An Approach to Onboarding New Software Team Members

Onboarding new software team members can be fun but challenging. This is especially true if the project they are joining is long-running with a large codebase. Below are some tips I employ to help ease their transition onto the project.

Assess their Knowledge.

When onboarding a teammate, figure out what pieces of the tech stack your new team member might be familiar with. Are they a completely new developer or a seasoned senior dev? Have they worked on only web apps and this new project is a mobile app?

Understanding what they already know can help guide the onboarding process. Even leveraging any existing knowledge of the tech stack can help to get them contributing to the project faster.

Let them drive.

Although it’s tempting to lead the way when onboarding a new team member, it can be helpful to let them be in control. When I’ve done this on projects that I’m onboarding onto, I’ve found it to be a great way to learn how to best navigate the codebase. Progress on a story might be slower with a new teammate driving, but it can be extremely helpful for their entire onboarding process.

Give them space.

While pairing can be beneficial to someone start on a project, sometimes it’s helpful to let them explore on their own. This could involve letting them tackle a small task for a story by themselves or giving them time for a deep dive into the codebase. Allowing for this solo time can give them a chance to test what they have learned so far and come back with more questions.

Take breaks.

Oftentimes, onboarding to a new project can feel like a firehose of information. Trying to parse everything can be tiring. In these situations, it’s really important to schedule some much-needed time for breaks. Stepping away from the screen could also allow your new team member to think of more questions to help with their onboarding.

Update documentation.

Gaps in documentation can make for a difficult onboarding experience. Use this opportunity to update some missing or out-of-date information. Add any steps that are absent, and clarify anything that may seem confusing to your new teammate. Your team will thank you the next time someone has to be onboarded to the project.

Make onboarding new software team members a pleasant experience.

Onboarding a new team member should be a pleasant experience for everyone. Hopefully, these tips are helpful in ensuring success for your new teammate.