As the year draws to an end, I have found myself looking back on all that has happened during my first year at Findmypast.
I started my first ever software developer role with Findmypast and did so in the middle of the pandemic. Along with the other new joiners, we’ve had the rather unique experience of learning about a company as it adapts to the new norms of working from home. In this blog post I’m hoping to take you through that journey and summarise what we’ve learned while adapting to our “new normal”.
Lockdown and a new role
Job hunting as a Junior Developer is a daunting task for anyone but when I started in February 2020, COVID19 was already beginning to make companies and Recruiters nervous. I interviewed with Findmypast just one week after graduating from the coding bootcamp, Founders and Coders (FAC).
I was kept in the loop throughout the process and had several interviews in just one week. Findmypast were, and still are, in the very fortunate position of still being able to hire right the way through lockdown. When I very nervously asked “Will you still be offering me a job if we go into lockdown next week?” (yes… to think there was a time we weren’t sure…!), my interviewers reassured me that if that were the case I’d be onboarded remotely.
In the month leading up to my starting date I was very nervous. COVID19 was bringing a lot of uncertainty to the job market and already people were seeing offers being pulled and redundancies in the tech sector. Findmypast were brilliant throughout this period! I was reassured consistently throughout with a ‘welcome’ card and calls with Stu, our CTO, and my onboarding buddy, Rob. I received my laptop and ethernet cable (the wifi in my Dad’s house was definitely not up to the job of zoom calls) before starting, and another monitor after starting.
Onboarding in a pandemic
By the time my start date came around, almost a full month later, I’d been sent everything I could possibly need and had already been made to feel very welcome. I was excited, nervous too, but mostly excited.
Onboarding is difficult to get right, there’s a lot of boxes to tick and yet you want to keep it engaging for the new start. Adding into the mix that we were having to do the whole thing over Zoom because we were working remotely in a global pandemic? Well, it’s pretty intense… but it was well organised and we made sure to have regular tea breaks ☕️. I knew Findmypast would be a great place to work because by the end of my first day, I made my first ever professional commit to GitHub 🎉!
I was provided with comprehensive tutorials and guides to help me through the rest of my onboarding. Fortunately, in the Engineering department we have an hour a day which is specifically dedicated to learning and so I was able to complete a lot of it in that time.
I got to know my team with organised get-to-know-yous, charades evenings and through pair-programming. We’re a team of 5 engineers (with occasional help from babies or toddlers on laps 😻) and are split over two offices in Dundee and London. In some ways, I think remote working has helped us develop as a team as the London/Dundee divide no longer exists, with all our conversations happening virtually.
When remote was temporary
Getting to know the rest of the company took a little more time. At the end of my first week, I waved from my box in the Zoom call to the rest of the company at our weekly Friday demos. Some people I don’t work with day-to-day were also kind enough to reach out to me and welcome me personally.
I’ve now joined various not-so-work-related Slack channels, with the most successful being the #Findmypast-buddies. We started buddies, because we needed a way of introducing new starters to people outside of their direct team. In the channel we use donut, a Slack app, that pairs us up randomly with others in the company. It also gives us talking points and encourages us to set up a 15-minute chat with the other person. I’ve now met people from Marketing, the People team, and Engineers from teams I don’t work with at all. It’s been great fun!
Realising remote was here to stay
There has come a bigger shift in the last few months, as Findmypast and the wider tech industry, began to realise that remote working would become our new normal.
Since lockdown restrictions began, the Exec team have been sharing updates twice a week. Initially these were used to keep us informed about the company status or how the newest COVID19 regulations would affect us. These have now taken a shift into updates mixed with greater participation, breakout rooms where we discuss strategy, or ideation.
There’s also been a big focus on taking time for ourselves. In August we were given a day off in lieu of our summer party, and once a month we have a mental health hour, when we leave our laptops behind to focus on ourselves and our wellbeing. Within my team we’re also flexible on our hours, and as we’ve entered winter, I’ve been taking longer lunches to make sure I get some fresh air.
What’s been the best part?
Seeing as we’re ending the year, I think it’s important to round this off with what I’m most proud of. Throughout 2020 we’ve seen major cultural and political shifts, with Lockdown, the Black Lives Matter movement, Brexit and calls to re-evaluate aspects of our own history etc. I’m so proud to be part of a company that has pledged to make a difference in some of these areas.
As part of this pledge, we’ve created a Diversity and Inclusion working group where, even as a Junior Developer, I have been given the opportunity to contribute to our strategy for diversifying our workforce, especially within Engineering. I’m immensely proud to be part of this initiative and can’t wait to see our company grow in this way.
If you want to be part of a team that values diversity, encourages continuous progression and creates a compassionate working environment check out our open roles:…https://www.findmypast.com/careers