Joining us remotely – how does it feel to start a new job from home?
Friday, May 15, 2020
At Liberty IT, we have continued to recruit, interview and onboard new employees to key roles within the company – despite all working from home due to Covid-19 restrictions.
This has, of course, created a very different onboarding experience for new hires. In ‘normal’ times they would spend their first weeks taking part in an orientation programme and getting immersed in their new teams – often with coffee and buns!
We’ve adapted the process to suit our new ways of working and have checked in with two new hires, Claire Chung and David Freebairn, to find out how they’ve been getting on.
When did you start at LIT and what is your role?
Claire – I started on 30 March as a Senior Product Designer.
David – I started on 6 April as a Senior Software Engineer.
You both started remotely – what have your first few weeks been like?
David – I started fully remotely – while I was working my notice period (from home) in my previous company I was called by LIT to collect my laptop on the final day the offices were open (March 17th – Saint Paddy’s Day). My walk through the deserted streets of Belfast, normally so vibrant on this of all days, actually felt pretty eerie.
Claire – On my first day there was an all employee call with Willie and Cathy [our Managing Director and Senior Director of Talent] and the message they were giving I found to be very supportive of employees especially people who have dependents working at home (in my case, two kids). They encouraged people to put themselves and their family first - I was happy to hear that. Afterwards, Cathy messaged me to say hi and welcome me to the company. My first impression of the leaders was that they are very down to earth and approachable.
Throughout the week, members of my team reached out to me to welcome me and get to know me. During my first team call, everyone turned on their cameras to say hi and introduced themselves. It was nice to see their faces and get to know them.
David – Like Claire, my first week began with one of Willie’s ‘LIT All Together’ sessions and a calendar chock full of onboarding sessions with the lovely Talent team. It was somewhat reassuring to see the MD delivering a briefing from his own home and it definitely helped me feel grounded – we’re all in the same boat no matter what level of the organisation we’re at. At the same time, the Talent team kept me occupied with an array of well-organised introductory sessions throughout the week. LIT is known for providing a seamless onboarding experience and I have to say that, despite the unprecedented circumstances we are currently faced with, they still managed to pull off a sterling job.
More than anything though, it was just nice to talk to actual people in these sessions and actually feel like I was being welcomed into the company – just the simple act of getting to chat to a range of people via the onboarding sessions was arguably much more important than the actual content they were presenting… We need the human connection now more than ever.
It’s also important to remember that starting under these conditions would only really be possible in recent years – without the quantum leap in the fidelity and network capacities of Video Conferencing tech in recent years – Zoom, Skype, MS Teams, FaceTime etc. How could what we’re doing now even be possible? Without cameras on during introductions, I’d literally have no real idea who I’m talking to – I haven’t met anyone I work with in the flesh and I’ve no idea how long it will be before this changes.
How have the team integrated you virtually?
Claire – Each day I would spend some time with different members of the team. From the history of the project, overview of team members, stakeholders, a walk-through of the product and looking at the roadmap of upcoming work. Generally, I tend to spend the majority of the time with the Project Manager and the Product Designer (who is based in Poland).
David - The team were great – especially my Buddy, Nikita, who has been an absolute star in helping me out during these first few weeks. From week two onwards, she set up daily catch-up sessions in our calendars where we would regularly go over our allotted hour chatting and answering my many questions about the various aspects of life at LIT. It can be a bit overwhelming joining a new company where there is just so much going on (even in lockdown!) but I must say that everyone has been so helpful and friendly and without this luxury, starting a new job in quarantine simply would not have been possible. It was great to meet Nikita’s ‘wee old man’ dog Seamus via the FaceTime camera.
At this point we thought it would be great to jump on a call with Nikita too, to find out her experience of being a Buddy for David as he joined the team.
Nikita - It’s been slightly more challenging than being in the office as it’s so nice to meet people for the first time, go for coffee and a chat. I’ve had a lot more calls with David – for the first two weeks we had a half hour every morning to go over general things. This allowed us to get to know each other and then I added additional blocks of time in calendars to have dedicated time on specific things. I was also able to split out some tasks to other team members to give him a chance to meet them.
By his third week David was pairing and checking in code with another developer on the team, in a brand new tech stack – so we’re doing something right!
I will have to tell him about team buns when we do get back to the office, by which time we will have at least one more new start too. He won’t be alone there will be other people in the same position in other teams too – meeting new people all over again in person.
Back to Claire and David… what have you done to get to know people?
Claire – I’ve been spending time on one to one calls, building relationships, talking each day. We’ve had team meetings where everyone joins, such as retros and stand-ups. The team has a happy hour team meeting every Friday to connect. The last one I attended, we did a quiz and had a laugh.
David – we’ve had ‘Virtual Tea-breaks’ a few mornings each week where the team can get together and spend some semi-normal office-style break time just keeping it real – good craic and definitely keeps a sense of down-to-earth fellowship during what is often a lonely and highly unusual way of life right now.
How are you finding working from home? Any tips, new pieces of tech, new ideas etc?
Claire - I've used similar tools in previous workplaces but it's interesting to learn about alternatives tools for similar tasks. I used to use a tool called Mural which is a whiteboard tool. At LIT, my team uses a tool called Miro (sounds nearly the same) - it's really the same thing. This tool helps people to collaborate easily, there are many templates to choose from and I would use this to facilitate a remote workshop. Another tool that's new for me is Abstract, it's a version control tool that enable designers to save their work in a shared location.
I find time goes by really quickly when working from home. I miss interacting with people in an office environment. I appreciate office furniture more now, at home I would work on my dining table or dressing table. My tip would be taking regular breaks, even if it's just 5-10 mins to stretch your body and get some fresh air. I also prefer to work further away from the fridge!
David - All I would say is to keep regular hours and stick to them – don’t be tempted to stay on late into the evenings just because there’s nothing else to do. Take regular breaks and ‘clock off’ in reasonable time (say absolutely no later than X o’clock, then it’s time to go for that walk and clear the head). Also, at lunchtime, make the most of this weather and for goodness sake eat in the back garden… You could even take the laptop or some reading material outside during the afternoon if you’ve no further meetings. Enjoy nature’s bounty – that’s one thing the virus can’t take from us!
It’s still essential to maintain a good work-life balance, possibly now more than ever – we must look after our mental health during these challenging times… Please everyone mind your heads! I have invested a small fortune recently in establishing an aesthetically pleasing home office set-up – I like to feel good in a pleasant environment whilst working. It is worth sorting your space out now as I believe we’ll all be working from home a lot more from now on regardless of what happens – life has changed. I unlike others am very fortunate to live at home with just my wife at the moment (she is a key worker, so I have the luxury of the whole house to myself during work hours) and appreciate that many are juggling children, play and home schooling during the working day – all I’ll say is that if we ever have kids in the near future, my first major investment will be a nifty garden pod (home office/man cave) where I will be able to continue to get my LIT work done in relative peace and tranquility… I’ve already started saving!