How to improve your chances of success when you arrive at a software dev team

You might be a seasoned software developer who has been on a ton of teams. You probably know the ropes of the role and the mechanics of teams, you have a checklist or things you always do to have a great experience. Or you might be new in the industry, transitioning from a completely different field and fighting with impostor syndrome. If it’s your first software project, a lot of things are going through your head. There are some things you can do to improve your chances:

  • What technology are you using? This is something you might not be able to control, for some reason you got pulled into a project where you are not familiar with the tech stack. If you have any time before the project, learn as much as you can about the technology, it will help you a lot. It still helps if it’s only the fundamentals. Learning the technology on the fly, knowing the new team, and understanding the problem you are solving can be too much. Try to remove one of those things from the equation.
  • What problem are you solving? Try to understand the big picture, what kind of software are you building? Who are you helping? How does success look like? The more you understand about this, the more you’ll be able to contribute. I’ve seen some interesting cases where a new teammate is a rockstar but it is pointing in the wrong direction. This kind of issue should be fixed by the manager, but it’s great if you can avoid it in the first place.
  • How are things going? On the first days, you need to read the room. Is this a completely new team? Have they been working for some time together? How is the project going? Are we behind schedule? Is something on fire? Understanding the context can help you find ways to contribute and also ways to stay out of the way. Remember your goal is to help your team.
  • Are you writing everything down? I know these first days can be a lot. It’s a ton of new information, new systems, architecture, new tech stack, and new business process. You might have a lot of questions and still wrapping your head about what is going on. You are trying to remember all the different accounts you know have and where you need to use each of those. Please write everything down. Depending on what the team is going through they might not be happy telling you the same thing twice or thrice. It’s ok to ask questions but please make sure you are not asking the same question over and over again.
  • When can you ship something? I know everything is crazy around the new project and the last thing you want to hear about is shipping stuff. But it will help you a lot. It does not have to be a big feature or module, it can be a small fix. This will help a lot with your confidence and the team. They will feel you can contribute to the team and start trusting you with larger tasks. Start with something small.

The last point is, remember to enjoy the process. Everyone is new to a team at some point. You will not be the new one forever. In no time you’ll feel very comfortable in the project and you’ll be welcoming new team members.

Machine Learning, Humans in Tech and Startups.

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