The New Guy

Published: Sat 01 October 2016

tags: retro

Everyone is new at some point. No matter your experience level. You're either new to the team or new to the business. Being the “new person” is both a blessing and a curse.

You're New

When you're new you come with no baggage. You're full of questions and curiosity.

  • Why do we do it this way?
  • Isn't there a better way of doing this?
  • Have you considered this instead?

These are all great questions for new starters to ask, and for teams to hear.

You Have a New Team Member

When you have a new team member you gain someone with a fresh perspective. They're full of questions and curiosity. Rather than history, they'll be open to new and fresh challenges. A new member can ask you to question current practices. It is very easy to overlook problem areas only until someone with a fresh outlook arrives.

How to be New

There are two roles a new team member must play.

  • Learning
  • Challenging

The learning phase should involve questions, shadowing and pairing. The goal is to learn about the system, the architecture and the business.

The second phase should be to challenge and question the status quo. Provide better solutions, or ask for justifications and explanations. This is both win-win for the team and the new member. They'll learn and the team will gain a fresh insight into their successes and failures.

The key part of being a new team member is balance within these areas. Too much learning and no challenging will benefit no one. Likewise kicking up a fuss over every detail is not going to end well.

New Starter Balance

A past mistake I've made is swaying towards learning the system, versus challenges areas that were clearly wrong or needed improving. This is a tough area, as you don't want to rock the boat, but at the same time some rocking is required. The key is to balance this.

Advice to my past self would to tackle areas that you can have an impact in. For example a neglected process or area. By picking your battles in this manner you can slowly build your brand within the team, further allowing you to take on the more controversial challenges. For example if you've been around for a while, and proven yourself you'll have an easier time suggesting and implementing change.

Lessons

  • Remember the Monkey and Banana Analogy.
  • Balance between learning and challenging when a new starter.
  • Start slowly when a new starter, stack up small wins over time instead of a big bang approach.
  • Embrace new starters, use them to test your processes and documentation.