New Hires


New hires present the best opportunity to put employees on their path to achieve their greatest potential. There are three very impactful people in determining the joy, success and fulfillment an employee finds in their job…

Typically, none of the three appreciates the honor and responsibility bestowed upon them to have this impact on another human.

These three are crucial in determining whether new hires enjoy their job, are successful and find fulfillment. For, the joy, success and fulfillment an employee derives from their job greatly impacts their life. Employees spend more of their waking hours at work than they do with their life partner/children. It helps to remind each of the significance their part in this has. We each should recognize that we can, at any given moment, also see ourselves in each of these roles.

I believe these three people are in order:

1. The New Hire Employee Themselves

New hires often don’t fully appreciate their ability and role in determining their own joy, success and fulfillment at work. As leaders, our most important task is to help those we lead appreciate their ability to impact their own destiny. By enabling a growth mindset, we let them feel the joy, success and fulfillment they derive from their job. We enable them discover their ability to succeed, we are allogwing them to get in their own way. They can be their own worst enemy or own best champion.

2. The New Hire’s Manager

Sadly, as managers we often overlook the honor and responsibility bestowed upon us in hiring and managing a new hire. Each employee does spend more waking hour at work than anywhere else in their life. We, as their managers, bear a huge responsibility in making that experience enjoyable, fruitful and fulfilling. If successful in fulfilling, we ourselves may derive a great deal from that experience. We may finding greater joy, success and fulfillment in our jobs. More on the manager’s responsibility at Where to Begin the Journey.

3. The Spin-Up Buddy / Mentor

New Hires Spinning-Up

The first three months can be the most influential in whether new hires find joy, success and fulfillment at work. Yes, they themselves and their manager bear a huge responsibility in this endeavor. However, success is greatly increased for a new hire when assigned a buddy/mentor. Ideally this is someone that works closely with them in a similar role. They show them the ropes, they introduce them to people they should know to succeed. They help ensure they find their feet in doing their job.

Often the person honored to be a new hire’s spin-up buddy becomes that new hire’s most trusted confident at work. Often that relationship continues on well after either or both of those individuals have moved on.

The opportunity of consciously choosing and assigning someone into this third role is often over looked. Sometimes we refer to these buddies as mentors; however, that implies it must be someone more senior that the new hire. It can also be a peer or someone at a lower level.

I’ve been asked how, at a fast-growing startup, one can afford to take time from the best engineers to spin up new engineers. First of all, it’s a great investment, but perhaps more importantly, a well spun-up new hire, even if fresh out of college, makes for a great mentor for the next hire. The simply repeat what they went through with their own improvements.

The New Hire’s Team

In addition, the team plays the fourth most influential role. It takes a village. Enabling an employee to find fulfillment the team finds itself in a symbiotic relationship – one that is truly mutually beneficial. Each employee themselves should not overlook their own responsibility here.

Spinning Up New Hires at IMVU

On joining IMVU, the expectation was to make a change and push it to production on my first day. There are a few objectives with doing that:

  • The new hire push ensures everything is right in terms of 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, and run a complete set of tests.

New hire change emails go to all employees, and responses are a lot of “Welcome to IMVU!” emails from Execs and people across all functions. You become an employee not when you show up at the office, but when you’ve made your first impact. New hires are given a frame of mind of having impact (not to do paperwork).

I uncovered a few glitches in the spin-up process, and I decided to improve the documentation and process. I then made the improvement the first thing in the spin-up document. It’s new hire’s and mentor’s responsibility to leave the spin-up process in a better state. I’ve carried the practice of new hires improving the new hire process to Twitch, Pure Storage and Prosper.

At Twitch, I set the target for a new hire make their first production change on Day 1. There was concern that this would end up as a disappointment for the new hire and the mentor. However, folks didn’t realize that I’d been having new hires fine tune the process for some time. It proved to be a success. And so, my notion of framing this as Leave a Trace began.

Have New Hires Leave a Trace

As new hires, please view it as your responsibility as a new hire to make improvements to this process. Add missing steps, make corrections, or clarifying things so as to improve the spin up for the next person. To this affect, please feel free to enlist your mentor.

This also sets expectation that encountering anything that could use improvement, it’s your responsibility to im prove it.

At IMVU, a 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. There is good, long-term ROI to 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.

Spin-up work Buddies for New Hires in Munich

When I started my job at Softlab  at Arabellastraße in Munich in 1983, I realized how influential the colleague I shared an office with was in determining how much joy, success and fulfillment I found in my job. When I learned that the next engineer we hired was to sit alone in a two person office until bought on another new hire, I decided to take it upon myself to move into that office with them to help get them started.

Higher Productivity Work Environments

When Softlab achieved enough success that we could hire an architect to design a new building for us at Zamodorferstraße, we had several discussions around the configuration of that office space. One of the considerations was whether we should have one, two or three person offices. Initially most people feeling inclined toward having individual offices. This would solve for quiet and focused space that improve engineering productivity. Three people offices would increase collaboration. We ultimately decided the best experience for all would be had by having pairs of mentors and new hires working together. For collaboration, the German laws about needing to regular breaks during the day (e.g. for coffee, tea or lunch) allowed for impromptu collaboration time.

Even in open space offices, I hate to interrupt engineers. When I see an engineer I want to catch up with grab their coffee mug, I grab mine and tag along.

Note, there we also other factors that went into designing that building to aid in creating the most productive work space possible – such as the width of the hallways, the location of the restrooms, the location of the raised floor computer room (we worked very close to the hardware of the the systems we were designing), …Softlab became the second most successful independent software company at its time (behind SAP) to then get acquired by BMW.My uncle, Carl Martin Dolezalek, made quite a nice living up until the 1970s by advising businesses and factories how to lay out work space so as to gain efficiency as he described in his book “Planung von Fabrikanlagen” first published in 1973. His income was derived from a minor percentage of any increases in output due to higher productivity that resulted from changes he suggested.

How Hiring Impacts Spin-Up

10x-Engineer Female

The ability for a new hire to spin up is also greatly influenced by their mindset and approach to learning new things. As mentioned in 10x Engineer – The Root Cause, there are ways to find and hire engineers with a Growth Mindset. This mindset that comes with curiosity and a desire to learn new things contributes significantly to how quickly someone spins up. A good spin-up process itself will reveal if the hiring process truly found the person you want to have on your team.

Enabling Accelerated Growth

I have found myself in a few situations where rapid growth is required, but existing/senior staff are also critical to move the company forward in its rapid growth phase. At Twitch, I came up with the ideal that the nth hire could be best suited and least impactful in spinning up hire n+1. This proved to work, with a good spin-up process even when the next hire started only two weeks later. Their mentor was also still being spun up but had very recently learned what they needed to learn and made improvements to the spin-up process they would now be teaching.

Another challenge in rapid growth companies comes with finding the time to review designs and pull-requests. The is much new code being produced and an ever-shrinking percentage of engineers with tenure. Therefore, it’s crucial to include how to review designs and pull-requests as part of the new hire process. Good hires should already come with the ability to comment on general design and coding principles. The mentor should also provide context relevant to the design and architecture of the system in place and being extended. It’s also important that the mentor impart that design and code reviews are essentially continuous spin-up processes. Comments and suggestions should be given as coming from a place of helping (not criticizing). Exchanging comments and feedback through design and code review feed the continuous and incremental growth of the entire team. It also leads to an ever-improving code-base and system.

This continuous investment in employees feeds a virtuous cycle spinning a developer-productivity and code quality flywheel. It also helps reinforce the mindset of always keep learning and always keep teaching.

See Also

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