Chapter 62. Onboarding Beyond Codelabs

Jean Hsu

When we think about onboarding process, we often think about codelabs, classes, and tutorials. And let’s face it, at most high-growth startups, it can never seem like the right time to spin up a project to build out more onboarding resources.

Many years ago, I implemented two subtle but powerful changes to Medium’s onboarding process. Surprisingly, neither is engineering specific nor have to do with code walkthroughs or tutorials at all. I share them with you here, along with a third bonus tip for building alignment quickly with a new member of your team.

First Impression

The first day of a new job can be daunting, overwhelming, and anxiety inducing—so no matter how much other onboarding classes or codelabs or dev environment setup documents you have in place, one of the highest impact ways you can put someone at ease is the first impression they have when they show up for work.

I set the first impression with a beautiful welcome letter on their desk. Every time a new engineer joined, I customized their welcome letter, printed it out on high-quality cardstock, and signed it with a pen, “Welcome! ~Medium Engineering.”

The letter expressed the team’s enthusiasm at their joining, followed by a beautifully formatted schedule of their first day. I included the name of their onboarding buddy (see the next tip) as well as a pointer to ...

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