When you start at a new company, the first weeks are a turmoil of new things. The Meltwater Product & Engineering team is no different. When new colleagues join us, they go through an onboarding phase with parts that are standardized across the company, and other elements custom to their team. Still due to the different backgrounds, and expectations, everybody will have a slightly different experience.
You cannot generalize personal experiences. It is best to hear those experiences from the individuals directly. In this post five new colleagues share how their first couple of weeks at Meltwater went.
Paula and Jamie joined us in our Berlin office. Paula is a new developer in our Content Integration’s team, while Jamie is an Agile Coach for multiple teams. Disa, Fredrik, and Anders all joined our Gothenburg office in Sweden. Disa is part of the PR Impact Metrics team, while Fredrik and Anders joined the Information Retrieval teams responsible for our search platform.
Q: What convinced you to accept a job at Meltwater?
Paula: For me it was the opportunity to learn a lot and discover new programming languages, while working directly on a product. I’m very excited to be directly working on an application that runs in Production and hope I can make an impact maintaining, improving and developing it further. So far I’ve only programmed in Python and my projects were mostly for research, which is challenging and can be exciting, but I missed the part where what I did is actually used and applied. At Meltwater I’m looking forward to both, learning a lot and building a product.
Disa: In a single word: “people”. My first impression of every person that I spoke to during the recruitment process was overwhelmingly positive. The personal reception, sincere dialogue and focus on teams and processes was what sealed the deal for me.
What I was looking for was a place to improve as a developer. I wanted new challenges in combination with senior colleagues willing to share their knowledge with me. Meltwater seemed like a great place to accomplish my goals of becoming a senior developer, and in turn pass my knowledge on to others.
Fredrik: I was attracted by the complex engineering problem Meltwater tries to solve. By complex, I mean delivering a product that can be quite easily assessed by “quick numbers”, such as how fast or robust it is, but despite these metrics on the performance, having a huge configuration and set-up behind the scenes of say, support services. I knew it would take a long time to master even parts of it. So, in short, Meltwater had me somewhere in the combination of algorithms, load distribution and computational efficiency.
Also, as much of an insight you get during an interview process, I got the impression that the team I was possibly going to join was a driven and “hungry” one - exactly what I was looking for.
Jamie: Everything I saw in my interview process convinced me it was an excellent place to work. The people who interviewed me asked insightful questions and allowed me to ask questions back. They seemed interested in the work they did but, also engaged with what others were working on, which sold the company to me.
Q: What were your first impressions of your team?
Fredrik: I would say responsible, adaptable and very helpful. During my first weeks, I had a designated mentor, but all team members were happy to share and sit-down and explain everything from concepts to code details. Instead of being put on a slower, “onboarding track”, I was directly involved by the team and could influence the code we later deployed to Production!
Jamie: As an Agile Coach, I am lucky to be working with multiple teams! I get a great insight into the many positive ways people collaborate at Meltwater. My first impression was that all teams felt confident to propose a team structure that worked for them. There was no ‘top-down’ ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
Disa: My team is the loud, funny bunch in the back of the office; puns, pranks and play are always close at hand. What impressed me though, was the team’s ability to seamlessly switch between the joking jargong and very productive teamwork. That can be hard to accomplish if the atmosphere is too unserious. But for my team they seem to have found that delicate balance. I’m happy to be in a team where I can be silly when I feel like it, but also have room to be personal and to voice my opinion.
Q: What do you do outside of Meltwater?
Paula: I love being outside, preferably close to the water or around trees. I also enjoy playing games of all kinds and preparing and eating good food. For most of my life I’ve been a competitive rower, now I like to go out in an eight occasionally and am looking to join a water polo team (which, as a not experienced player, turns out to be quite complicated in Berlin).
Anders: Just like Paula, I’m quite outdoorsy. Whenever I can, I like to go hiking or camping. My wife and I have two Siberian Husky dogs, and when the weather allows, we bring our mountain bikes to the dirt roads and let them pull us. It’s a powerful feeling! Other than that, I really enjoy travelling and genuinely experiencing different countries and cultures.
Jamie: I am quite the polar opposite of the other adventurous new starters. I prefer to be reading or writing. I also enjoy video games on my Xbox as teammates will attest! I will not lose.
Q: What is the favorite engineering project you have worked on?
Anders: As I have been working with software development since the late 1990s, it isn’t easy to pick just one. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in projects with a lot of impact for people, businesses and society over the years. One of the most rewarding products I’ve been working on was a system to monitor physical infrastructure, like drawbridges, traffic lights, and the structural integrity of roads and buildings. It allowed municipalities and government agencies to send out personnel early when something needed to be fixed. Also, on a more private note, I’ve built an Android app that reminds me to call my dad if I haven’t talked to him for too long.
Jamie: I am not sure if you can class it as an engineering project, but immediately after leaving University, I started work as a receptionist in a Children’s Centre. I noticed that the key workers were spending lots of time logging attendance data instead of concentrating on their vital work. So, I designed a system where the parents could scan an ID card, and their attendance was recorded. My side project was noticed, and I was asked to help out centrally with the roll-out of a child protection database across my home city.
Q: What was the most surprising/interesting experience in your first couple of weeks at Meltwater?
Fredrik: I was surprised how affected I was by “all the little things” during my first couple of days at Meltwater. It was remarkably easy to get onboard into our systems, there was fairtrade bananas in the lobby and, during my first day, I was recognized by other teammates that I had met during my interview process. Neither of these things are “important enough” to be a single contributing cause, but the result of them all led me to learn my team’s responsibility and work quite quickly. Basically, I could focus on learning “work” almost directly. A couple of weeks into Meltwater, I was able to sit next to and contribute to our team’s on-call track.
Anders: One thing that really resonates with me is the great work that is done to be inclusive and to embrace diversity. During my first weeks, the Gothenburg office hosted meetups on the themes of diversity, and women in IT. There is kindness and goodwill here that I have rarely seen in engineering departments elsewhere.
Jamie: I was thrown in at the deep end in my first few weeks. I helped arrange the new content integrations team Kickstarter, including activities such as teaching Wardley mapping, playing Jenga and getting experienced engineers to visualise their future selves in a letter to be delivered to them next month. It was a rollercoaster of a beginning but thoroughly enjoyable.
So much for the experiences that our five new colleagues in Sweden and Germany made in their first couple of weeks. This gives you a little glimpse into how it feels like to be new in the Meltwater Product & Engineering team.
What have you tried at your company to make the onboarding process for new colleagues as smooth as possible? We would love to hear more about it in the comment below.