Chapter 90. WELCOME, {HUMAN}!—Writing Onboarding READMEs

Cris Concepcion

Onboarding new developers is a crucial responsibility for an engineering manager. A new employee will come with a lot of energy and desire to be productive. A poor onboarding will leave them lost, frustrated, and questioning their choice. A productive onboarding can generate an amazing amount of self-sustaining momentum. In 2013, I joined Safari Books Online, and my boss, Liza, took onboarding so seriously that she went on vacation during my first week at the company.1 But, before she left, she wrote out an onboarding document, and it was amazing.

The guide—simply a Google Docs piece titled “WELCOME, CRIS!”—listed important documents, people I should meet, and a loose set of short-, medium- and long-term plans. It was a lot of what I personally would cover with a new hire when I welcomed them to the team, but having it written down was far superior to having these points described orally. Rather than being told to do a set of tasks, and going back periodically to my manager asking for what’s next, it was empowering to be given just enough structure to guide my own discovery.

The experience was powerful enough that I adopted it as I hired engineers into Safari’s growing team, and coached other managers into writing their own. I’ve continued the practice after moving to Wayfair, and also observed with pleasure ...

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