (or gasp! a day!) of slogging through boring mind-numbing things that literally tens of other people have already done. [very dramatic]

Instead of each person tripping over the same obstacle, why not clear it? Give them the onboarding that will help them thrive, not onboarding that they will thrive in spite of.

We’re about to absorb ~15 interns for the summer, so there’s no time like now to update our docs! Both for all the interns who will undoubtedly ask certain questions, and for their mentors who will be there to answer them. Summer 2014, here we come!

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One Response to “Invest in onboarding (continuously)”

  1. +1, Marcia.

    The onboard docs at Khan were supremely useful to me as an intern and as a guy who abhors interrupting his co-workers more than necessary.

    During my internship I found myself wishing that I had more time explicitly set aside to improve the docs. I was intimately familiar with their potholes, because I had just tripped over them, so I was in a good position to help patch them. Maybe something to consider for future interns?

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