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The Best Way to Make a Great First Impression


Joining a new team or company is a great opportunity to start fresh. The first 90 days at your new gig could make or break the relationship with your entire team moving forward, so how do we make a great first impression?

Taking inspiration from The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins, I believe it really comes down to these three things.

  1. Learning
  2. Execution
  3. Growing Others

1. Learning (Days 1-30)

Take whatever you learned from your previous company and throw it out the window. All your best practices, your testing strategies, your rollout strategies, your genius tooling, PR review methods. Say goodbye. I know, those are your babies, but for now let’s forget them.

Think of yourself as an anthropologist, invest early to speaking like the locals - Michael D. Watkins

It’s time to learn everything about your company. Think beyond just your immediate team, what does this company do?

  • What are the informal networks of communication?
  • What are the most important products of the business?
  • Who are the customers?
  • What is the company’s operating model?
  • Who are your stakeholders outside of product/design/engineering?

This is a great time to meet with as many people as possible across the company and ask questions. Don’t come in with any answers quite yet.

Soon you’ll become the company expert on your team. Chances are the other engineers have no idea how the company works outside of their domain/expertise. The more you know about the business the more you can move the needle forward for your pillar.

2. Execute (Days 30-60)

Now that you have a good idea of the culture, met stakeholders and peers, and have assimilated as much as possible. It’s time to execute.

First, it’s time to let go of ego. Just because you’re coming in as a senior engineer doesn’t mean you must do senior level tasks right away (e.g. design docs, large projects).

Instead, secure early wins. Building momentum early is the easiest way to gain respect from your peers.

Think about it, have you ever had a new person join your team who just knocked out a ton of low hanging fruit or tickets? What did everyone say about them? I’m going to assume pretty positive things about how quickly they’ve become helpful.

So, do the easy tasks, the mundane tasks, whatever you think would help the team right now.

3. Growing Others (Days 60-90)

By now, you’ve probably gained quite a bit of trust from the team. Let’s leverage the respect you’ve garnered to grow and help others.

In my personal experience, I’ve found the best way to do this is through asking questions and leading by example.

Here are some examples:

  • Ask questions in a non-confrontational way in PRs and design reviews
    • “I noticed you’re using cache_fn() to store the team_id, does that mean we’ve elected to not use the new CacheInstance::class that was introduced last week?”
  • Creating in depth PR descriptions for your own PRs when you notice others have empty descriptions
  • Creating reusable test infrastructure for your tests when you notice others aren’t adding unit tests to their code
  • Fixing issues that other people have brought up in meetings/standup
    • E.g. In standup people were complaining about a noisy page/alert and you spend an hour fine tuning it to reduce pages

I hope this helps. Thanks for reading! ☀️


P.S. Calli and I have created a course: Acing Your Final Interview at a Top Tier Tech Company. Please share if you know anyone with an upcoming interview!