I have accepted a job in the highly technical complex (should say "complicated") environment. We have over 1,000 servers a few networks, a lot of custom built applications - you get the picture. I have a lot of technical experience in the similar environments, but each place is very different - so my peers say to me that it take about a year (give or take month or two) to understand moving parts and why/how they have been put together.

The most challenging part is that my boss sort of ignoring my on-boarding. He has set up a couple of initial meetings to show me the very basics: like we have so-so networks and so-so servers, but essentially I have to crawl myself through the incredibly over-complicated infrastructure.

If I play defense (be very conservative) -it will take me a full year to sort of start understanding the infrastructure. And I am not expected to be sitting on the fence during all that time

If I play offense (be aggressive and start digging into) -I may break thing here and there, because I may not know the entire process there.

Essentially, before I can touch anything, I have to know everything. THat's the summary.

My boss does not play an active role in my training, neither my peers. I do not mind asking questions, but sometimes I just do not know where to start.

Is it normal?


At this point, I'd focus on manage what's expected from you, clearly defining productivity x risk.

As more / faster work your boss wants you to do, as more risk he'll have to accept.

I assume he'll start assigning you tasks that may not break everything apart, so you'll have some freedom to fail here and there... but at the same time, learning, since the fastest way to learn is by doing mistakes.

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  1. read as much internal documentation as there is available - i realise that that might not be a lot in some organisations, but it's a start.
  2. read all the documentation from third parties (operating systems, applications, etc) - there'll be more there
  3. dig away to the extent to which you are a) comfortable with digging and b) able to get yourself out of a hole and c) getting your tasks done
  4. never be afraid to ask other staff for help when you are unsure
  5. learn
  6. profit
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Yes, feeling like that is "normal".

However, the important thing is that you don't have to "know everything" before you touch anything.

To some extent, you can use your newness as an excuse if you make mistakes. It is better to make some mistakes during the next year or so than to sit on the sidelines until you think you're ready.

I work in a similar complex environment and can tell you that even the most senior people can't grasp the entire big picture all at once, all the time.

The good news is that most mistakes are reversible and you learn a lot from them. You can rely on your boss and coworkers to keep you from making disastrous mistakes and help you recover from the mistakes you do make. In a healthy workplace, this builds an empathetic relationship of trust between you and them.

Moreover, achieving a comfortable level of book-learning from documentation won't necessarily prevent mistakes from happening. You'll never actually be ready if you have to wait until you're "ready".

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I was in the same sort of situation. I had been a DBA by Default at a very small company and got a job at a company with over 400 SQL Servers alone along with even more windows servers in general. After a week, while I still did not have much knowledge of how to do things the "company way", there was lots of documentation and checklists for every thing that was commonly performed. Once I knew where to look I started tackling problems knowing where to look to get the information. I was still looking and reading the documentation after 6 months (although at that point I was also helping to keep the documentation updated and documenting new processes).

There were some servers I was dealing with on a weekly basis and knew them by name but others where I rarely touched them, again these were all documented with how to connect to them and which network segment they were on.

Overall it was just getting in and working the small things first and slowly grabbing new tasks that other members of the team saw as routine.

As to my training, my manager was not very involved. I relied on my team members and asked a lot of questions. If I knew they were doing something I had not done yet I would ask to look over their shoulder while they did it and ask lots of questions. It worked out great and I learned a lot. I also was able to teach my team members as well since I had a different perspective and strong points.

So in the end the TL;DR is jump in on the small stuff and know where to look for documentation. If you have any down time, sit with other team members and ask questions. Take a step back and see that even the forest is made of individual trees.

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