Findmypast Tech

My Onboarding Experience

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Background

So far, this year has been a disruptive one for sure. It may seem like an unusual time to start a new job, particularly the recent uncertainty and with so many graduates entering the industry at the same time. However, this was the exact situation that I found myself in just a few months ago.

I interviewed for several software engineering positions earlier on in the year, one of which was at Findmypast. After a very positive interview experience I decided that this was a company that I really wanted to work for. With lockdown putting a hold on hiring for many, I was delighted to receive an offer of employment from Findmypast for the position of a Junior Software Engineer.

During the run-up to my start date I had the opportunity to meet the engineers on my new team as well as ask some questions. It was really great to be introduced to my colleagues in advance and gain some insight into the specifics of the tech stack that I’d be working with. I feel that these meetings really helped me form a clearer picture of what and who I’d be working with on a day-to-day basis.

The Onboarding

Prior to starting, all the hardware that my position required arrived at my flat the week before. This allowed me some time to get setup and configure my machine in advance.

As when starting any new job there’s often a slight feeling of nervousness and even more so with the prospect of onboarding remotely. Questions began to enter my mind such as: What do I do if I get stuck? Who do I reach out to for help? However, my first day soon put an end to any worries I may have had.

Speaking of my first day, right from the get-go I was assigned a buddy who took me through the procedures and the work methodologies employed by the team. Following this, I worked with my buddy to set up my development environment before starting to work on a ticket from the backlog. I soon learned that Findmypast have a strong focus on delivering frequent product updates via continuous integration. A key mechanism enabling this is trunk-based development, whereby code is directly commited to master and tested through a pipeline before being deployed shortly after. The fact that I was writing meaningful code on my first day was awesome and the sense of achievement when my work was later deployed to production was something else!

Aside from the development side of things I attended an induction for new-starts which provided me with a good overview of the various areas of Findmypast, both technical and non-technical. It was also a great chance to become familiar with whos who within the company as a whole.

Highlights

I’ve been having a lot of fun at Findmypast and I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my highlights with you.

First of all I was particularly impressed with how structured the onboarding process was overall. Even though I was joining a relatively new team at Findmypast, the experience felt as though it was well practised. The onboarding related tasks were divided into convenient checklists, categorised by first day, week and month, making it easy to see exactly where I was at and what I had left to do with regards to onboarding.

Before starting my job, I hadn’t practiced pair programming in an industry capacity. And so I was a little unsure as to what to expect, especially when pairing remotely. However, I soon came to appreciate benefits that paring can offer. It is an awesome method of sharing knowledge, providing context and improving skills (and even more so for a new start like myself). Because of this, techniques and best practices are circulated amongst everyone, thereby passively upskilling the team as a whole. During my time pairing, I have always felt encouraged to share my thoughts and ideas. Questions have always been welcomed and the team really wants to do everything they can to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Another great thing about working at Findmypast is the inclusion of Learning Time. Each day, an hour may be taken for individual learning. Many engineers use this time to learn a new technology or to further develop their skills. Recently, my team has been doing some work with GraphQL, and so I have been spending my learning time practicing using the technology by building a small fullstack app. I seem to have got myself into a nice sort of loop where what I do within my learning time helps me be better during pairing time, and what I do when pairing helps be during learning hours.

Wrap-up

In conclusion, I’m learning a lot at Findmypast and having a great time doing it. I’ve had the opportunity to work in some really interesting areas and with some fun technologies. I’m grateful to have had such a smooth and yet comprehensive onboarding and I feel that it’s equipping me well as a new engineer. I can certainly recommend it!

If you are interested in joining the team, please head over to the Findmypast Careers Page.