Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The new starter experience

I normally avoid 'link-posts', but again Hacknot is right on the money with 'If They Come, How Will they Build It?', an eminently familiar analysis of the plight of a new developer on a project with an oral documentation culture.

In fact I'd go slightly further than Hacknot, and state that the initial experience of a new developer on the project is one of the most important things to get right. First impressions do matter, and if your first impression of a project is the frustration of:
  • Not having a login
  • Not having internet access
  • Not being able to get latest
  • Not being able to build
  • Not being able to locate any documentation
  • Not having clear lines of escalation
  • Not having clear rules of engagement
  • Not knowing what's expected of you
  • Not having a mentor're going to be hard pushed not to be prejudicing your opinions of the professionalism of the rest of the project. You'll start disheartened, but on the other end of this unfortunate indoctrination you're going to be just like them. You won't regard the absence of the list above as anything other than normal. You'll accept that that's just not how things are done around here. You will love big brother.

[ahem. got carried away there]

I regard the absence of guides and documentation as more than a major time-waster: it's a self-perpetuating morale hole for all future team members to climb into and die.

New staff play a vital part in ensuring a project's approach doesn't atrophy. If you waste their 'fresh' time frustrating them with missing documentation and runaround, you won't get the benefit of seeing things from their eyes. They'll have clammed up and learnt to live with how it is, and by the time you ask them they'll have forgotten that they used to care.

FixBrokenWindows - they're not all in your code

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