Derik Whittaker



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On Starting a New Job, Doing it the Right Way

A few weeks ago I posted about 'Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer'.  As I get ready to start a new journey at a new company next week I thought it may be fun to post my thoughts on what a new employee should do to be successful.

  • Leave your dirty laundry at home
    From time to time when someone leaves a company, they are leaving because they extremely unhappy with the old place (not true in my current case).  When this is the case, leave the past in the past.  Do your best to not vent, rant or 'explain' what you did not like with the old company or why they 'sucked' so bad you had to run for this hills.  This will only make you look bad, nothing good can come from it.

    If asked about the prior company, try to speak about the experience in a positive light.  It will make you look much better then doing the opposite.

  • Understand before you critique
    Every company does things different, this is a given.  When you arrive and are learning about the way things are done, make sure you understand WHY things are being done the way they are before you critique it.  You have to trust that when the decision was made back in the day that there were valid reasons for the decision.  It is completely ok to suggest alternative ways, but not before you understand the current way.

    If you get your career started by trying to prove how smart you are and present a 'your way is best' attitude, you will be in for a world of hurt.

  • Go in with an open mind and open eyes
    Make an effort to open your mind to new ideas and ways of doing things.  This can be especially helpful if you are leaving a company that you were at for a long time.  By having an open mind you will be able to learn and grow as a employee.

    More than likely you are leaving your old company for a new experience and to gain knowledge, you could gain this very quickly if you are willing to accept change.

  • Build your own list of terms/definitions about the business
    As you are learning about the business try to keep a list of terms/definitions you encounter (if the company already has something like this such as a WIKI then consider yourself lucky) so you can reference them. 

  • Try to understand the layout/architecture of the systems
    As you are learning about the systems, try to build a document or documents that show the layout as you understand it (if the company already has something like this such then consider yourself lucky) .  Show these documents to senior team members to make sure your understanding is correct.

    By having documents such as these, your ramp time should be significantly reduced.  This will also allow you to make more informed decisions about possible changes to the system, or imporovements that can be made. 

  • Socialize...
    Make an effort to meet as many different people as possible.  Try to learn what their role is, what part of the system they work on.  Also, try to get to know your fellow co-works on a personal level.  Maybe you will find that you have common interests.

There are just a few of my thoughts about this, do you have any?

I know this is a little off the .Net topic, but since we all have to work for a living, thought it was worth while. 

Posted 06-06-2007 12:44 PM by Derik Whittaker



joeydotnet wrote re: On Starting a New Job, Doing it the Right Way
on 06-06-2007 2:53 PM

Funny, I too am starting a new job in a couple weeks.  BTW, I used a lot of the questions from your earlier post (along with some others) when I "interviewed them".  Thanks for that, it really helped me learn a lot about the new company that I'll be joining.

I'd agree with all these points of course.  One of the things I'm looking forward to is that as part of my orientation, I'm going to get to sit down with leads from all of the teams individually and get to know them a little more, ask questions, etc.  If you can arrange this, I think it would be good.

I guess if I would add anything else to this list, it would be:

-- Check your ego at the door

-- Avoid getting into the typical office gossip stuff

-- Criticize code, NOT the person who wrote the code

-- Stay passionate about what you do and it will infect others which will improve team dynamics

Derik Whittaker wrote re: On Starting a New Job, Doing it the Right Way
on 06-06-2007 3:00 PM


Glad you found my other post worth while.  I also used those questions and many others to find out if the next place is for me.

I like your list, espically the check your ego at the door.

Jimmy wrote re: On Starting a New Job, Doing it the Right Way
on 06-07-2007 3:41 AM

Whoa. A lot of job changes here. I've also changed my old couple weeks ago. I agree with your points (and Joeys as well). What is always most difficult for me is to get social know-how. Not only who is working on what but to know what people are. So I will personally give high impact to last point - Socialize. I'm trying to organise something here right now - British are not very social :(

expresso wrote re: On Starting a New Job, Doing it the Right Way
on 06-08-2007 2:19 PM

Great article.


1) I think the hardest for me at least is to let the past go.  You tend to seek out those things that you left for in your new job just because you hope not to come across it again.  But yes, it's important to understand that this is a new place.  What you observed in the past may happen, but you cannot assume this or look out for this.  Just relax and go with the flow for a while and see what happens.  Easier said than done...but yes, critical.

2) Being sociable is definitely a must.  But I also believe that being a newby, that there is a fine line in coming out too strong or not talking at all.  You don't want to be the life of the party or knock on everyone's cubical the first day.  On the other hand, you don't want to hide because "you're the new guy".  There is a fine balancing act and it's more important to socialize than not.  Just be careful how outgoing you are at first, because people may invite that or not.  Get a feel for the team, then start yapping a mile a minute..if that's what you do..which is perfectly fine.  Point is, you should meet people, but don't come off too talkative in the first few don't want to be too annoying. After all, people are busy and their life didn't just stop because you're "the new guy".  At the same time, the team should welcome newbies and make them feel that open door policy is that!  Many times, fellow coders say sure, I'll help you or answer your questions only to find that a lot of typicakl developers tend to shy away from it after you actually need the help.  We should all be open to helping each other at all times, be neutral, and truly work as a team.  This goes a long way to making a new guy feel comfortable as well.

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