Make sure your new team members are getting a well-rounded onboarding
In Fortnite: Save the World, there is a questline in which a character named The Cloaked Star answers, “Figure it out yourself,” to a variety of questions from a new hero who was a DBA before the end of the world came. It is hilarious because, at that point in the story, the new hero doesn’t have the information to do so.
Most of us have onboarding of new DevOps employees so simplified it would make us from five years ago cry tears of joy. Give them a container or virtual that is already equipped the way they need and they are ready to be productive, right?
Welllll … kind of. Let’s stay totally stoked by the idea that pre-made tooling that will run fine on whatever they’re running it on is a huge step, then acknowledge that in the age of DevOps, tribal knowledge is still very much a thing. There is this other repository we hit for X, an alternate API for Y, that system that does not work the way one expects, and so on.
We need to apply the same science to knowledge transfer that we do to tooling. It is not all self-documenting, it is not all obvious, and that knowledge absolutely needs to be transferred to new employees.
Some of us have this down pretty well. Far too many of us do not.
Two solid ways to transfer knowledge are documentation that is both thorough and up to date, and a buddy system. Both have strengths and weaknesses, but both address the parts that are not automated. If you go with documentation, make certain someone is responsible for keeping it up to date in the fast-paced world we find ourselves in. If you adopt the buddy system, make certain your team knows what information is most important to impart. While each buddy will be asked questions, it is the things that might surprise new employees that buddies should be prepared to impart.
You are building the future “legacy code.” How far in the future that is remains to be seen, but given our rate of change, probably sooner than you think. Even if you use the buddy system, there needs to be some level of documentation included. The number of projects that use something like “Joe’s database designed in his basement” because it had the best caching available but then employee turnover removed everyone with any knowledge of the weak spots in the chosen product, is stunning.
So make sure your new team members are getting a well-rounded onboarding. Make certain they have the info they need to be productive and avoid pitfalls that your team has already identified. Make their transition easier, and they’ll be productive sooner. And hey, you might avoid that big bug caused by someone’s lack of information.
Whatever you do, no matter their level, make sure they know the important bits. And keep kicking rear, now with new team members, equipped to help you along.
And don’t be The Cloaked Star. Help a new employee out.