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Welcome Docs: Getting Started at Cockroach Labs

Welcome Docs: Getting Started At Cockroach Labs

Welcome, New Roacher!

That’s how all of our Welcome Documents start, though you can expect yours to start with your name on top. Welcome Docs are how we help our new teammates get started and get past the natural new job jitters at Cockroach Labs. We understand there’s nothing worse than not knowing what to do or where to go on your first day, so we use Welcome Docs as a nice roadmap for this transition.

In a previous blog about onboarding, I share how we structure Your First Weeks at Cockroach. We designed our onboarding process to be robust and informative, covering information about best practices at Cockroach Labs and providing an overview of our product, CockroachDB. However, it doesn’t account for the various nuances of each role, team, or department. That’s why our People team makes an effort to create personalized Welcome Docs to account for those specific role differences. In a partnership with hiring managers, we build the docs to make sure there’s clarity in what’s expected of you in your first 90 days. Here’s a bit more on what they look like:

Resource Basics

In this section of the Welcome Doc, we link some key team resources for you to bookmark and click through. These include our Corporate Wiki and our Shared Drives. We also share  resources specific to your team or role, like Talking Points for our Recruiting Team, or our Product Pitch for our Revenue Department. If you’ll be writing code here, we’ll walk you through how to add yourself to the AUTHORS file.

So that you’re quickly looped in on important conversations, we list out some key Slack channels that you should join. We have a number of channels for different departments but also channels for customers, features, processes, or hobbies. As our number of Slack channels increases, it’s a good checklist to go through and make sure you’ve joined the ones that pertain to you. We also highlight the different email groups to which you’ve been added. It’s good to know these aliases when sharing information.

Team Overview

Here’s where things get more specific! When you join Cockroach Labs, you are paired with a Roachmate, an onboarding buddy to show you the ropes during your first month. You’ll meet with them weekly for the first four weeks and they’ll help get you up to speed on general company policies, technical explanations, and can connect you with the right people to answer your questions. We even draft a brief introduction to your Roachmate so that you know what they do here at Cockroach Labs and how best to use them as a resource. 

In an overview of your team, we explain where your team fits within the organization and how the team is organized. For some roles, you’ll be working more cross-collaboratively, so we highlight those collaborators here. We also name a couple of Roachers with whom we suggest setting up 1-on-1s. These are people we encourage you to introduce yourself to as they will be great partners along the way.

To wrap this section up, we list your team’s objectives to help you understand and align with your new team’s goals for the upcoming year. These objectives are paired with key results to keep everyone accountable for targets and metrics. With planning occurring quarterly, be aware that these goals may shift and change throughout the year.

Starter Projects

This is the good stuff! Before your first day at Cockroach Labs, a member of our People team will meet with your manager to make sure we’re all set for your start date and to determine at least 3 starter projects for you. The starter projects can vary greatly in scope; some may take 2 weeks to complete, while others may not be finished until your first 90 days. Each of them is designed to support the objective and key results shared above. In each project, we link resources that have been built out already and suggest partners to whom you should ask questions. For roles where you need to be familiar with our codebase, we’ll kick you off by assigning you an open issue.

Here are some examples of Starter Projects we’ve designed:

Learn CockroachDB - Role: Training Manager

As our Training Manager, it’s crucial for you to have a solid understanding of our product and its capabilities. So you’ll spend your first weeks learning:

  • The architecture
  • How to deploy and administer the database
  • How to demo and explain its key capabilities and differentiators 

Resources: CockroachDB Docs

Suggested partners: Jesse (VP of Education), Andrei (Your Roachmate), Drew (Sales Engineer)

Open Sourced Interview Process Update - Role: Recruiter

Why? We believe in supporting a fair hiring process. You can learn more about why we opened sourced the interview process here: Open Sourcing the Interview Process to Reduce Bias. It is the recruiter’s responsibility to keep the Github repo updated. However, we would like for you to review the repo and ensure it’s up to date. 

Benefits of this Starter Project: You will get a deep-dive into the interview process and culture at Cockroach Labs. This will give you a clear understanding of how we drive our hiring efforts and how to effectively execute hiring at CRL. 

Expected Duration: 2-4 weeks

Create an Outbound Campaign for a Vertical - Role: Sales Development Representative

Why? Knowing CockroachDB and learning the tools is a good first step for understanding personas that you will be contacting: Solutions Architects, Engineers, Systems Administrators. Targeting specific verticals will require further knowledge of research and messaging. 

What? Research personas within a vertical and partner with Marketing to create an outbound campaign.

roachprod: Multiple zones are silently ignored without --geo - Role: Software Engineer

Issue: https://github.com/cockroachdb/cockroach/issues/38542

This is a straightforward enhancement to roachprod, our internal tool for provisioning CRDB clusters on cloud infrastructure. This project will give you exposure to the CRDB codebase as well as some of the complexities related to creating a CRDB cluster and our internal development cloud infrastructure.

Estimated Timeline: 1-2 weeks

Suggested partners: Bob (Member of Technical Staff)

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Make Getting Started Easy

These onboarding documents are meant to serve as a comprehensive resource for our new teammates to understand what they’re working on, with whom, and why. The above starter projects are just a snapshot of the kind of work our people kick off on day one.

What the people say is true: joining a startup is chaotic. Growth will hit a hyper-phase where establishing processes like this assist greatly when you’re trying to keep up with your headcount. To any other People people who might want to leverage Welcome Docs, our advice is to implement the process, then make it a template.

Shortly after we started these Welcome Docs, we created a template for managers to copy and create their own. Nowadays, I’ve seen managers with upcoming new hires build out Welcome Docs on their own. They will create them for employees growing into a new role or as a way to onboard consultants that are working with us for a limited time. This process and partnership greatly reduce the burden on the People team as it enables our managers to ramp up their new teammates successfully. 

Metrics and Data

Welcome Docs came to fruition as a result of data and surveys we collect on our team. After about 30 days, we send a short New Hire Survey to get feedback around the onboarding and understanding of Cockroach Labs. In the first quarter of last year, only 67% of new Roachers agreed that they understood what was expected of them in the first 30 days. We rolled out our first Welcome Docs at the start of Q2 and watched the agreement percentage climb from there.

Q1            Q2        Q3          Q4       
n = 18 n = 27 n = 24 n = 13
It was clear what was expected of me the first 30 days on my job. 67% 89% 96% 100% 

Going into 2020, we’re revamping this question to dig deeper into what the Welcome Docs can enable our team to do. Over the next year, we’ll be measuring the agreement of “I was able to effectively contribute to the team in my first 30 days,” in hopes that our Starter Projects allow Roachers to do just that. By being transparent about expectations and providing resources to meet them, we can better set people up for success and sustain it, too.

Wondering what your Welcome Doc will look like? Come join us!

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