I have started four different jobs in the past three years. That’s not a stat I’m proud of, and I’m sure my one-job-for-life grandpa shifted in his grave as I wrote that opening line. Sorry, gramps. The positive spin is that my recent history makes me something of a veteran newbie and connoisseur of onboarding processes.
Based on past experience, I expected my first days at The Nerdery to fall into one of two distinct categories – Chaos or Order. The Chaos onboarding plan is basically, “Here’s your computer. There’s the fire. Have fun!” The Order process involves phrases like, “You will spend the next 45 minutes reviewing the Harassment Policy before taking a quiz.” Awesome.
The Nerdery falls into neither category, which was my first clue that this place is doing much more than simply developing world-class interactive solutions. They have the crazy idea you are an adult human being and an asset who can transcend your job title and make a difference. That means not throwing you into the fire without ample support and training. That also means not tailoring the onboarding to such a low common denominator that they’re wasting everyone’s time.
It only took me a few days to learn The Nerdery is treating Newbs better than anywhere else I’ve worked. I say this not because they are paying me and not because Ryan Carlson is holding a Nerf gun to my head (he is). Rather, I volunteered to write this post because potential future employees should know the accolades and boasts on the website aren’t simply window dressing or gimmicks.
Even before I stepped in the door on day one, I already had a team of people looking out for me – an advocate, a team lead, a mentor, a development manager, and a Nerd buddy. My support system grew exponentially during the first week because The Nerdery designed their onboarding that way and because my fellow co-Presidents are cool, empowered, and interested in seeing their colleagues succeed. By the start of week two, I felt as welcome as Norm walking into the “Cheers” bar.
Feel free to be skeptical. I know you’ve all heard the “Culture! Best place to work! We love people!” company pitches before. Many, many businesses talk that talk and put their best face forward on their websites. Fewer businesses, like The Nerdery, make the necessary effort to walk that walk.
It’s not all rainbows and puppy dogs between these walls – although there are a lot of puppy dogs. It’s still work. And work is work is work. The Nerdery is a business, and as with any business, you are an employee being paid to do tasks, log time, fight through tough projects, occasionally overextend yourself, and deal with clients. You’ll get that everywhere.
But companies also control how they want to build their environments, tools, processes, and resources around that core of doing work, and those choices have major impacts on employee happiness.
Among the many messages driven home during my Newb week, the most refreshing one for me was that failure is an option. The Nerdery understands that projects can go wonky in a million different ways, and we’re all going to stumble and fall. Again: we’re human. The question is how we deal with those situations, how we communicate those issues, and how we rely on our supportive colleagues.
That big warm hug was very reassuring during a week when most newbies are nervous, unsure, uncomfortable, and over-eager to impress.