Joining a new team can be a challenging, and sometimes slow, process. Here are a few things I try to do that help me get up to speed and working well with my new teammates.
1. Seek out resources before you join.
Before you join a new team, try to find some resources about the project to learn from. Whether it’s about tools, technology, or practices, brushing up on what you’ll be exposed to on the team can help you hit the ground running.
2. Work directly with everyone on the team.
It’s easy when joining a new team to be paired up with an existing member who shows you the ropes. It’s tempting to lean on them until you’re up to speed. However, if you can manage, try to spend extended periods of time working directly with everyone else on the team as well. It’s not just useful for getting to know everyone. Additionally, it will be valuable to learn everyone’s perspectives and experiences on the project early on.
3. Set up a team norms meeting.
Instead of trying to infer how the team works by observation, push to do a team norms meeting with everybody. More often than not, teams aren’t running those types of meetings very often, so it doesn’t just benefit you but also the team as a whole. You can discuss how to run the project and participate on the team in explicit terms, helping align the team’s expectations.
4. Contribute to the onboarding process.
A good way to help the team out early on is to help work on your own onboarding process. While you may know everything about the project you’re joining, you will definitely know about your experience while doing it. Take notes, and give feedback to everyone on how it is for you as a new member of the team. Onboarding processes are never perfect, so a great time to help to improve them is while you’re going through onboarding.
5. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
After joining a new team, you may want to sit back and see how things are done. Or, you may want to reach some arbitrary level of understanding before inserting yourself into the process more fully. But sometimes the best way to get involved is to do just that — asking questions, making suggestions, and generally being a vocal participant. You may ask an “obvious” question or make a suggestion based on an incorrect assumption, but being wrong early helps you learn the ropes faster.
Be proactive when joining a new team.
These five suggestions basically boil down to one thing: being proactive. The more you are, the faster you can get acclimated to the team and project, while helping to improve things along the way. It’s definitely some additional mental overhead for an already tiring experience — but ultimately it can be very worthwhile.