Creating the Right Environment

Creating the Right Environment

It takes more than foosball tables to build a winning culture. Here are four ways to foster strong culture by creating the right environment. You’ve just hired a new junior engineer, and of course want them to be as successful as possible as quickly as possible.

You’ve just hired a new junior engineer, and of course, want them to be as successful as possible as quickly as possible.

To get this done, create the right environment for them. This is 100% the most important activity you can be doing. It may seem obvious, but no one showing up on day one or day 1000 will be able to deliver efficiently or effectively in the wrong environment.

What this means specifically:

  • Remove all obstacles that don’t exist to support a new developer.
  • Understand what that individual cares about
  • Understand their learning style
  • Understand where they want to go in their career

Starting out expecting that someone will just go from where they are to where _**_you_ want them to be_ is fools errand. They will _go from where they are to where _they**_ want to be_. You’re goal is to understand and utilize that for mutual benefit.

Fix the development lifecycle

The first part of this is culture/environment the developer is in. Create only technology and processes that are obvious. When a process exists to solve a more difficult problem, solve that problem. You can easily recognize these when you hear words like This is what we have always done, or _We need to do this because X,Y,Z on the other side of the building/business needs it._When you have requirements that are not self-evident it requires esoteric knowledge to execute “effectively”. Those are exactly the things that “experience” and “domain knowledge” help with. So instead eliminate the need for domain knowledge and experience. Limit your long conversations. Ask the 5 Whys of analysis, and make every one of those answers obvious.

The best strategy to solve this is limit the “developer configuration” to zero. I’m an expert software engineer and have experience in specific languages. (I’m not proud of some of them, but that’s not the point) Javascript, C#, Ruby. I expect on day one of working in a team:

  • I can go to one of Gitlab, Github, or another online git/task management web app. No custom, self-hosted, on prem solutions. Your code is not that important, if it isn’t available so that working from home on my laptop I cannot connect to get the source code, then there is an issue. Think of it like this, your new developer is on-call and there is a production issue. What steps do they have to take to check out the necessary code to investigate. Can they do this on their phone, on a train?

If the answers are *No, *then make it simpler.

  • Automatically get authenticated with my domain credentials for the company (or auth using my google account). After being added to a security group or being invited, I should be able to access everything in the company I need to. Multiple security groups or invites create unnecessary overhead, and especially no registration. Oh you don’t have access to that system yet, is just one more thing to slow a developer down.
  • See the list of tasks for the team there, pick the most important one. Where is the list of tasks, how are they tracked. If I can easily go to one obvious place to answer this question, then you’ve made too difficult to pick up new work. That means the new developer will be inherently deterred from doing that activity.
  • Then fork the repository, clone it locally. This should be the easiest part, if it isn’t there is a real problem.
  • Run one command to install all necessary packages or setup my machine for this repository in way which doesn’t require any manual steps and doesn’t prevent working on any other repository for another company or FOSS service/library. I can’t stress this enough of how much this needs to be one command. And that this command needs to be axiomatic to the language. This likely means making serious changes to your development pipeline and architecture to be able to support a new developer. If on day one they need to perform “machine setup steps”, immediately take a look at that. No matter how “simple” you think they are, your process is more out of date then the C## or node installation guide. I guaranteed you also haven’t tested your process on every type of OS with every browser and version. One of those scripts will break and your new dev and a senior will be sitting there all day playing around with unnecessary legacy technology instead of doing work.

engineering-mangement coaching mindset devops engineering-culture

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