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I just received my first job offer from a well reputed company in Germany. Its a "Software Engineer" position focusing on software development processes (SDLC) and C++. During the two rounds of interview that I faced, I noticed the hiring manager, the HR head and the team leader were mainly focused on how open I am to learning new things. I must point out that I made it very clear in the interview that my C++ knowledge is at an intermediate level and that I have basic understanding of software development processes. I am glad they have offered me the job which shows they are willing to accommodate me and give me time to learn new stuff and strengthen my software development skills.

I want to know:

  1. How much time should I expect I have at my hand to grab a good understanding of the work? When do companies normally expect you to start giving output?
  2. As the first 6-months are probation period, what should be the main things to keep in mind regarding work ethics/behavior/attitude,etc?
  3. I am yet to receive the official hardcopy of the contract (job offer was sent by email from HR manager). How and when should I negotiate for the salary in case they pay me less. Should I negotiate before signing the contract or afterwards?

To all the experienced folks, please guide me ahead. This is my very first job! And I am clueless!

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    The fact that you're thinking about questions 1 and 2 at all gives you a leg up on most new hires. Check in regularly with management to see if you're meeting their expectations and you should be fine. – Roger Apr 8 '15 at 15:37
  • Surely, thanks for the tip! I am willing to learn new technologies and improve my skill set. Just hope I can do it quick. – learner Apr 8 '15 at 16:38
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  1. Your employer will expect you to add value as soon as possible. At first, this may be restricted to reviewing documents written by more experienced colleagues, or writing code in a pair programming environment. There is really little we here can say about this. Keep the magic words "as soon as possible" in mind, actively look for issues where you can be productive, and you'll be fine.

  2. People are very rarely fired during the probation period in Germany. As long as you arrive on time, behave professionally, don't start harassing your colleagues and exhibit at least some minimal learning, you should be fine. Remember: firing someone during the probation period really means that someone made an error during the interview process. Nobody likes to admit that except for the most blatant cases. As to work ethic, you should really exhibit the same work ethic during the probation period as afterwards - don't slack off after six months.

  3. Start negotiating once you have an indication of the package. If you know what they are going to pay you (and what the perks are), start the negotiation. Don't wait for the paperwork. Redoing that is a hassle that nobody wants to do. Don't negotiate after having signed. After signing, the first point for negotiations is after your first review. However, don't expect much to come from negotiating in your current position - it doesn't sound like you bring a lot of special knowledge to the table, and at the beginning of your career, your employer will likely have some pretty rigid guidelines for your package. Nevertheless, some negotiating (maybe not so much over salary, but rather over some additional training budget?) won't hurt.

Good luck!

  • Thanks for your prompt response. Very helpful! What is meant by "additional training budget" at the end?? – learner Apr 8 '15 at 15:17
  • don't have enough reputation to vote up yet :( – learner Apr 8 '15 at 15:18
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    "Additional training budget" - ask about training policy. Your employer may have a policy of sending everyone to x days of training per year, and allocate a budget of y EUR for training costs. You can always try to negotiate over both x and y. It will help if you already have a specific training in mind. This demonstrates that you are serious about this and about developing professionally. – Stephan Kolassa Apr 8 '15 at 15:21
  • that was new! thanks for the insightful response! I appreciate it :) – learner Apr 8 '15 at 15:24
  • could you please suggest something on this post? – learner Aug 27 '16 at 17:17
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To supplement this answer, and based on US (not European) experience:

Your question suggests that you might be thinking of this as "learn/train now, do later". That's not how new software developers are brought on in my experience; learning and training is "on the job", while you're doing productive work. A fresh grad will initially be assigned easier work; a well-organized company will select easier work that helps you learn key skills in managable chunks, but that can vary.

At the companies I've worked for, newcomers are first assigned well-contained bugs to fix. This gets them used to the environment (IDE, source control, build, bug-tracking system) and coding standards. They start to learn what's where and, broadly, how we write code. Ideally this work is done under the direction of a mentor. The new employee starts to fill gaps in his knowledge by osmosis.

As time passes -- think weeks, not months -- the newcomer will be assigned larger, but still small, tasks -- moving from bug-fixing to implementing a feature that somebody else has designed, for example. A mentor or team lead will help the newcomer structure that work, particularly if he's learning new languages or technologies. ("Oh, to do this you're going to need to know about X; this tutorial will get you started".) There might be pair programming, depending on company culture.

What is the company looking for during the probation period? Evidence of growth. Nobody expects a fresh grad to be able to design and implement a complex system with tricky and sometimes conflicting requirements; what the people evaluating you want to know is: "will this person be able to do work calibrated for junior employees, learning what he needs as he goes, without being a drain on the rest of the team?".

(See also this answer to a question about getting new employees up to speed.)

  • Very informative! Thanks a lot @Monica. I am just hoping to get supportive atmosphere and learn the technologies quickly. I was little worried about the pace at which they expect a new grad to get going with team projects. I get the idea now! – learner Apr 8 '15 at 18:42

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