Ten days ago I had my last day in the previous contract position, and now I have one day at the new location completed. All the contacts and small items of information that were accumulated at my last place of work – gone, and of no value now! So, what did I do yesterday, and what did it feel like?
First of all I turned up on time, and, having both asked and observed at the interview, I was wearing the right kind of clothes. I consciously prevented myself getting off the train at the station where I had alighted for the last 34½ months, and as I travelled the extra 15 minutes, wondered if the firm ‘did dress-down Fridays’. Thankfully they did not, and I was soon glad that I had offered an earlier start than the Monday of next week; the first week that I was fully available. I was in a queue of one to get my PC handed over, rather than the eleven that start on 24/03/2014.
Working on a contract basis, there can be all kinds of starts to a new role. In some places, there is no desk, no computer, no network log-on or e-mail account, and no security pass. All of these were quickly and efficiently in place, and I soon created two essential files. One of these holds details of access; systems, paths, machines and passwords. Whoa! Passwords? Isn’t that a no-no? It is electronically held and put in my own area of the network, so no-one else, or no ‘standard’ user, can see this. The other is a contacts spreadsheet. There are already several entries in this, transcribed from my team overview in the first 20 minutes in the new building.
I am the new boy, so everyone else has to learn one name, whereas I have to get my mind round quite a few. What works for me is to try to find out one or two things about a person, so that at least I can talk to John about photography and Manchester United, and discuss primary school children and martial arts with Marie. So, I found out a few details behind just names, and even got the names right on a few occasions.
There are many ordinary things that each of us need to find out, so I always ask as many questions as I can. How do I set up the correct printer? Where are the rest rooms? Does my pass work on the back entrance? (This saves 5 minutes on my walk – vital when rushing for the train home). It is inevitable that a big knowledge gap has to be filled for me – and as many questions as possible are best in the first week, both technical and environmental. The longer you leave a seemingly ‘silly’ question, the harder it is to ask it. Beside which, there is no such thing as a dumb question – only a dumb questioner, for not asking it earlier!
I am leading a team of 5 (or rather will be, as I know almost nothing yet), and one of the others was not in on my first day. Much of the day was taken up with housekeeping issues (machine installations, getting my security pass, general introductions), so I did make it clear that the five of us would all go and have a coffee together on Monday, when all the team are working. Of course, I will pay. Another part of my ‘introduction strategy’ – yes, I do have an agenda for my first few days in a new job. After all, it could be the early days of a significant period of work. So it is worth a little forethought, to, if not get it right, to try to get it right!
It is always good, if possible, to demonstrate some technical knowledge in the first few days. I was able to show that I am aware of the problems of installing client software from a web interface when admin privileges are required (and not available), and the uses of the Oracle database connection details held in the TNSNAMES.ORA file. These are small beginnings, but the start of showing that I am worth my place on the team. My lap top is still not quite correctly set up, but I have been hastening work requests to get the correct software, etc. These commencement tasks are almost completed, and I have started ‘reading my way into the job’. That may take a little longer.