Onboarding as a team sport

Last edited on August 1, 2019

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    For new employees, starting at a new company isn't always a comfortable transition. Even if they’re excited about their new role, day 1 at a new office can be scary. They’ve left the familiar feeling of their old position for the unknown situation of a new company.

    Onboarding is meant to answer some of these unknowns. While the HR team can sit you down and walk through how the company came to be and when you’ll be paid, there’s some amount of onboarding where a meeting with HR doesn’t cut it.

    At Cockroach Labs, we’ve made onboarding a team sport. New hires are paired with a Roachmate -- their go-to resource -- with many other Roachers helping to get new hires up to speed on our product and how things work. The process is organized by our People Ops team, but with lots of help from every department at Cockroach Labs.

    We also refer to our onboarding process as MOLTing. Of course, we're a company called Cockroach Labs, and if you didn't already know, cockroaches molt. It's a process they go through early on in their lifecycle to shed their skin and build that resilient outer shell for which they're known. This reflects our onboarding program in that we hope you learn useful things during the start of your time here to become a resilient Roacher.

    What’s a Roachmate?Copy Icon

    All of our new Roachers (interns included!) are paired with a Roachmate, or onboarding buddy. Ever since our first People Operations hire, Cockroach Labs employees have had this onboarding experience. Roachmates serve the purpose to be a sturdy bridge for you to acclimate to what we're doing and how we do it at Cockroach Labs. In your first week, you are guaranteed to have someone who wants to introduce you to our team and show you around the office. Most importantly, your Roachmate is an open door to ask endless questions, anything from "when is lunch served?” (11:45 am, we eat on the early side) to “can I feed Carl a piece of beef jerky?” (no, even if he begs for it) to "how do I set up a testing cluster?" (use roachprod).

    When we did a revamp of the Roachmate Program, there were common themes coming from those who were Roachmates and those who had recently joined the company. The key takeaways were that there is value in having a Roachmate but there needed to be more structure around what's expected of them. While it was formerly unclear how often the pairs should be meeting, we set standards for the Roachmate Program being one 1:1 weekly during a new employee’s first four weeks. We understand that being a Roachmate is a time commitment so we wanted to set clear expectations on both sides.

    From this feedback, we’ve incorporated some significant changes to our Roachmate program. We’ve put more focus on the Roachmate Program being a learning opportunity for current employees to gain mentorship skills to assist their career growth. With that, the responsibilities will be more clear as we equip our Roachmates with checklists and topics to cover with the new employees. Lastly, we’ve chosen products to streamline the onboarding process that integrates with the products we already use. With all of these updated aspects together, we hope to create a hassle-free onboarding period for not only the new employee but our employees wanting to be involved in this period of ramp-up.

    Roachmates are a huge benefit to new employees that join us, especially as the company continues to grow. While the HR team would love to be a Roachmate to all new employees, it isn’t feasible as people are joining various functions of our company. We’re thoughtful when it comes to these pairings, as we pair those who will have valuable skillsets to their new role, like product managers with an engineer of that product area or recruiters with the hiring managers they’ll be working closely with. We’re appreciative of those who want to step up and take on these responsibilities so that we can better support a growing product and company.

    Your First WeeksCopy Icon

    Enterprise technology is not an easy industry to join. While many people can quickly name their favorite apps and tools, it’s rarer to find someone listing off their favorite enterprise technologies. During your first weeks at Cockroach Labs, we want to make sure you are given enough time not only figure out how we do things day to day but also get up to speed with understanding what CockroachDB does and where we fit into the database space.

    As you’d expect, we cover the fun general and administrative onboarding during Week 1. This covers a number of topics that apply to all new employees that join us. Day 1 starts off with sharing our company values, how we’re organized and making sure you’re filling out all the correct employment documents. We understand that most of this day is also spent setting up your email filters and making sure your tooling environment is productive. Day 2 brings insight into how we do things around communication methods and meeting culture. Then, we dive into our software and tools that we use internally and wrap up the day with you introducing yourself at the Company Wide Meeting. HR will close out on their sessions on Day 3, with a final presentation on answering all of your questions about payroll, benefits, and perks. (Parents, it’s true, we cover you and your dependents’ health insurance 100%!)

    Since enterprise tech is not always the most popular topic of discussion, it’s common to not have any familiarity with a database or what it is. We’ve built-in sessions to help ramp everyone up to speed on what a database is and where CockroachDB fits into the database landscape. We also show you how one could use CockroachDB and set up a cluster and lastly, share stories about how our customers are using us.

    Starting here and familiarizing yourself with databases during Week 1 sets you up for success during Week 2 and beyond, as you begin focus on more role-specific projects. Each of these sessions are run by other Roachers across our company, in the Product, Marketing, Documentation and Customer Success team. It’s a commitment of time from these team members that participate in onboarding to want to help educate the next generation of Roachers.

    Over the next couple of weeks of the month, new Roachers will sit through sessions focused on How \\[Team Name] Works, to give insight into what other teams at Cockroach Labs do. The "How Marketing Works" session is presented by our CMO, who shares what defines a MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) for us."How Product Design Works" is shared by our Director of Product Design who shows the latest wireframes created and feedback from user interviews. "How Recruiting Works" is run by a recruiter who also covers training new employees on our exercised based interviewing process.

    For each of these teams, it’s a great opportunity for a call to action in how others can collaborate with them on projects and share all the amazing work that their team has done. Not just that, they get to understand how all our teams function and work together to make progress on the company goals.

    Future IterationsCopy Icon

    Onboarding is viewed as a continuous work in progress, we can only expect more changes to come as we build out new features that need to be explained and more teams are created. After their first 30 days, we take time to check in with our new Roachers and figure out what’s been going well, what could be added and where we can improve. It’s a helpful way to keep our finger on the pulse of onboarding as the company grows and shifts.

    At Cockroach Labs, we strive towards making everyone successful and want to equip them in the best way possible. We hope that having these built-in resources like Roachmate and Your First Weeks supports these goals into enabling our employees to come in and be able to make an impact as soon as possible!

    Just like our Open Sourced Interview Process, where we share our exercised based interview prompts, we want to share Your First Weeks with you, future Roacher ;) in hopes that you feel more well-prepared when joining our team.

    Life at Cockroach Labs