An Onboarding How-To

Peter Sandtner

CTO at Finviz



"When I started working as the VP of Engineering at Operam, there were just eight people, three of which were engineers. Overtime, we hired 30 people for the engineering team, however, when I started there were no onboarding materials. As we grew, the products had more and more features, we were introducing different services, and the level of domain knowledge engineers needed to know expanded. New people started to become a bit lost, so we needed to find a solution."

Actions taken

"We started by creating a very simple onboarding checklist with Excel. It outlined what new people needed to know, and the steps that needed to be taken before they start, and during their first week, first two weeks, first month and first three months. We then added the names of the people who started and would tick off the tasks as the new engineers completed them."

"It became clear that it was really important to ensure that people felt productive from day one. Even on their first day, we would ask engineers to start coding something, so that they can deploy something by the end of the first week. This also helps to ensure that our engineers understand how to go through the entire process of coding and deployment with confidence. However, it was also important to give the engineers tasks that they could complete without requiring too much domain knowledge."

"Next, we created an onboarding handbook related to engineering. We then were able to send the handbook to new engineers a few days before they started so they would have a good understanding of the onboarding process, who they were going to meet, and what they were going to learn."

"We also started to give new engineers an onboarding buddy. We did this by giving a short training session for the buddies, to explain their role and its importance. The buddies then worked on the same project as the new engineers, answered their questions, and supplied the new engineers with more tasks when required. We also provided buddies for other departments, and our engineers now shadow other roles to learn about other work that is going on in the company."

Lessons learned

"It's important to choose the right projects for new engineers. If you choose a project that's difficult for new engineers to grasp, they will get lost. This will reduce their motivation and enthusiasm for their work."

"In addition, it's really important to focus on onboarding, as it makes a huge difference to your company's productivity. We have reminders two weeks before people are scheduled to start to prepare everything they will need to be onboarded and to explain the importance of the role of onboarding buddy to your engineers."

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Peter Sandtner

CTO at Finviz

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