A whirlwind tour of working from home from my first day on the job.
I seem to be one of the lucky few who had the unique opportunity to join Indeed the week after our work from home mandate went into effect. It’s had its ups and downs, but overall the experience has been an enlightening and optimistic one, and I’ve had a chance to see some of the strengths of Indeed’s team that enabled me to get started, and to find some rough edges that never needed to be filed down.
T-Minus 3 To 5 Days
Despite the sudden shift in gears, the pre-flight checklist was remarkably complete. Human Resources provided enough information to complete my paperwork; a quick trip to the UPS store for notary and that was all set. IT managed to have my laptop delivered on Friday morning, despite having only been in touch since Wednesday that week.
I needed to buy a few adapters, since the back-and-forth to have them shipped would have pushed past my first day of work, but otherwise, this experience was astonishingly smooth and well prepared, and communication about the process was excellent.
Day One: Monday
Orientation started in the afternoon, to give time for FedEx to finish delivering laptops. This had the effect of shortening the day to about a half-day, which is a nice reprieve from the usual frenetic pace of any new job. While there were some bumps along the road (mostly technical difficulties that required a little extra time and hand-holding to resolve than they would have in the office), for the most part, this very much mirrored my impression from earlier communications.
Despite the clearly unusual circumstances, everyone pulled together and came up with a very workable model for remotely onboarding a significant number of people smoothly.
About the only miss here is that, unlike in an office environment, I wasn’t in the room to hear chatter or meet and greet. This reflects one of the normal complaints about working from home: The entire social environment is displaced. The effect that has with regards to onboarding is that I could take notes, but I had fairly few resources right out of the gate – just a few points of contact and written next steps.
One of the downsides to starting a job remotely isn’t something that has ever occurred to me before: It’s been surprisingly tricky to keep coworkers straight. I can’t watch what people are doing, sit over someone’s shoulder for a minute and gather rather ephemeral information about work styles. I can’t notice that everyone’s going to a meeting right now where I may have missed the memo.
I actually have no idea who I would say sits to my left or right. So I drew a map of an imaginary office and started writing names. It doesn’t resemble the Seattle office in the slightest, but just having the ability to think of something in terms of “Oh! Jane Doe sits at the end of the hall. Let me wander over there,” has provided some semblance of organization to that particular brand of chaos, even if it’s ultimately a pretty straightforward mirror of the org chart at the end of the day.
There’s a sense in which learning the engineering systems and tools used at Indeed mirrors this thought.
Under more conventional approaches, I would start with watching what the team is already doing and build my knowledge of other systems out from there. That approach has been nearly completely inverted by necessity.
It’s tough to ask even basic questions without first knowing enough about the context to know what I don’t know, which from an onboarding perspective, has meant a much heavier focus on general engineering practices and systems knowledge initially. However, I have great news on that front: The internal resources here are amazingly complete and cohesive, and both of the teams I’m working with have good lists of onboarding material to work through.
Getting to know you
As I mentioned earlier, it’s tough to get to know the team without being around the office to mingle both on the small scale and the organization as a whole. However, as it happens, with everyone else facing the same challenge at about the same time, quite a few opportunities showed up to help alleviate this.
The Site Reliability team hosts a social happy hour at the end of each Friday, so I can get to know them more closely, for the small scale.
On a grander scale, I found the #wfh-cooking-club and #wfh-workouts channels awesome, and #zoom-lunches in particular have been a good way to get to know a few people outside of my immediate teammates.
At the end of the week, it’s a testament to everyone’s efforts that my biggest bummer is that I didn’t get to actually physically ring the gong, a rite of passage I hope I can cash in a rain check for when we all return to the office!