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Integrating a Junior Engineer Into a New Team

Juniors
Company Culture
Team processes

29 January, 2021

Jadon Naas, Product Development Lead at InMotion Hosting, talks of his failed attempts to integrate a junior engineer into a new team with a culture of its own.

Problem

I had to integrate a passionate new junior engineer into a product development team I was leading. The company formed the product development team from experienced engineers from around the company, and most of the engineers came from the same team. The new engineer came from a different non-engineering team and was unfamiliar with the culture and procedures of the other engineering teams.
 

Actions taken

I was not part of the team from which most of the engineers came from. I allowed the team to adopt the culture and practices of the team from which most of the engineers originated. This resulted in a somewhat adversarial and challenge-oriented culture. The team members were expected to conduct in-depth research and have impartial presentations on technology or solutions they would be proposing for the product development team to consider them.
 

The junior engineer presented a technology solution they were very passionate about, but the rest of the team did not feel their presentation was well-researched enough. The team had several questions they felt the junior engineer did not answer.
 

I worked with the junior engineer in our one-on-ones on how to run presentations and how to deal with expectations from the other product development team’s members. The junior engineer seemed responsive to the feedback and committed to working on resources and documentation to explain his research. However, the team still struggled to fit the junior engineer into the team culture.
 

The project’s overall direction at the time did not align with the junior engineer’s passion, and I was not able to communicate well how the junior engineer’s work fit into the bigger plan for the project. Neither the junior engineer nor the rest of the team understood why the work was important and how it would benefit from different perspectives and approaches. I brought in the technical leader of the product development to also work more closely with the junior engineer and try to help them adjust to the team’s culture. After a number of failed attempts to create a more welcoming environment for the junior engineer, he was left with no option but to leave the company.
 

Lessons learned

  • I should have paired the junior engineer with a more experienced team member who could mentor and support the junior engineer with assigned work and with participating in the team. I think that one-on-one interaction with a mentor would help a junior engineer safely learn how to be accepted as a productive member of the team.
  • I should have worked with the rest of the team to create a better, welcoming culture that supported every team member’s needs. Also, I should have looked for other team members who might have felt the same way as the junior engineer but had not spoken up about their unhappiness with the situation.

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