Sam Pita is a graduate of Web Development Cohort 36 and shares her experience onboarding remotely to her first job in software development.
Nashville mayor John Cooper announced the “Safer at Home” order for Davidson County on Sunday, March 22, 2020. Starting the very next day, Monday, March 23rd, all businesses not performing essential services were ordered to close for 14 days. The general public was urged to stay at home unless they needed to leave the house for necessities like food or medicine. This, of course, was due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Also starting on Monday, March 23rd... me, at my first day of work as a junior software developer.
Let’s rewind a bit. I attended Nashville Software School’s (otherwise known as NSS) 6-month-long Full-Time Web Developer Bootcamp. Like all NSS students before me, I made all kinds of time and financial sacrifices to be fully present and engaged for the duration of this life-changing educational opportunity. And the bootcamp did not disappoint. It brought me deep into the code trenches, cementing software development concepts in my brain, forging close bonds with my classmates, and learning about myself as a problem-solver, teammate, and person.
From day one, NSS preps you well for what’s to come during your bootcamp, including lots of coding, building resumes and portfolios, mock job interviews, capstone projects, real job interviews, and the big finale-- Demo Day. But a few weeks before our graduation date, the coronavirus pandemic happened. Could NSS possibly prepare us for that? Well, actually… kind of!
NSS moved swiftly to transition all cohorts to a fully-remote learning environment (i.e. work-from-home) using Zoom video conferencing and Slack messaging systems to keep students and instructors connected. The goal of going remote was to abide by the concept of social distancing for the sake of flattening the curve. I’m not going to lie, communicating with everyone only online was originally a daunting idea. But after getting the hang of Zoom and realizing that we can share our screens, we all found our flow in communicating code problems to our instructors and being proactive about reaching out to fellow students on Slack.
These newfound skills working remotely came in handy sooner than I thought. I was extremely fortunate to accept a job offer as a Junior Developer when I was still in school, just before the coronavirus mayhem really began. The job is at a start-up in town named CareBridge Health, and just like most other companies at this time, they’ve pivoted to have all employees be fully-remote until the coronavirus pandemic is over. This worried me, because I’ve never worked a real software developer role before in my life. I never expected to kick off my professional career working remotely from my house, with no one sitting at the desk next to me to ask questions to or converse with. “I’m expected to get the hang of this all by myself?!” I thought. These fears were irrational, however. Just because I was starting remotely didn’t mean I was all by myself. The remote communication abilities I learned in my final weeks at NSS reminded me to be proactive about reaching out to my team and to use all of the communication tools at my disposal. So what was my first week like? Here’s the recap.
The First Week
On day one, I was set up with my new laptop and list of installs. I was welcomed in the morning via a Zoom video call with my immediate team members. I got access to my company email account and company instant messaging account. I then got acquainted with the person onboarding me (another NSS grad, woohoo!), with a one-on-one Zoom meeting before having our daily stand-up with a larger group of the tech team (via, you guessed it, Zoom). I had a phone call with someone from Finance and HR to get some paperwork finalized. I was granted access to the company repositories and was able to start looking through the codebase. So far, except for all social interactions occurring through video chat, I was actually having a pretty normal onboarding experience. What was I worried about, again?
Mid-way through the week, after a few lengthy Zoom calls with my onboarding guide going through the codebase, I was assigned my first ticket. I needed to refactor numerous files to comply with a new convention our team had established. In fact, I had to touch almost every file to do this. A bit of panic set in. Once again, I had this irrational feeling that I was alone. “I’m supposed to do this refactor after only two days? No one is here to watch over my shoulder and make sure I don’t do anything stupid!” But I reminded myself that I wasn’t alone, and I had teammates who were more than willing to help me an instant message away. I just had to make sure I was proactive about reaching out if I needed any help. Turns out, I was capable of doing the refactor myself, only asking my supervisor a few minor questions, but someone was always available if I needed it. Our group messaging channel was always pinging with new updates, and my main-point-of-contact for onboarding would check in with me throughout the day. By Friday, my PR was merged into development, and it felt really good.
Despite having to take on the challenge of starting my first software development role remotely, everything has gone well so far. I’m reminded that no matter what is going on in the world-- tornados, virus outbreaks, and whatever else gets thrown our way, humans are highly-adaptable. We will find a way to not only get through this, but thrive. The start of my new job has been a bit of an adjustment from what I thought my reality would be, but it’s exciting and fulfilling nonetheless. NSS Cohort 36’s Demo Day is now fully virtual, and many weekly tech meetups have moved online as well. Humans are finding innovative ways to connect with each other without being in proximity to each other, and the people who maintain a positive mindset while adapting quickly will be the ones who succeed. Luckily, we live in a time where the internet makes connecting with each other much easier. Heck, it’s amazing that I could be onboarded to a new job without setting foot into the office! However I wouldn’t have gotten through my first week on the job without my team making the effort to be available to me online. So let’s stay united, marvel at the little things, and get through this together.