Derik Whittaker



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Developer Ramp Time, Different ways a company can speed it up

In a previous post, I talked about why some developers ramp up faster than others.  In this post I would like to explore ways that a company can aid in the ramp up time. 

In my opinion it is in the best interest of the company to make sure that all of their new employee’s ramp up and become valuable as fast as possible.  So, what can a company do to aid in the ramp up time of new employees?


  • Walk a mile in someone’s shoes
    If you’re business allows for a developer to shadow another employee for a while (1-3 days) in order to learn the business, this is a great idea.  I have worked for 2 different companies (both retail) where they would send their new developers to the stores to work on the floor to learn the business. 

    I can say with 100% assurance, this was the best thing the company could have done for me.  Not only did I get to learn the business, I learned about the products being sold, about the software product I was going to work on and how it was used by the users.   It also made me realize the I would rather be sitting at a desk coding then selling product to a customer J .

  • Shadow an experience/senior developer
    Have the new employee sit with (pair if you will) either an experience developer (someone how has been with the company for a while) or one of the senior developers on the team.

    Having the new developer do whit will allow them to see how things are done on a day to day basis.  It will also get them acclimated with the code base and process that may be in place.

  • Shadow a QA person
    Along with having the new developer sit with an experience developer, have them sit with someone on the QA team. 

    When they are with a person from the QA team, make sure they are testing the application.  This will give them insight as to what to expect from the QA department.  Another thing they should be learning while with QA is how the application is expected to be used in the field.  This is very important, especially if the opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes does not exist.

  • Assign them simple bugs to fix
    Have the new developer fix bugs, this is assuming the product is already in the development cycle.  Having them fix SIMPLE bugs will allow them to gain a better understanding of the application’s code base.  This will also allow them to understand the process for fixing issues. 

    Most importantly, having them fix simple issues will allow the developer to feel like they are making an immediate impact on the team.  This should NOT be overlooked.

  • Have them test the application, try to break it
    Have the new developer poke around in the application.  Have then try to break it.  What is great about this is that a ‘new’ set of eyes will ALWAYS find issues simply because they don’t know how the application was intended to be used.   It is also fun to have them attempt to fix any of the issues they find.

  • Have them review any documents that you may have about the project
    If you have any documents (use cases, UML diagrams, etc) have the new developer review those.  This will at least get them familiar with the project and what to expect.


The list above is just my thoughts/opinions on how a company can help a developer ramp up.  I am sure I have missed things or left out some as well.  By no means do I think that a company MUST do all of the above in order to have the new employee be successful, the list above is just a dumping of my thoughts.  However, if a company did do some (or most) of these, I think they would see a large ROI for doing so.

Posted 06-20-2007 6:00 AM by Derik Whittaker
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Louis Haskett wrote re: Developer Ramp Time, Different ways a company can speed it up
on 06-21-2007 9:44 AM

All Good Stuff.  

Some drilled down suggestions:

* “What’s this thing do?”:  If your company provides training classes for the software app(s) you're going to help develop, take the class!

* “Tower of Babel”:  Ask if there is a dictionary of business terms.  If there is, read it.  If there isn't start creating it to make it easier for the next guy.

* “Look at the map”:  Ask for copies of your database structure and business model diagrams.  Same as above, if they don’t have it, create it.  I’m thinking, if you don’t know your data and how it relates, your going to have so trouble ramping up.  

* “Its all Politics”:  Create a map for yourself of who’s who.  Who runs what teams, who reports to who?  It’s important to know where you fit in your company!

* “Archaeology 101”:  An important part of mastering a project is understanding its history.  When was it started?  By whom?  What team?  What was the original intention?

* “Take the bull by the horns”:  All these suggestions are nice, but a lot companies don't know to set them up for new developers.  You’re going to have to be proactive and do it yourself!

Derik Whittaker wrote Developer training, a real (non)success story
on 06-30-2008 8:42 AM

About a year ago I created a few posts on the topic of Developer Ramp time and how companies can help

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