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I started a new job (at a new company) over five weeks ago as a senior software developer. I have ~7 years previous experience at a different company using very different technologies. So far my manager has given me a set of languages/technologies to educate myself on. I've seen a high level org chart and I have a very high level understanding of the product.

However:

  • I have yet to be given access to the code base
  • I have yet to be given any tasks that's not learning based
  • I haven't formally been introduced to any of my team members

I get the impression that my manager is swamped, but I can't help but feel a bit neglected at this point.

How long is a reasonable amount of time to expect before being given access to the code and a relevant, basic technical task to complete? How can I politely approach this with my manager?

Edit: the entire development team is 100% remote working right now, so face-to-face interactions aren't possible currently.

  • Unfortunately we're all 100% remote at the moment, so walking around informally isn't an option. Every time I speak to her she is apologetic that it's taken so long for her to get back to me and then she suggests some more educational things I could do. She alludes to still needing to get me access to the code bases. I think I was looking for a good conversation starter on how to broach this with her. – fey Jul 8 at 13:50
  • For anyone downvoting - I'm interested in knowing why so I can improve questions in the future – fey Jul 8 at 13:52
  • Being that you are working on a whole set of very different technologies to those you have experience in, do you feel that you have learned enough about those yet to be let loose on production code? It may still be appropriate to only be working on learning tasks. One could view time as a positive in order to get a good understanding of those technologies. Agreed though that not being introduced to the team yet is an issue, seems like at least a quick video conference is in order. – Andy Hames Jul 8 at 16:34
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    @AndyHames Absolutely not suggesting I'm ready to be let loose on the production code, but I'm thinking a read-only copy would be a great reference to put some of the generic educational references into better perspective. What's the next step between learning new languages and being ready to contribute to the codebase? I'm interested to know what's a reasonable amount of time to expect this to take. – fey Jul 9 at 17:11
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    @fey These are challenging times. We have an apprentice developer in a similar situation to yourself being new to the tech. It is frustrating from our side not being able to support them as we would if we were sat side by side, where we could get instant feedback and get a better idea about who they are and build up trust. It is also clear that it will take a lot longer than normal in a socially distanced world. – Andy Hames Jul 9 at 17:40
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UPDATE Since your team and manager are working remote (this is challenging for everyone) your self-starting leadership is even more important since everyone is busy running the business. As an SE you know how unsettling to teams having an unknown person with access to the codebase. (I have seen horror.)

Perhaps, Ask if you can be included in status emails and online meetings as an observer to gather a view of the challenges and directions in the development efforts. They need you or they wouldn't hire you.

  • Bon chance.

Leadership is 'taking charge' to address a situation--this is an opportunity. Would you be ready to provide a status and present your questions if your 'boss' invited you to meet today?

I assume you have been recruited / hired via some HR curated process as a Senior Developer in an organization of some size and complexity, and five weeks is a long time to be left unengaged and feeling like you have not been brought onboard.

Every manager is looking for leadership--taking charge--in their team members. So, based on the 'limited' inputs you have received, org chart, product market, and technology stack, have you researched (googled) and compiled questions in each of these areas?  e.g. Who uses our product. How we are doing in the market. Who in our organization owns our product? Are our development practices, security, and operational standards documented? Change control, updates and releases, how do we report errors and remediate code?  etc.

In a lieu of a specifically stated task, define the current task as 'strawman' of assumptions: "I'm an SE. This is my view of our org, our product, and our stack." "These are my questions in each area."

How to politely initiate the conversation? 

  1. Create an agenda: status of your task (completed); questions of research/study; manager's expectations; next steps) 
  2. Send an email - "Boss I perceive you have been busy. Can we meet for 30 minutes to go over some questions and determine my Next Step"; attach proposed agenda. Can you see their calendar?
  3. Send a calendar invite a 30 minute meeting with attached agenda. Keep it simple. Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).

Bring your agenda and the questions printed out as a hand out at the meeting.

Persevere and succeed. Bon chance. 

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Above everything else

  • I haven't formally been introduced to any of my team members

is not acceptable. Before you learn the codebase, you should learn about the people and process you're going to work with and find out whether you are a good fit or not (That's what the probation period is for).

Please reach out to your manager (either F2F, or over phone, in that order) and remind them about your inclusion in the team. 5 weeks is just too long for being introduced to the team.

That said, for the points:

  • I have yet to be given access to the code base
  • I have yet to be given any tasks that's not learning based

these may or may not be "as per the process". Some organizations have a very well-defined process of onboarding new employees, which covers many non-technical aspects other than development work (like learning about organization practices, policies, undergoing training / exams, completing basic surveys etc.) to figure out whether the appointment is correct and the relationship is going to last long. However, this process should be closely governed / monitored by someone (Onboarding team / Immediate superior/ HR team) and timely feedback is crucial to ensure no one is wasting their time.

Given your situation, I'd be inclined to assume that your manager / superior just "forgot" about your inclusion in the team. Otherwise, if they are "too busy" to have you introduced to the team and help you get onboarded - think twice before joining that team.

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You seem to expect a LOT from other people here - it's rare for anyone to land an ideal job where everything is just as they'd like - this doesn't sound like a nightmare so first up have some perspective. You've acknowledged that your manager is swamped - he has given you what he can - any more input from him will have to wait.

The main lesson here is DON'T BE A PROBLEM! BE AN ASSET

What I mean by this is kicking up a lot of fuss about what you're NOT getting (even if you think that would make you really useful) will simply make people view you as a problem if they're busy. In short - NEVER demand other people's time, unless you either you manage THEM, or you have your manager's permission to demand their time. As one of the other posters put - you can send your boss an email and try to book some of his time to discuss what your next step is - the key thing is it needs to be "How can I help you?", NOT "I need you to sort ME out!"

Also, you say you haven't been introduced to the rest of the team - why don't you introduce yourself - find out what other people are doing, and see if anyone could use some help.

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If you are a senior software developer, then you need to take these things in hand instead of passively waiting.

  1. Introduce yourself to the team in slack and organize a call to meet them face to face. You don't need a manager to do that, she doesn't even need to attend (invite her as a courtesy). Ask them if there are regular meetings (standups, team meetings) they could add you to the invites for. If there aren't, you could suggest one. "It's hard all being remote - is anyone interested in a weekly zoom where we can talk with each other about what we're working on and how we're doing?"

  2. Ask your manager if there's someone you can follow up with directly about getting code access, to take it off her very full plate.

  3. Make sure you are really executing well on the stuff she's asked you to learn. If you come back to her and say "now I want more" and she says "ok, so have you written some prototypes in X and are ready to work in it?" then you better be saying "Yes."

Managers are busy. They hire senior people to take work off them, they hire junior people to put more work on them. Be senior. If I hired a senior and had to leave them out to dry and they came back to me having learned the language and set up team meetings and navigated things themselves I'd be thinking "hmm, this person is lead potential." Take initiative.

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First of all, I would expect from a senior whatever, with 7 years of experience, to be a lot more knowledgeable and proactive.

In your shoes, I would do the following:

  • clarify with the boss their exact expectations. S.M.A.R.T. expectations.
  • respectfully and repeatedly "demand" to be introduced to the team.
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To quote an answer I wrote to another question

your manager's job [is] to do his/her best to give you the opportunities to succeed - this can only happen if you two have regular and frequent conversations, and if during those conversations you are open and honest about where you are having difficulties, where you need support, where you are getting stuck, and where you learn what he/she is expecting from you.

If you don't already have a weekly (or bi-weekly) regular meeting with your boss, you need to reach out to him/her ASAP and schedule one.

At the first meeting, you need to very clearly ask your boss to describe the on-boarding process (what you need to learn, how he/she will determine that you will you be ready to contribute, etc.). You should also ask to be introduced to your teammates, and given an overview of who does what. You should also ask for access to the code, documentation, ticketing system - and state that as you're learning the new technology, you also want to start learning about the software and products that the team is responsible for.

Some of us are really lucky and get really amazing and proactive managers. Some of us get really horrible managers, for whom it is impossible to work with. The rest of us, though, need to learn how to help our manager manage, and one way to do that is to communicate openly and frequently about what you need from them.

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