Just Started a New Software Engineering Job? Fix Onboarding

If you are about to start a new job as a software engineer, the way to have a big impact day one is to go through the onboarding with the intention to generate a list of improvements that you work on over time.

Here are some things to look for

  1. Incorrect or outdated information. If you find these, just fix them as you find them.
  2. Missing entry-point documentation. Even teams that have good documentation often do not have a document that is useful if you know nothing. Often they don’t go back and make a good “start here” kind of document.
  3. Manual steps that could be scripted. Don’t go overboard, but if you see some quick wins to automate the dev setup steps, it’s a good first PR. It’s a tech debt payoff that is timed perfectly.
  4. Dev Setup Automation bug fixes. If anything goes wrong while running the scripts to set up your machine, fix the bug or try to add in any detection (or better error messages) that would have helped diagnose the issue.

There is usually a lot of tech-debt in onboarding code and documents because no one really goes through them. Sometimes underlying things just change and tech debt happens to you. You are in a unique position to make it better for the next person and have some impact right away.