The first 90 days in a new tech job will set the tone for your relationships with co-workers and bosses; based on your performance, they’ll form opinions about whether you’re a good hire or not.
To make sure that you get off to the best possible start, here’s a look at the actions and attitudes that separate top performers from average ones in their first 90 days on the job, as well as some critical mistakes you definitely want to avoid.
Get Up to Speed on the Code Production Process
Since top performers ship more code and create fewer bugs and mistakes, focus on learning the company’s code production and quality assurance processes.
The sooner you become familiar with the software ecosystem (including source code control, development environment, build process, versions and archiving) in your new tech job, the sooner you can increase your productivity and become an asset to your team, advised Matthew Park Moore, a senior software developer with 40 years’ experience.
“It’s important not to make any big, howling mistakes in the first 90 days,” Moore said. To avoid major errors, start with small fixes or optimizing existing code before tackling a new app or product (if possible; a company might throw you into the proverbial deep end on day one, especially if it’s a startup with a release deadline looming). In addition, make sure your code aligns with what the rest of the team is doing, and show some humility by reviewing bug reports and double-checking your work.
Look for Patterns
Recognizing patterns in teamwork and the cadences of your new tech job will help you ramp up quickly, suggested Mira Zaslove, a product manager for Cisco. For instance, one person might say, “This needs to be re-worked” (meaning you need to start over from scratch), while to another, “re-worked” means just a little fine-tuning. Or if you know that co-workers will always wait until the end of a process to voice their concerns, you can plan appropriately. Paying attention to these types of details can save you time and frustration.
Understand and Exceed Expectations
Failing to clarify your boss’s expectations is one of the biggest mistakes new employees make. Specifically, you want to be absolutely clear about what success looks like, and how your performance will be evaluated in the first 90 days. Knowing what your boss and teammates expect from you will also help you execute another key strategy: under-promise and over-deliver.
For instance, if it would normally take about a week to gather requirements or create a product roadmap, commit to delivering in two weeks, Zaslove suggested. That way, if you run into challenges, you have a buffer, and if you deliver ahead of schedule, you will exceed expectations.
Get to Know the Product
Every action you take in your new role has an (eventual) impact on users. Get to know the product and the user base during the first 90 days by asking the following questions:
- Who uses the product and why?
- What do they like and dislike about it?
- What is the current design philosophy?
- What big decisions were made in the past that you must remain consistent with?
Once you have the answers to those questions, you’ll have a better grasp on how to effectively serve the customer. Your boss and co-workers will also note how you’re synced with the larger company objectives.
It helps to know who you can turn to for advice and technical guidance when you’re starting a new job. Invite your new teammates to coffee or lunch to build positive relationships and discover their specific areas of expertise. While you’re at it, don’t ignore the professionals in testing or IT support.
“Treat them with dignity and respect, because they can make you look good,” Moore pointed out.
Avoid Political Pitfalls
Don’t turn a blind eye to office politics… but don’t get sucked in, either. Occasionally, a small group of employees will try to induce a newcomer to support a controversial move to a new project management methodology, framework or library. Since you may not know the effort’s ripple effects or political implications, you’re better off staying neutral in these types of debates.
Hold Your Opinions
Don’t get off on the wrong foot in your new tech job by condemning the tech stack or questioning specific software development processes right off the bat. “Offering negative criticism or telling teammates that they are ‘doing it all wrong’ will not go over well,” Moore said. Nobody likes a know-it-all.