How to Spin Up New Hires
On my first day at IMVU, as with anyone joining engineering, the expectation was to make a change and push it to production on my first day. There are a few objectives with doing that… It verifies that everything was set up right in terms of your system, accounts etc. It ensures your mentor has a change ready for you. It allows you to see that it’s possible to make a change, add testing for it, run through a complete set of tests, and send out a change email. That change email goes to all employees, and the responses you get are a lot of “Welcome to IMVU!” emails from Execs and people across all functions. You essentially become an employee not when you show up at the office, but when you’ve made your first change to the product. This also sets the frame of mind that you’re there to work (not to do paperwork – that’s saved for after your first change).
I uncovered a few glitches in the spin-up process, and so I decided to improve the documentation and process. I then also decided that the first thing in the spin-up document should be a statement that it is your and your mentor’s responsibility to leave the spin-up process in a better state than you found it (the full spin-up went beyond the first day into other things you should learn). I’ve carried this notion of new hires improving the new hire process to Twitch and Pure Storage. After some time at Twitch, I suggested that we set the target for a mentor to have a new hire make their first production change on Day 1. There was some concern that this would end up as a disappointment for the new hire and the mentor, but folks didn’t realize that I’d been having new hires fine tune the process for some time. It proved to be a success (it also happened to be for an engineer that followed me from IMVU and expected it to just work, or he’d fix it). And so, my notion of framing this as Leave a Trace began:
Leave a Trace – as you go through the process described below please view it as your responsibility as a new hire learning how to become productive to make improvements to this process and/or wiki in terms of adding missing steps, correcting things that have change, or clarifying things that may be confusing so as to make the spin up for the next person to join Pure to have a better spin-up experience than you did. To this affect, please feel free to enlist your mentor.
The other quiet lesson this imparts is the expectation that whenever you encounter documentation, a process or code that could use improvement, you should just assume it’s your responsibility to leave in a better state than you found it.
Also, at IMVU, it’s the mentor’s primary task during spin-up to make the new hire completely self-sufficient and fully-functional as an engineer. That supersedes the priority of any other work. This may seem sub-optimal in terms of engineering resources, but in fact, it turns out that you that way much sooner have two fully functioning engineers instead of one. We have even had success with a mentor spinning up three engineers at the same time.