Being the "new person" in a tech team

by César SantosJul 10th, 20205 min read
Also available in: Spanish

Being “the new person” in any place is probably an awkward situation for everybody, especially if it’s work related -starting in a new company, for example - as you might feel odd in this new environment, receiving a ton of new information and surrounded by a lot of new people. While Kristin Wong’s post goes in deep about it, this post provides some specific points regarding being the “new person” in a technology team.

What to do when you start in a new tech team?

First of all, you won’t be expected to be 100% productive right away, so don’t worry about it. Your time will be occupied between learning and actually getting things done.

If your company expects you to deliver things in your first days, you might be in the wrong place to work.

You will probably have a bunch of onboarding meetings where your lead, or your coworkers will guide you through the project, requirements, workflows, responsibilities, tech setup, coworkers, and other good-to-know information in general. During this time, don’t forget to introduce yourself to your teammates and get to know their responsibilities, so you all could identify how to support each other.

Next step, setting up your environment. When doing so, you could sometimes run into issues because a) your teammates might have taken different steps, b) your computer’s specs are just different in some way; so the documentation could be not accurate anymore. In this case, you’ll probably suffer a bit getting your environment to work, and you’ll need help on it; but take advantage of it, help yourself to update that documentation, and you will make future new members’ lives easier.

Get familiar with the components, styles, codebase, folder structure, coding standards, etc. If there are no coding standards, suggest them; but remember you’re the new person, so communicate your thoughts wisely.

Take an observer role on the code review process, check out what they do and what kind of feedback the team usually provides. This will speed up your ability to get hands on into code.

What to do when you have things to get done and need some help?

First of all, do your best to resolve the issues by yourself. Be curious about other implementations; take a look at the project, if it is old enough, you should be able to find examples in the codebase of what you need to do. On the other hand, if you’re facing an issue with a library or with a language-related detail; it might sound stupid advice, but google it!, no matter how weird your issue looks like, someone else might have already experienced something similar.

If you’re stuck with your issue after working by yourself (See time’s consideration below), it’s time to ask your teammates; but you must know what to ask. Ask for code example or documentation or any material that could help you figure out the solution on your own (If those are also outdated, don’t be afraid to update them as needed too!). Instead of asking “hey! could you help me do this?” you should first tell them the issue you have, what you have tried so far, and what you have in mind to solve it.


  • It demonstrates that you actually tried to solve it as best as you could.
  • It gives them enough context and will help them to narrow down possible solutions for you.
  • Sometimes, this is the only thing you need to do: to talk through the issue with someone else as the solution might just pop up to your mind while talking about it.

Remember to always look for guidance, not for someone to do the job for you.

To keep in mind

Be careful with the time you have to deliver your task, and the time you use doing your research looking for solutions. Don’t spend too much or too little time on your own!, for example, asking for help every 15 minutes is as bad as spending 3 days doing research by yourself. If you are already feeling stuck, reach out to your teammates instead of spending more time making no progress.

As mentioned before, you won’t be fully productive until after a few weeks have passed (sometimes even longer, depending on how complex the project might be), and your teammates should be aware of that. On the other hand, they could be pretty busy at that moment, so please be mindful of your coworkers’ time. Ask them if and when they could help you, instead of just jumping straight to it consuming 30 minutes or more of their time.

At the end, your time, and your coworkers’ time, is so valuable and you have to use it as wisely as possible.