My Onboarding Process is Useless and I Understand Nothing. What to do?
Today I am finishing a series of posts about onboarding. This is the fourth post on onboarding on this site and I think I've covered enough material to make you feel more confident during this difficult learning phase in the first weeks and months of work. Today I want to touch on another topic that worried me during my inbreeding and selection stages in general - what to do if I don’t understand anything. I don’t understand at all what they are talking about every day, what these technical people are talking about, and what alien language they communicate in general.
I am not a recruiter or someone who does onboarding for new hires. My entire post is built solely on my experience and what I personally went through in the first weeks of work in a new place, during onboarding. That is why there will be no psychological tricks or life hacks here - everything can be overcome only by your own work and everything else is nonsense, aimed either at your wallet or at your viewing.
Please note that we are talking about the reasons for failure and the solution to these problems, provided that you give your best to training and onboarding. None of the following will help you if you yourself are not willing to learn and try. Here I am powerless as anyone else.
Why don't you Understand Anything?
Before treating a disease, it is necessary to understand what kind of disease it is. A strange comparison, but understandable. First, understand why exactly you do not understand anything. What is stopping you from understanding all this new information? It could be anything. For example, I would highlight these few points that personally interfered with me at the time:
- Poor explanation from colleagues and team members who are onboarding. Sometimes I personally got the impression that they themselves do not understand what they are talking about, or, conversely, for them, this information that they talk about is so trivial and obvious that it should be obvious to me too (which, by the way, causes persistent problems with self-esteem).
- Incorrect structure of the onboarding itself. For example, it often happened to me that initially, they told me about such an analytics tool as Grafana, and only then they told me the data itself - where they come from, what they mean, and how to access the database in general. In general, the sequence is clearly violated.
- A huge flow of information. This is the biggest and most common problem, especially for those for whom this onboarding and work, in general, is the first. I remember my first week of onboarding - I just couldn't handle the flow of information. It was physically impossible to remember so much new information, and the only thing that saved me was that I did extra work every evening, sacrificing my personal time.
Complicated Onboarding - Reddit Thread. Recommend to Read (source)
You may have noticed that I have listed only those problems that do not depend on you, which you, as a novice specialist, cannot influence. Of course, you should not look for problems in everything but yourself. About the reasons why you "do not understand anything", which depend on you, we will burn further:
- Endless and useless self-hypnosis. The fact is that as soon as you first think that you don’t belong in this company, that you don’t understand anything, that you are just lucky to be here and you are taking away a place from a real specialist, you drive yourself into a corner you can't get out of. Such thoughts only exacerbate the effect of problematic assimilation of information, which is very harmful to you.
- Wrong focus and priorities. When I went through my first onboarding, I paid too much attention to the little things that I will use no more than once a month, and maybe even less often. And I devoted less time to more complex and fundamental things, such as the architecture of a software product or the personnel structure of a company (this was important for work since I had to communicate with the whole huge company and know who and what was doing).
- False expectations. This a very controversial point, but now I will explain. During my first onboarding, I was full of motivation, it literally oozed out of me, I wanted to learn everything at once. Nothing could stop me, but all the same, the learning process in the first months was more difficult than all 4 years of study at the university. The thing is that I had a completely different idea of this work and work in IT in general. I had expectations like working on the beach and high salaries, but I had no idea that I had to work around the clock and learn literally everything all over again after university.
Onboarding Problems - Quora Thread. Recommend to Read (source)
How to Start to Understand Everything and Not to be Stupid?
Great question and, you will not believe it, but I have an answer to it. Even a few. I will list them below, but for now, I will say that you will be required to be as open and sociable with people, colleagues, and team members. It is very important not to forget about your soft skills because here they will eventually play a decisive role. So, here are my thoughts:
- Communicate with the entire company. Don't limit your social circle to just your team or department, as I did. Do not repeat my mistakes and communicate with everyone. Such communication will not only increase your visibility in the company but will also put the corporate structure in your head. It is very important to understand who works where and is responsible for what. For some reason, very few people talk about it. It’s not necessary to talk about work, you can just send memes (just don’t spam), the main thing is to communicate and not let your Slack dialogue with someone be empty.
- Ask questions and the more the better. The fact is that this is the basis of any educational process - numerous questions. The more questions you ask colleagues and team members, the faster you learn new material. Create lists of questions and ask your colleagues at the end of the working day. Every day there will be fewer and fewer questions, and when they disappear altogether, consider that your training was successful and you are ready for the real workflow.
- Keep practicing because no one said it would be easy. Every day of my first onboarding process ended with either reading technical literature or reading official documentation (corporate Wikipedia - Confluence). Here you will have to remember the years at the university when you had to study extra at the expense of your personal time or sleep. Be prepared that no one will thank you for this, and even hardly anyone will notice or appreciate it. This is a constant through which you will have to go through the first month, or even longer.
Things to Avoid
There are some things I would advise you to avoid. Here, of course, everything is very personal and differs from person to person, so I will talk about my experience, about what, looking back, I would avoid. Here is the list of things:
- Do not show your failure as a specialist. Even if some things are 100% incomprehensible to you, your brain simply refuses to perceive some things to the end, never say that you don’t understand it at all. If you do not fully understand how the pricing algorithm works in the Internet company you work for, do not claim that you do not understand "nothing". For you, this may seem like a minor detail, but for a team lead or project manager, this is a signal that you are not coping with the onboarding process.
- Avoid conflict and ambiguity. When I went through my onboardings, which were not few in my entire career, due to a lack of understanding of this or that material, I had a feeling of anger somewhere inside, feelings that everything around was against me and deliberately bombarded me with such a volume of information. Sometimes it was hard for me to hold back my emotions and anger and not say to the project manager - "You're explaining everything to me like crap. I don't understand anything". This anger is, of course, unjustified and will not affect your onboarding in any way, but it can affect your relationship with the team. Remember that onboarding success is primarily about soft skills.
- Spare everyone the self-pity. This is a personal story. I very often said phrases like “I will definitely make a dashboard as soon as I figure out the new onboarding material, there is so much, I don’t even know how to do it all” or “How do you remember all this information and know how to do so many things. It doesn't work. Maybe there's something wrong with me". This eliciting self-pity on the part of others does not lead to anything, only to a deterioration in relationships with surrounding colleagues.
I Am Asking DM My Questions - Meme
What attitude should be followed?
Mood is very important when you start something new in your life, something you have never tried before, and even thought about the existence of something before. It was only towards the end of my first onboarding that I realized what kind of attitude I should adhere to in order for everything to work out for me so that information is remembered faster and more efficiently. I would say this - squeeze everything out of the working day in order to relax as much as possible in the remaining time and prepare for the new big day:
- Do not wait for the task to arrive, but take it from a team member yourself. The theory is good, but everything is better understood after practical application. Write to the general chat of your team and ask for tasks. For example, I did this - "I have free time and I can help someone. Write to this thread if you need help, I'll help unload you". In addition, this way you will build relationships with the team and clearly position yourself as a team player.
- Spend the most productive working day, and then have the most productive rest. I am sure that there will be no need for additional literature, courses, and other material if you are as productive as possible during working hours, if you immediately go to google something that you have not encountered before if you immediately ask the team a question about something you don’t know yet if you communicate with a whole company and know what is the role of each in this complex mechanism.
So the last article from the series about articles about onboarding has come to an end. I hope you were at least interested. I read some of the threads on Reddit related to my articles and noticed that they are read not only by IT newbies who directly go through the onboarding stage but also by the threads of the people who conduct these onboardings, who are members of the training team. It is perfect. I hope my articles were useful for all aspects of this educational process.