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Ask HN: I'm changing my job after a 15-year tenure. How should I proceed?
242 points by lma21 on March 18, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 138 comments
Hello HN, I've been at my current company for the past 15 years. I've taken on different roles where I started as a software engineer, before being promoted to lead, and then to staff engineer. I know my current company by heart. I know how to get things done. I know who to talk to and how to talk to the right people. I know the processes of my company in and out.

I decided to get out of my comfort zone. Try something new, I told myself on and on for the past 3 years. And I finally did it. I'm changing jobs.

I'm going to a new company, where I'll be doing something slightly similar to my previous role, but in a totally new field. I don't know anyone there. The people seem extremely friendly and fun to work with. This is what I felt in the hiring process.

It feels like I forgot how I got good at this. Technically, I have no doubts to get things done. However, on the people level, I have no clue how to get started. How do I make "new friends" at work?

What do you usually do when you switch to a new company? How do you go from the "new clueless person at work" to "oh hey Mike, I'll need your help this afternoon"?

My Dad was a police officer and I moved around a lot as a kid, so I had more than a decade of experience being the new kid before I graduated high school. I figured out some things and still use them when I’m new in organizations.

1.) Learn names.

2.) Avoid tribes at first. It’s tempting to latch onto the first group that welcomes you, but try to avoid this. For at least the first few weeks, focus on developing superficial relationships with lots of people over deep relationships with few.

3.) Find the cool. Starting something new often triggers something like mourning. Give yourself space to mourn the old, but force yourself space to find extremely cool things in the new place. You’re closing one door and opening another. Hunt the cool! It’s easier to do this if you form lots of relationships early on.

4.) Everyone is shy.

5.) I got to know two types of cops’ kids:

- “The place I lived two moves ago was the best.”

- “Whatever town I live in now is the best.”

Guess who had an easier time making friends.

6.) DIY. Your new town might suck and the place you lived last move may have actually been the best town on earth. It got that way because people had ideas and did it themselves. You got the idea from someone else so 5% of the hard work is already done…:)

7.) Once you’ve been the new person, your most important task is to always help new people.

> focus on developing superficial relationships with lots of people

Any tips for doing this in a remote company? Just be more active in random slack channels? Reach out to random individuals?

This will sound counter-intuitive, but calling individuals to ask for small favours is a good way to build rapport and to learn more about your colleagues. Most people are very happy to help out the new guy, and asking a small favour is a good pretext for starting broader conversations about the topic they're an expert in or, even better, are passionate about.

For example: "Hey John, I'm spangry and I just started this week in team foo. So and so tells me that you're the resident expert on x. I'm planning to do some work related to x and figured, given I'm new and all, I should talk to you before starting. Have you got a moment to talk about x?" Then ask your favour and they will likely oblige. After you've thanked them, that's your opportunity to launch into a more general conversation where you show interest in their background or subject of interest (e.g. 'So how long have you been at [company] for? Got any tips for a new starter?' or 'I did a little research on x before calling and read that y is a big issue at the moment. Just curious, what's your take on y issue?')

It goes without saying that being genuinely interested and curious about them helps greatly. I think the above works because (1) most people want to help, and they remember what it was like to be new (2) it's respectful, even flattering, that you're coming to them for their expertise and (3) broadening the conversation (but still keeping it on safe ground) generates additional conversation paths and further opportunities for building rapport.

Lastly, asking for small favours (which are obliged) may actually make people like you more as a post-hoc rationalisation for why they did you the favour (this is known as the Ben Franklin effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Franklin_effect).

That's a great point. I think as a software engineer working at small companies I'm used to just brute forcing the answers to these kinds of questions through google/reading code/trial and error but for the sake of creating relationships it's beneficial to ask these kinds of questions as well.

What about scheduling meet-and-greet 1:1's?

If you've ever worked on a team that uses Donut - think something like that. A chat to meet each other and, ideally, talk about stuff other than work (but I find work talk is my go-to when the room goes silent and that's fine too).

I'll usually ping someone on slack with a quick message like:

> Hey <name>, I just joined the engineering team and I'm scheduling a quick chat with everyone as part of my onboarding. Would you be free for a chat at <X:XX> tomorrow?

Then book it as soon as they say yes or propose a time. Don't worry about the people who don't respond. Move on for now - you'll meet them later.

The audience is usually:

- Everyone on the engineering team

- Every manager up the management chain (up to CEO for a smaller company, probably have to stop somewhere before that in bigger companies)

- Every "lead" type person in all adjacent groups (Design, product, QA, customer support, operations, etc.). Rule of thumb: whoever you'd go talk to first (or, often, who your manager would go talk to first) if you had a general question about that area.

- Anyone who you encounter that seems like they'd be fun to talk to/friendly.

Nice ideas, thanks! I've done this before with all the people on my team but it felt weird to do that to others outside my team for some reason.

I need help with this badly. I recently started at a remote company. I think do a better than average job at socializing and meeting people in person.

But definitely worse on slack, I overthink my messages that I type and end up not participating since I feel it can be misunderstood. I also feel that I dont want to be seen as a “time-waster”.

Fwiw, i also struggle with this with my american friends on discord, i just dont know how to navigate this sort of stuff and whats okay and not okay.

Make the occasional "no reason" call/chat, just a 'how are you doing' to someone you've newly met in an online meeting. One of our exec directors (who is by nature fairly approachable) hosts a weekly drop-in online meeting where anyone can stop by and chat about anything - often non work topics.

Doing these things historically would be considered quite of of character for me so I understand it can be difficult to do.

“Hi Ativzzz, I’m Greg. I just started here a couple of days ago. I’m looking forward to getting to know you.”

I genuinely look forward to getting to know everyone I work with and so just leading with my name, why they should care and the truth usually works best for me.

As I start figuring stuff out, I’ll build relationships, help and ask for help. But early on, I just like to be basic old me.

- “Friends? This town is just the place where I live and go to school every day, before moving on to the next destination.”

I would have really identified with that when I was in the thick of it. It felt like the second I moved, I lost the only thing I had in common with my friends. It felt like a constant loneliness march, where strangers would become friends and then go right back to being strangers.

I’m really lucky that I had a computer, access to lots of books and really good parents (who are both interesting people). I could have easily taken an entirely different path and it would have ended very badly.

Reminds me of this scene from Tokyo Drift: https://youtu.be/BkZ7MnnKQow

This is completely tangential, but I'm curious - police officers move around a lot? Am I just ignorant to that, or it's a US thing, or something specific to your father's specialty within policing?

It was a combination of his force (RCMP has different types of jurisdiction across Canada) and his specialty.

This is great, I'm going through something similar as the OP and definitely helpful!

This is amazing advice!

When I've seen "old hands" change jobs, the thing I often see them struggle with is the psychology of no longer being the domain expert. People underestimate how much deep knowledge they possess that is specific to their company. The longer the tenure, the more this is true. And most/all of it will be useless at a new place.

This is not a bad thing. And it is a good thing to branch out and see a broader perspective. But it's hard to prepare one's self going from being the person that knows everything about everything to being the person that knows nothing about anything.

This strikes home for me. I moved jobs recently after being at my last company for 10 years.

I felt pretty overwhelmed at the beginning. Everything from the tech, deployment process, style guide, PR process, etc might have to be relearned. I had consolidated a lot of access at my old company too.

I was really worried that I wasn't producing like I should at my seniority. This has since gone away though.

> I was really worried that I wasn't producing like I should at my seniority. This has since gone away though.

Absolutely had this in my new role, I'm about to hit a year on and have an excellent performance review which has since assuaged my concerns of imposter syndrome or having lost my touch after spending two years in a public-sector hellhole. Went from "Star QB" in an MS shop to "Holy Shit WTF is this Kubernetes shit even doing and how do I get my job done." Stressed as I may have been, it was temporal and I've gotten good lessons from it.

If I have any takeaways from this past year:

For Managers:

Add in some amount of check-in one-on-ones to keep folks aware of their performance and standing. As good a manager as my supervisor is, ours were oriented towards ensuring I was happy with the role and not wanting to leave quickly and waste the 30K recruiter fee. For that matter, I'm not one[0] to go seek validation from others and especially not when they're already over burdened with "real" meetings.

For Engineers:

Even if you're not "Senior" in terms of $TECHNOLOGY, you're (hopefully) Senior in terms of your soft-skills. If you're left scratching your head wondering "how the fuck do I get this deployed" or "what the fuck is the development cycle" or "why the fuck is there an 11 step baby-sitting process for the local development workflow" - these are opportunities to add in documentation, scripts, or process changes to the firm. If you've done your shopping right, they're probably amenable to these changes.

Personally, I scripted our local Docker Compose development workflow such that one has a clean-slate environment with one script, and can build and patch any project's Docker image / Docker Compose service with one script as well. Somehow we lacked this, but everyone had their cotdamn minds blown when I put that out there for feedback - and here I was thinking it was some silly scripts they'd likely turn their nose up at.

This is basically the route I take.

New job, lots of, to me, low hanging fruit ripe for automation and documentation. The team has been adrift for a long time and all the juniors just accepted broken processes as facts of life.

Every time I have someone walk me through the completely undocumented process for x, I take notes and mark the best candidates for automation.

I then go through the process a second time, adding all the api calls and semi-automate the process so instead of logging into four different consoles in the browser hunting for values and setting minor things in different places, you can up front declare seven variables, and just copy/paste chucks of code that will perform all the steps for you. You are still acting as the error handler.

For low frequency tasks, it usually ends there. For high frequency tasks, I take the time to add error handling so it can just be part of a pipeline.

It's crazy to me that the team has put up with these processes for so long, I've been turning tasks that used to take 4-12hours and highly error prone and turning them into well documented code copy/paste jobs that takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, the vast majority of which is waiting for a build pipeline to finish.

Your username also tells me you have gotten over the "holy shit WTF is Kubernetes" part.

I think I'm headed somewhere similar shortly. Hopefully I have the same success as you!

> I was really worried that I wasn't producing like I should at my seniority

This is precisely the effect I'm describing. For most tech jobs, especially at higher levels, the generic tech knowledge can be a fraction of what's necessary to get a job done. Thus people notice a drop off in their output and freak out. A good senior engineer will pick up the new things quickly, but one can't expect to replace 10, 15, 20 years of hard earned wisdom in a month or two.

> I was really worried that I wasn't producing like I should at my seniority. This has since gone away though.

Impostor syndrome strikes again! I think this is the reason why I end up committing what I’d consider n00b mistakes relative to my age and experience.

The old domain thing is totally worthless for a while until it is abstracted and linked to the new domain. Then it becomes gold when carefully used.

I've struggled with this in every job change, even after my first job of 1.5 years: I owned my own little project, and in that tiny corner of the company, I was the expert. Going from being an expert to onboarding again feels like being forced to speak a new language. You know you're smart, but you can't articulate it.

This is true for me even though I haven’t lasted more than 3 years for each of my previous 3 employers. Domain knowledge, it seems to me, is the hardest to get up to speed on because you can’t google or SO that sh*t!

Totally. All you can do is soak up internal documentation and map prior knowledge to your current situation.

On the other hand, that new perspective can have value. Sometimes things are the way they are for a reason, other times it's path dependent, other times it's inertia.

Taking notes with your "new eyes" and thinking about how to improve things can help. But don't share until you've had some successes and built some credibility.

> But don't share until you've had some successes and built some credibility.

+1 to this. A lot of young engineers stumble on this part. Heck even I stumble in this part every now and then.

This was very true for me, switching jobs after six years where I had become a domain expert. There is definitely a psychological aspect that makes it difficult—you feel awkward being the noob when you're used to being the expert. There is also just a plain skills gap—you apply your skills differently as an expert than a noob and so you will need to relearn to operate in that new context.

When switching jobs, I looked for something that was different, but not so different that I would be overwhelmed. I was still a bit overwhelmed. I think it took me almost two years to reach my "comfort zone" again. It was worth it though. I built up a lot of new ways of thinking about things that I never would have had I stayed with my original job.

This is what makes me really undecided about switching jobs. I've been working in the same domain for almost 20 years. I think I'm a very competent SWE, but I also think my domain knowledge is what really impress my customers.

Can you do the job with your eyes closed at this point? 20 years is a long investment to throw away, why not just ride it out the rest of the way and use your spare energy and money to do stuff on the side.

If everyone was a tourist, there'd be no local culture to experience.

If you're happy where you are, stay there. Don't get too high and mighty, learn what you can from the people passing from one domain to another without staying in one spot too long, but don't feel pressured to do what they do as if you are missing out on an essential experience of life.

"People underestimate how much deep knowledge they possess that is specific to their company." This is very narrow deep knowledge which might not be useful in most organization and may not be applicable to other jobs

> people underestimate how much deep knowledge they possess that is specific to their company

ha! yes

acronyms people think are just known are completely different. founders at a new company just throw them around willy nilly because they fawn over some specific person's books and tweetstorm's for the last 5 years. cultish metrics you or they happen to believe in because they heard Google did it once, 10 years ago.

you name it.


On the other hand it must feel relieving.

I hadn't considered this, but it rings true to me. Interesting to think about.

Main thing is don’t expect too much. You will not experience that same feeling of comfortable camaraderie again for a long time.

Make an effort to listen to people. Keep your ego in check - avoid saying “Well at my old company we did …” - just listen to what people are doing here and now.

I would also say try to maximise informal 1-on-1 time with other people, ask them about their work, their opinions, etc. If you are in a larger group don’t opine, just listen. If you have questions, don’t interrupt the group - use it as an opportunity to go ask the relevant person after and build a 1-1 relationship.

Try to keep a smile on your face. Avoid dark humour or joke-complaining.

Edit: Say yes to everything, at least once, for the first year. Any time anyone invites you to a drink or a talk or a meeting, just say yes.

> Try to keep a smile on your face. Avoid dark humour or joke-complaining.

Such good advice. At your old company you were a known quantity so if you made a dark joke or whatnot, you got a pass: "oh, Dan is just in a crabby mood today".

At a new company you don't have that store of social capital. You're building it day by day.

Just a quick counter to the “avoid saying well, at my old company we did this”. A lot of people hire externally to get this perspective, especially if it’s a team that hasn’t grown in a while, but if that’s the case they usually won’t be shy about telling you that. But don’t be attached to how you did things before just see if it opens up new ideas for everyone.

Yes definitely. I think especially if people ask it’s great to tell them as much as they ask for.

I personally did everything I advised not doing in that post, and learned the lessons, so I will just tell you my experience of it, and YMMV.

For me, the downside of telling the war stories was the opportunity cost - I could have spent that time listening, and as the new joiner the information and rapport is way more valuable than the status gained from telling the story and entertaining, impressing, or educating people.

The other downside is that people are eager to please a new joiner. They might sometimes say “Yeah we should do that here! Why don’t you be in charge of it!” But this is just to please you - you don’t actually know enough yet about what is happening in the new company to know if your way will bring value. Now you are busy spearheading a tangent that may have no value rather than continuing climbing the learning curve.

This is top notch advice

You just described self-censorship and groupthink. You also described certain aspects of workplace psychopathy (especially the psychopatic entry and assessment part).

Groupthink is when people, seeking validation from a group and to preserve harmony and cohesion, withhold their opinions causing the group to make suboptimal decisions.

If you think you will have to do this, don't join the company. Groupthink means the company doesn't foster psychological safety, which is the top predictor of team performance.

This is not only bad advice, it's probably unethical too. You are expected to work in the best interest of the company, and the company is expected to not punish people for speaking up about their ideas.

What you described works if you want to advance yourself at the expense of the company, but again, it is not ethical.

You are just exploiting information asymmetry, and anyone that likes doing that in a good faith organization should be let go. Highly political people are a waste of time.

you’re over thinking it. parent comment is rooted in respecting your coworkers, not being some subservient drone who doesn’t add anything to the conversation. coming in and saying “we did this at my last company” provides no room for learning why we do things this way here now, and serves to alienate you from your coworkers. there’s a long period of learning and listening that should be respected. you will have better quality input if you spend the time to understand why before adding anecdotes. it’s very good advice. of course speak up if you have something to add to the conversation, just be mindful of how you do so.

I’m sick of this black and white attitude being spread about how displaying any kind of thoughtfulness to your coworkers or your professional life is unhealthy for you.

Just listen to what they have to say and evaluate if it's a good idea. If it is not a good idea, it is not constructive, or not actionable, or if it is not a priority you can voice that opinion.

It is called critical thinking, collaboration and professionalism.

Isolating a new person for having a good idea is being unprofessional and passive aggressive. Using your numbers to psychologically abuse a person just for having a good idea sounds more like prison culture than a real engineering organization.

It also creates a culture of mediocrity which scares away talent, and a breeding ground for psychopathy.

Just do your job, which is to solve problems, not creating new ones. Focus on the problem to be solved.

When you are being paid by a company and acting on behalf of the company, wear the company employee hat instead of the roman politician wannabe hat.

"We hire smart people to tell us what to do" - Steve Jobs.

Your POV might ring true for Apple, for instance, but at 99% of American engineering jobs you kinda wanna just keep your head down and get good and not step on people's toes. Most jobs, even if they ought to be meritocracy based, are really just social games and if you come in guns blazing about how X, Y and Z are mediocre and can be improved, you're just stepping on toes and hurting feelings. It's human nature.

Let's all live in caves then. Let's not talk about how life outside caves is possible or better than living in a cave. Solving problems hurts people's feelings.

We should be happy living in caves and punish people that suggest anything better... until the tribe across the river with bronze weapons kills us.

> Just listen to what they have to say and evaluate if it's a good idea. If it is not a good idea, it is not constructive, or not actionable, or if it is not a priority you can voice that opinion.

yes. the key is to listen first. so it sounds like you’re in agreement with me and the GP, and everything else you said is because you want to be upset.

Maybe it is due to the way people interpret things differently, but none the assessments you are making in your two posts about the original comment are things that I would have said or thought about that comment.

The original comment was: use your charm to gain the trust of people, meet with each person, assess how they are useful to get your goals done.

Those are the textbook first steps of the workplace psychopath.

Then comes establishing a network of patrons and pawns, confronting your rivals and the psychopatic ascension, where useless patrons and pawns are forgotten or even eliminated.

That is your interpretation of the original comment, not even close to a direct quote (and I'm sure many would take it as a gross distortion of what was actually said).

Obviously you and I interpreted the original comment very differently.

So you may not have a lot of experience with switching jobs yourself -- I don't myself -- but you've probably got a lot of experience being on the other side of things, being on established teams in an established company and having new people join.

How'd that go? What were the failure modes? Who really nailed it?

One specific piece of advice is going to be to remember that your old company was your old company. Some things about the way it worked -- from its coding practices to its tooling and framework choices to its meeting structure -- were right, some were wrong, and most were just arbitrary and didn't matter in the long run. Don't be too keen to try to remake your new company in the image of the old one because that's what's familiar to you. Take some time to understand the new company and what does or doesn't work about it, and also where the existing sentiments lie.

When you do draw on your experience to offer a suggestion that you try X like they did at your old company because the Y the new company does just isn't working, you want the reaction to be that half the team has been saying it for years, but they haven't had anyone with the depth of experience with X to make the change.

I just did this, but not to the same extreme. My suggestion: Do the thing that worked the first time, and that thing is:

Be You.

I've been at my current job for three months. It's a small startup. I went from "where is the loo" to onboarding new employees in that time. Why? Because I'm an expert in my field. The landscape changes, but your expertise are going to carry you through. I'm having to re-learn a number of things I haven't had to think about in almost 20 years, but it's all there. Give yourself time to ramp up. And, one more thing:

Ask questions. Ask until you understand. DON'T BE AFRAID TO SOUND DUMB.

I tell new coworkers and managers this: I'm going to ask questions that may sound dumb- not because I'm dumb, but because I need to be able to relate information at its banging-rocks-together level. If they don't appreciate that, then I'm in the wrong place.

> Ask questions. Ask until you understand. DON'T BE AFRAID TO SOUND DUMB.

This is such good advice. If you don't understand something, chances are very good that others don't.

It is important to know when to take your questions "offline". That is, don't hold up a meeting with 10 people in it while you get an understanding of component X. Take a note and follow up with the component X team directly.

I'd add: document what you learn so that other employees can learn it without asking questions. Plus you'll understand it better. If it is not confidential, ask if you can share it publicly. That'll have the double benefit of increasing the world's store of knowledge as well as the profile of the company.

"Be you" is horrible advice for introverts. Be extroverted is the advice I always give. This isn't a hobby, this is capitalism, and your ability to put food on the table is going to be dependent on you faking a smile and pretending to care about other people.

The don't be afraid to sound dumb is also spot on though.

The strength of "Be You" was specifically for the OP. Being Them has worked so far- so keep doing it. As general advice, I also find it spot on, though. We can never be what we aren't. If you want to improve yourself, do that. But never try to be something you aren't. You're only lying to yourself and others. Instead, become what you wish you were, then the projection you're giving is authentic.

Been there, done that. 10+ different jobs in a span of 15 years (contracting).

Let's start with the basics. Be a nice person, approachable and someone easy to work with. This will remove the barriers and your co-workers will be more willing to contact you first! Honestly, these qualities will get you far.

Get "into" the company's culture. There might be internal pain points (ask questions, people will be more than willing to share their pains. If you listen you will easily make connections). Same goes for the inside jokes.

Finally, from experience I know the first to three months are the most difficult ones. And that's fine! Accept it and don't be harsh on yourself. You sometimes will be doubting yourself, feeling low, but all of that will pass. It always does!

> Been there, done that. 10+ different jobs in a span of 15 years.

I don't mean any offence, but you haven't really then have you - that's quite a different situation, your average tenure is less than 1.5y, more than tenfold less than OP's.

I imagine (haven't done it myself) it's psychologically quite different to leave somewhere you're so established, and start somewhere new when it's so long since you've done that. You're used to it. I'm not saying it doesn't have challenges, but I think they're at least different, and anyway you're used to embracing them.

That isn’t necessarily true. If you contract, it can be like that, but you’re also under pressure to come up to speed faster than a full-time employee. I’ve done short gigs and worked places for 2, 3 and 7 years and the ramp up is the same. I started a new job in January that I hope to be at for years and my approach was the same as suggested here. Be self-effacing about your ignorance, don’t walk in deciding you know better about X just because of how your last company did it and find pain points that bother everyone but haven’t been addressed because there is no stakeholder to drive them. The upside to being useless the first few months is you can use the time to clean out the Nemean stables or whatever mess is lying around.

Off topic, but nice to see you around here after years since we’ve met in person! Also nice to see other engineers from NH represented.

I’ve also done gigs for 7, 5, 2 years, one for 8 months and now I’m 2 months into my new gig. I would concur that ramp up speed has been pretty similar at most. I’m not sure the first move (after 7 years) was harder than the others.

Honestly, I think it tends to be harder emotionally to walk away from the situation. From the familiarity to the network, it can feel weird leaving that all behind, even if there are obvious reasons you need to leave. Once you’ve made the break, starting new tends to be similar: spending a few months getting familiar with the exact tech stack, the people, projects and business. Usually after a handful of months you’ll start feeling in the groove and know enough of the environment to feel like you are making serious contributions.

Hey! Yeah, I started a new gig at the beginning of this year and the only thing different is this is far and away the largest tech company I have worked at. The one thing I am struggling with is coming to grips with the scale and accepting I will never have my head or hands around the whole thing.

One other point worth repeating came from a friend who was a Marine: "You have 6 months before you're part of the problem." Once you are on your feet anywhere, do try to create the change your teammates have been desperate for but lack the enthusiasm to push for. Use your New Person Karma up-front.

Should I be worried for ST without you?:)

Congrats on new things! I just switched to a new thing myself!

Nah, ST is going well. Jon is the mastermind behind it all, and Ben has been doing excellent work, and Tim is rounds out the ST team. On the Merge side, Dylan and David are hard at work. I think Sublime HQ is hiring in the Sydney area also.

That said, I am still contributing the community, albeit a little slower. Hoping to have a first-rate Swift syntax done in the next month or two, plus continuing to plug away on some Package Control work.

Congrats on the new role and continuing to push yourself!

> Finally, from experience I know the first to three months are the most difficult ones

Compared to the OP, your situation doesn’t tell you this at all. It tells you that you know for you, the first to three months are the most difficult ones.

You have no way to know what years 4-6 are like or years 8-10 or years 14-15.

The problem OP has is very different from the one a job-hopper has. You’re experiencing months 1-3 with a plan of leaving in 1 year. OP is likely thinking of months 1-3 with years 5-10 in mind.

It's true. I don't know what years 8-10 feel like. But author is not asking that.

I gave advice for author's question: _How do you go from the "new clueless person at work" to "oh hey Mike, I'll need your help this afternoon"?_

My advice merely helps the author to speed up the process to get there.

In addition, I never join and plan on leaving in 1 year. In contracting, sometimes you work a month, sometimes 4 years. But you always go all in, regardless of the assignment.

> I never join and plan on leaving in 1 year

Just like the scorpion didn’t plan to sting the frog?

Why so much negativity? Are you aware that there's this whole side called "contracting"? Agile made it very dynamic - sometimes assignment is completed sooner that agreed because company's priorities change. Sometimes you stay longer because they need your help.

I've been to many gigs where burned out or incompetent permanent (!) employees made a complete mess almost running company to a ground. Incompetent leads, even CTOs desperate for a fix.

Yet, as a contractor you come and help the companies *

* there are incompetent or selfish contractors as well.

I'd comment that we don't know why so many job changes, so whether or not they're _planning_ on leaving is conjecture.

> OP is likely thinking of months 1-3 with years 5-10 in mind.

You don't know that

What are the likely consequences of this difference ?

If I’m going to know you for less than a year before I bounce, it’s easier to tell you what I think you want to hear instead of being myself and being honest with you. I don’t need to be that concerned with the consequences of my actions. Everything I do is gonna be somebody else’s problem soon enough.

I can probably keep some kind of fiction together long enough to get to my next VC-funded shitshow gig.

But if I do that, after 2,3,4,7,12 years, it’s going to be obvious to the people I work with I’m a fake weirdo who’s miserable to work with and not a genuine person. This will be true even if nobody else works there for 15 years — it’ll get passed down from new hire to new hire.

My experience was the opposite of this (not saying yours is wrong, just that it might be different for different people)

I did a 7 year stint as a contractor in which I worked at 7 different places, plus multiple smaller ad-hoc projects. Most contracts started with 1-3 month engagements. Most were also extended multiple times. But I never made any assumptions about extensions.

Knowing that I was only ever going to be somewhere short term made it a while lot easier to be be fully honest with people, instead of just telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I found it put me in a great position to point out problems or give advice and recommendations for improvements based on my experience without any worries about upsetting anyone who was personally invested in the existing status quo. Because the consequences of the personal relationships weren't so critical, I would be leaving anyway

Knowing I was only there temporarily also made me much more conscious of writing up or handing over knowledge of the things I worked on. I always tried to make sure I was building up the client to succeed after I left.

I always wanted to do a great job, so doing something poorly because I didn't have any long term consequences was never really a factor. Many clients reached out and offered repeat business too, so the lack of long term consequences isn't really true anyway. If you do a good job, it adds to your future revenue stream.

I try to carry this mentality forward now I've returned to more conventional employment. Being honest about improvements needed, and working to help the team succeed in the long term.

> I can probably keep some kind of fiction together long enough to get to my next VC-funded shitshow gig.

ha, love to see this so pragmatically written

Riffing off the first few months being the most difficult: you may not even know how you can best contribute for the first 3 months. That’s ok, it’ll come to you. As others have mentioned, the most valuable thing you can do in that time is understand current state at the company (culture, processes, etc) so having 1:1 conversations just cuz you’re new is one way to do this. Also - maybe find where the async conversations are happening (eg Slack) and reading the archives

Spot on.

Do you feel like that number of job changes has limited your career opportunities? I had a string of years where I changed jobs several times for fairly good reasons (substantially better paying jobs, family illness, spent a year trying to get a non-profit off the ground), but it left my resume feeling kinda blotchy, and I've resolved to try to stay in my current (very awesome) job for at least 4 years (~1.5 down so far).

People have commented on the blotchiness directly, so I do wonder how many conversations I just haven't had because of it.

That's not true. If you had an emergency appendix surgery in the middle of the nowhere and there was only one surgeon, would you question how many hospitals he worked at before? If you are good at your job and can prove it, then it doesn't matter. We, tech people, have it really easy compared to other jobs.

If anything, it's the opposite. I have more career opportunities than ever:

1. You learn new skills -> you become more employable

2. You leave on good terms -> most of your previous companies are waiting for you with open arms (more opportunities, safety net, upper hand in negotiating salary)

3. You discover yourself -> what you want, what are you good at and where can you go next.

I would take it with a grain of salt. Contracting and living in a big city is very different to small towns and/or permanent roles.

Interesting that you see yourself as being more employable. And if you say so, probably it's true! So, I'm wondering what you bring to the teams you're hired into. When I hire, staying at previous jobs for only 1—2 years is a red flag. And you've done it 10 times!

We're looking for people who would like to stay with us for, say 3–5 years, at least. While our tech stack, culture, etc. isn't that special, it still takes time to acclimate.

Perhaps you are a very talented specialist in very narrow niche? People like that are always useful, and can skip between jobs as they please. Although, I'd probably do stuff like that on a consulting basis, instead of a salaried employee.

I have amended my comment to highlight that I've been mostly contracting.

I firmly believe you are looking at the short side of the stick. Ask yourself, what can you do for people to stay for 3-5 years? You don't need special stack or culture, just listen to individual's needs (plenty of books written on this subject).

Some places I worked at, the time just flew. I honestly wanted to stay there longer because the whole assignment was like a Swiss watch.

1-2 years is a red flag, but it's mostly a red flag of a bad company, not the employee. I base this on my experience and interviewing devs.

You can remove gigs from your resume.

I mostly do, but then I have large gaps in employment.

I don't think your situation is comparable to OP's: contractor with frequent client changes vs full timer with an order of magnitude longer tenure in one place.

What seems to work for me and many people is: soon after you join, start meeting with many people one on one. First with your immediate team, then with people in closely related teams, stakeholders, people doing a similar role, people who are a bit more senior, etc ... It can be a bit awkward initially to schedule these meetings, but almost everyone would be happy to have a chat, tell you about themselves, the company, the projects they're working on. They will often also tell you about other people you should be talking to. Listen well - people will tell you what's important, what they would be interested in collaborating on, what are some gotchas you should watch out for. After a while you'll kinda naturally get a feel for who are "your people", so just continue talking to them and find excuses to do cool stuff together. Most people are biased towards not doing enough of this sort of thing, so unless you know yourself to be some kind of hyper-social connector, assume that you're not doing enough of that and correct by forcing yourself to do more. A good rule of thumb is to meet someone new every day for a few weeks.

>What seems to work for me and many people is: soon after you join, start meeting with many people one on one.

Very much agree with this one, particularly with remote work. Most people get too many emails, and will naturally prioritize emails from people they know and have a reputation with compared to a new person.

Even quick introductions before meetings as people filter into a meeting room. You don't talk about your hobbies and family before a meeting starts with 30 people on Zoom, but that's certainly permissible with a couple people as people enter the room.

Especially right after you start. You don’t need a reason except “I just started” and you don’t have any other responsibilities yet.

Love this question. I recently changed jobs to a fully remote role and I was lucky enough to receive a detailed list of suggestions of people to meet, resources to access, etc from my hiring manager.

If you are starting a remote gig, doing camera-on video 1 on 1s with all the people you I would encounter (and often one level above) was extremely helpful for me as it gave me a chance to introduce myself and set the context for those who were not involved in the interview process.

I would always finish by asking for advice on what it takes to be successful at X company, people loved that question and shared tips that shed light on internal culture rather than the typical platitudes. Good luck!

> I would always finish by asking for advice on what it takes to be successful at X company

Strong agree on this. I also recently switched jobs and I asked this question of everyone I interviewed with. I got thoughtful answers from every single person, and several common themes stood out that convinced me the company's core values really wound their way through the fabric, rather that just being trite platitudes.

I was in a similar position to you a couple of weeks ago - switched job after the better part of a decade. The main things I've found that have built trust are: 1. hanging out casually with teammates in the office 2. taking notes and/or screenshots in every conversation and then reviewing them to stay on top of everything

From the other side, I've onboarded a lot of engineers in the past and the best ones have been "yes, and?" people. So you'd explain a process to them, they'd say yes and try to figure out what comes next. e.g. if someone explains that changes are released via a pipeline, the best on-boarders I've seen would say "yes, and what stages are in the pipeline and how do they progress?". Where possible I'd recommend the pro-active questioning approach.

Honestly, just ask anyone who they think you should talk to.

"Oh hey Alice, I got this problem with X. Do you know who can help with X?"

"I think Mike knows about X"


"Oh hey Mike, someone told me that you have worked with X. Is that correct? I could use some help."

Do this for every problem and you'll get a good sense of who your colleagues are and what they work with

And in a related vein, this is an effective pattern I’ve used for one senior dev to onboard another:

Shadow me for a day and memorize everything I’m told to do. Hold me to each of those —- by specifically verifying how and what I did —- learning the company process along the way.

After fifteen years of Rails cumulating with my dream job at Apple, I quit to build furniture with zero experience. Here’s what has helped me:

- Find the best people in your new industry and reach out to them. I’m spending four days with a master builder next month after reaching out on their contact us form.

- Join local trade associations, go to meetings, and offer to volunteer. Your unique background may offer a unique set of skills.

- Acknowledge that it will be difficult and possibly uncomfortable at times.

- Have twelve months living expenses in cash savings.

Good luck!

I try to get involved and be seen and make connections. If you’re working in the office, that means grabbing lunch with your coworkers, maybe getting drinks after work - socialising basically. Things become much easier when you get over that new person phase, and you are comfortable approaching others and vice versa.

For fully remote it’s a much bigger challenge. I try to get involved in social slack channels and connect with people that way. Also finding ways to talk face to face on Zoom etc goes a long way.

> be seen

This is underrated. Especially when remote, you have to constantly remind people (and especially your manager) that you’re doing something.

You don’t have to be annoying about it, but let people know when something is done instead of just changing the Jira status.

>How do you go from the "new clueless person at work" to "oh hey Mike, I'll need your help this afternoon"?

There's a people aspect to it, a time aspect, and a technical skills aspect.

For people, you need to develop rapport. A lot of struggle at the beginning is getting to know the right people. This is easier in the office where introductions are more fluid and you run into people.

On the time front, you become an expert on the systems a company employes as your tenure increases. You help design systems and understand the tradeoffs in the decisions that are made rather than walking in and saying "This is odd and I've never seen it before. Why is it done this way?", with answer quality varying on how long ago the decision was made. I've worked at multiple companies where people retire to start collecting their pension and come back a few weeks or months later working as full time consultants because they have deep knowledge of why things are setup like they are, the hiccups that will be encountered during a system change, etc.

You seem confident in the technical aspect, but certainly if you put out work product that doesn't perform well or isn't documented well, people aren't going to proactively be coming to you with questions.

Living through this right now; I've just ended a ten-year stint at Pinterest and finished Week One at a stealthy little start-up.

Find someone who needs your help with a problem in your domain and help them figure it out. Important: try not to solve the problem yourself. Pair with the other person and help as they solve it using the tools you need to learn in order to succeed at the new place.

Repeat with at least two more people, hopefully in different areas of the new company. Learn as much as you can about how those areas rub together, and where the pain points are. Document those pain points, politely.

Throughout this process, be personally vulnerable. If you're tired or confused or feeling imposter-ish, tell your buddies and connect on that human level.

Take excellent notes on the onboarding/ramping-up process, get your buddies to vet them, and share them with subsequent new hires. If the new thing is a startup you might actually be writing the new-hire guide as you go along, which will earn you endless karma.

In order to be successful on a new team or at new company I recommend The First 90 Days.

You could save time by simply reading and distilling this blog post: https://www.ricklindquist.com/notes/the-first-90-days

I just went through this in July of 2020. I worked at a company for 15 years as a software developer and switched. At my new company I'm now one of the domain experts and I was just promoted.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to use Anki. As you learn new pieces of domain knowledge throw the info into Anki. Then review your Anki deck daily. No one does and you will be shocked at how quickly you move up the domain knowledge ladder.

Good Luck

Never thought that Anki could be used here. Thank you for that reminder. I will definitely try it! Building an Anki deck after an onboarding will certainly help with future newcomers too!

Firstly, congratulations! Changing from a well-known situation to a completely new one. It must be a little bit scary because everything will be unfamiliar. And that's OK. You're going on an adventure!

In fact, you're probably far from being alone. There will be many people around you in the same boat. Because of that: everyone is likely to be in the same situation where none of the old processes may now work the same way. (Even if the long-timers don't admit it!)

And chances are (since you're posting on HN) that a lot of your colleagues are remote. So this might be harder too since you may miss physical cues and casual things that make it easy to build friendships and become a known quantity: you can't find your tribe by sight nor will they be able to find you.

1) Meet everyone regardless of title. Learn who they are, not just what they do. Take field notes!

2) Meet everyone related the people you talk to. Repeat until numPeopleMet >= 100.

3) Join all the tribes/channels, even if you don't think you have a strong affiliation with the group. Observe how language flows, not just where the code goes. Make visual maps of how products and teams interrelate.

4) Be joyful of the skills that you bring, and find fellow fans.

Have fun on your new adventure!

Let me use an anology. What you think will happen is just hopping from one train to another. What might happen is they'll kick you out of the train on entering one, there is no other train stopping, and you might have to abandon the trains altogether. We are cool folks over here but in professional environment if there is a clueless new person and they can be used somehow, then it unfortunately happens.

Humility. You have a great skillset, I'm sure. But approach every thing at first like a junior dev on his first job, with respect and an open mind, trying to learn the current state of affairs. The pain points and places where you can add value will present themselves to you if you take a beginner's mindset, and you'll see where to strike. And that'll really be appreciated.

Try to reserve judgement on things for as long as possible. You'll be shocked by some things, and you'll find some of your new colleagues incredibly frustrating, but try to hold off on forming harsh judgements until you really understand the context.

Have faith in yourself. If you were a go-to person in the past (the kind that has people visiting you for help) then you'll be a go-to person again, just give it time, you WILL get there. Sometimes you'll be stressed about whether you're getting there quick enough, but just relax and have faith that it will happen. That said, remember that being in your last place for 15 years has given you an unreasonable amount of insight there, but you don't know it all at the new place, so listen.

You might find this job is a rebound job. It might take you a few attempts before you find somewhere you want to stay for many years. It might be them, and it might be you, bit don't take it too hard if you find the new place isn't right for you and after giving it a good go you decide to move on again.

IMO, don't "try" to make friends. You'll come off as fake and people will notice.

Instead, be yourself, and if you have to try for something, try not to upset other people.

Ask for asking Mike for help, just do it. He knows you're new and the company has told him to help you get going. You'll stop being the clueless new person after you've learned about the company's stuff.

The nice thing is that you're used to a good situation. At your new job, when you feel uncertain, you can ask, "Why is this different?" The answer might be that you don't know who to talk to about an issue, or you don't understand the architecture as well, or you don't know your way around the code, and you can translate those differences into corrective action: ask another person who to talk to about the issue, ask a coworker if they can answer some questions about the architecture, study the layout of the code repo. This puts you way ahead of someone who is less experienced, or who is coming from a less ideal situation. They might not know what it feels like to be oriented in the code, to be in the loop, etc. Someone like that might languish or need coaching to improve, but you will get up to speed in no time.

I have just resigned after 16 years at my current place, so I can understand your feelings.

However, 3 years ago I made a mobility move within the company to a different division. To non-experts the new role looked similar form the outside, but almost everything was different: the people, (most of) the systems, even the culture, how the work was organized and appreciated, and so on. I experienced some sort of a culture shock. One of the problems I had to address in the new role was attrition and I kept telling people to give some time to their jobs to get a better understanding of what it was about and what opportunities it offered, and fought the same battle inside with myself to walk the walk not just talk the talk.

What I kept reminding myself about was that I should not compare the new role to the old one over and over again (except when there was some specific need). Instead, I just believed that my experience would help me help others. I was still the most senior guy in the team and after understanding where the biggest needs were, I started thinking about how I can address them, and came up with ideas which I went on to implement. They were much appreciated.

Another thing that worked well for me was to put all the warnings and indirect information I had received before my move on the back seat and give everyone a chance to start with a clean slate. I was very disciplined about that and as a result I could fix some historically very tense relationships between locations. I think if you approach people in an open-minded fashion, most of them will be happy to cooperate (except those whose interest dictates the opposite).

Also, don't be afraid to ask questions even about dumb things. I found that a lot of people with some experience are happy to share their knowledge and explain things to you. Listening to them will create mutual respect. And you will also understand who knows what and who you can count on.

Just be patient with yourself and you will find that you have the skills to be good at the new place.

EDIT: fixed some grammar problems

The gold standard job transition book for “leadership roles” is the First 90 Days [1]. I re-read it every time I change roles. The #1 mistake people make is try to apply the lessons of their last job and and propose big changes without having built up sufficient context, relationships and credibility. Stay curious longer, meet a lot of people and hear out what their concerns are, and find quick wins. Invest in developing relationships by finding common ground and spending more time with those that you naturally hit it off with.


In addition to everything else here, I've found you make friends at work quickly if you tackle long-lived concerns or pain-points (for individuals or teams) that haven't gotten enough attention

Filling gaps in tooling, fixing bugs in the product that some people have been making noise about but haven't been prioritized by management, solving inter-team friction by finding a middle ground that everyone can live with, giving non-technical stakeholders a sympathetic ear inside the engineering team, etc.

Find something that's been ruining someone's day over and over, and make it stop doing that. Instantly positive professional relationship.

First, congratulations! It can be hard to step out of a comfort zone.

Second, realize that you will be the clueless newbie for a few months. Not in terms of tech or experience, but in terms of all those amorphous "I know how to get things done" tasks. You are going to have to sit with that and, while it won't be comfortable, it'll get better over time.

I've done this a couple of times in my career, though my longest tenure was ~8 years. My advice for "newbie oldsters" (just made that up right now) is fourfold:

* realize the value of new eyes to the company. You can see things that others don't because they are inured to their current situation. You only get to be a new employee once at each company. Enjoy that advantage, uncomfortable as it may be.

* take notes on those things that are interesting to you. Publicly document them (if they aren't) or improve the docs (if they are). Writing down something will give you experience in the domain and give you a chance to talk to folks when you ask them to review it.

* resist the temptation to prescribe in these notes or in conversations, especially early on. The team is excited to have you but if you come in and say "at OLDCO we did it this way, which is far superior" you will be wasting that excitement. The exception to this is if you see an existential threat to the company due to its practices (no backups, critical SPOFs). An open mind and asking "why" with an eye toward learning will serve you better.

* attend any social events that the new company has; as many as you can. Those non-work work events can be a pain in the butt in terms of taking time away from your personal life, but you can meet people outside of your team or even inside your team. And those informal ties can prove extremely helpful when you have a work problem in the future. ("Oh, we need to get design to sign off on that? I'll ask Joe who should be looking at it; we chatted at the Friday morning coffee a few weeks ago.")

Finally, some of this will come with time, but it usually takes 6 months to a year to have the internal credibility and confidence and knowledge to really make things happen. Take the small wins while you can and keep going.

I've heard this suggestion that you should schedule a few 1 on 1s with a variety of people and ask them to walk you through what they do, what they work with and how everything looks from their perspective

I’m curious how your experience was finding and landing the new job?

I’m in a similar position, at a big company for over 10 years after working in startups. I was technical when I got there but over time as I got more immersed in the business my tech skills have eroded. I’m now in a unique position as an executive that doesn’t translate super well to a lot of the opportunities at companies I might be interested in. I’m feeling a little stuck and I’m not even getting to interviews on anything I’ve posted for so far.

Curious if others have had this experience and how did you navigate it?

Over the past 3 years, I've really put myself out there. At first, interviewing was a bit difficult. It had been a looong time since i've done any. It got easier with time. After a while, I stopped preparing for interviews and I started getting good at it (asking questions, finding out if that company is really good for you, answering questions about yourself, and of course passing the technical assessment (whether coding / algorithm interviews or even large-scale system design).

The only advice I can give (i've received a lot of good advice here) is to always interview. Always be up-to-date on the job market, with respect to skills, technologies, coding savviness, etc. Interviewing in the beginning may take a lot of your time, but if you do it consistently, it'll only helping you in future interviews. Don't be afraid of rejections, hell, even embrace rejections as a mean to get better in the future.

I was always afraid of having my skills eroded or even becoming obsolete as it got to a point where I was no longer learning new things on the job, so I had to push myself and make myself learn (most times on my own personal time). That's what pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, and do something that I know will be annoying and heck even make me scared.

I've just done the same (thought not 15 years in), and here are some of the things I've been thinking through that may be help you.

This is an opportunity to change the things you didn't like about yourself in your previous role, and reinforce the things you did. I never took vacations. I had a reputation for always being available on Slack, no matter the day, or the first person on an incident call. Those things are still important to me, but work/life balance is, too, and with no reputation, I can be whoever I want to be. I want to be quick to respond, but only when a system tells me I need to, not because I'm trolling Slack on the couch at 8pm.

Ask a lot of questions. You know enough to be hired, but nothing about the new place, so ask! Give your new peers opportunities to be experts, and eventually they will do the same to you.

Try not to live in the past. This is a place I could use work myself. Rely on the things you've learned, but realize the situation is different, and if you compare now to then, you'll be disappointed. Remember, it took 15 years to get to "then." There is a possibility that it was more than just time, but it will take time to figure that out.

Assuming best intentions, you got to the place you are by being yourself. So, do it again. Rely on your instincts. Look at the world as a recent grad starting their new job, and do it again. You think you forgot how to do it, but maybe you never really knew "how" before, you just did it. If you did it once, you can probably do it again.

I did this after 9 years. My M.O. in a new job is to find a pain point and fix it quickly. Specifically, find a pain point that either directly impacts productivity, customers, sales, ect. If you're "allowed" to fix the pain point, it's a good sign. If you have resistance, run quickly. It means that management doesn't know how to handle your expertise.


You're a lead, you should be able to see problems a mile away. Your new company should trust your expertise to anticipate and fix problems.


I joined a company with a Mac product that would peg the CPU for days. It was impacting sales. Took me and another developer ~6 weeks to refactor some bad design decisions in a critical area. Pegging the CPU for days dropped to 1-2 minutes. (If I wasn't allowed to fix it I was going to leave.)

I joined another company that was using a beyond end-of-life web programming language. The lead developer resisted my efforts to transition to modern Javascript, and resisted my efforts to transition to modern hosted source control. It ended poorly, although there was a lot of relief when the leadership announced that they were switching to Github. (I should have asked them to lay me off so I could collect unemployment.)

I joined a company where a small team had a project spread over 3 git repos, with tons of little dlls. Simple refactors that Visual Studio could automate would take all day. I merged everything into a single repo, and merged many small dlls into larger dlls. Build time was much shorter, and refactoring was possible. (If I wasn't able to fix the problem, I was going to leave.)

Instead of giving advice, I’m going to talk about how it was for me doing the same, switching after 13 years at my first employer.

There was a lot more learning at the new job than I initially thought. Much of the knowledge was domain-specific, which I hadn’t realized there would be so much of (and also how a lot of my existing knowledge proved unique to my previous employer), but much was also in technologies I just hadn’t worked with before. The first year was a good lesson in humility.

Also that first year, I felt … lost. In the old organization I was the goto guy for lots of questions, and in the new organization things happened around me but often didn’t involve me, and I struggled to get traction on those projects around me even when I knew I could be useful. Similarly having influence on the decision-making took a while. At the old place my opinion carried weight with all the right people. At the new place I had no reputation and no connections, and my opinion was heard but initially carried little weight. I had to build up some social credit first to have that kind of say. Also, the way decisions were made was completely different, and it took over a year until I understood how to influence them and I started getting real agency over my work.

Finally, at first it was quite lonely. I knew it was important to get to know a lot of people so I tried to have a lot of different contacts and kept a list of names (because I’m terrible with them), but even though everyone was very nice to me I didn’t feel a real bond with them until after a while, and I missed the coworkers from my old job during that time. Forming a bond with my new coworkers ultimately happened through the projects I was doing with them.

I felt the same way when switching from a company I liked and spent almost 8 years at to someplace totally new, in a brand new discipline that I was really excited about but didn't have much hands on experience in. It was very anxiety-inducing, since the pandemic really unfolded during my 3-month notice period and here I was leaving a stable position for a brand new probation period.

To be honest for me the only thing that solved that clueless feeling was time, and that included overtime. Nobody was forcing me to work extra hours, but I really wanted to prove myself and get up to speed as fast as I could, so I would work late almost every day to become productive asap. Eventually I relaxed more and more, took more and more ownership over various services, developed and released new projects, etc. Before I knew it I had people asking me questions about different services we maintained and different parts of our stack. There were no tricks or strategies that made me feel better other than this type of "brute forcing" it by just powering through. The switch ended up being a good decision, even though I still think fondly of the company I left.

Good luck!

I did this about 5 years ago. My suggestions.

  1. Find a lieutenant asap: That's your start towards building a coalition of folks who get things done.  They can give you a head-start on institutional knowledge.  In return, you can give them a new boost they need in their career.

  2. Meet with everyone twice: In the first week meet with everyone that is either a consumer of your tech or someone that you rely on for data/processes.  Let them talk about their business, what's working, what's not, etc.  Write it all down.  Then at the end of that first meeting, set-up a follow up conversation with them soon after.  By that next meeting, you'll definitely have follow up information/questions.

  3. Identify your value & execute:  Why did your new boss/c-level bring you on?  What are they looking for you to do within your first 3-6-12 months.  Figure that out, make sure it's reasonable, then drive it with relentless precision & focus.  You're not 'the guy' anymore that knows everything.  You can't keep a bunch of plates in the air at the same time because you have all this institutional knowledge of systems and people.  So the simplest way of standing out is being known as someone who can be given a task and delivers.  Eventually the experience you get from delivering on that goal(s) will give you the knowledge you need to be a domain expert again.

  4. Ask for help:  Simplest way to get someone to like you is to ask them for a favor.  Doesn't even matter if it's all that important.  It's very counter-intuitive.  You'd think the best way to get folks to like you is to do stuff for them.  But a) you don't have that much value at the moment and b) they wind up feeling indebted to you, which isn't all that great.  Instead, ask someone for help.  If they give it, genuinely thank them.  This helps in two ways.  1) It makes you seem like a real human and 2) it gives you an opportunity to follow up with them later and say something to the effect of, "Hey, thanks for helping with <the thing they helped you with>, it allowed me to do <some goal for the company> which means <positive thing for the company>."  Don't worry if it doesn't affect them directly.  Then ask them about what they're working on.  That positive feedback loop makes it possible for you to find the best talent at the company and they will start approaching you with questions/information.

So. You are at a new gig. You are no longer the top dog. Accept this, hell embrace this. It should be a huge weight lifted from your shoulders.

Focus first on getting to know your direct reports (if you have them) and then your peers. It's important to build rapport with your peers because they will show you the ropes. If you have the time and freedom invite said peers to have a drink after work or get a bite depending on culture of drinking in your place of residence. Engaging with your peers outside of strict work hours is still unfortunately the most effective route in most cases to build strong connections.

Overall though just try to relax a bit at the start, observe and soak up knowledge. Things will be different but that doesn't make then wrong. Try to understand the pros and cons of new place vs old place so that once you have acclimatized and garnered some respect you can offer opinions on how to combine the best of both worlds.

To be honest going from being the preeminent domain expert to being a highly positioned noob is hard. But learning to see everything from a new point of view is totally with it.

Congratulations and good luck for the switch! I did a similar switch about a year ago. I'm glad I did, but it's been challenging.

> Technically, I have no doubts to get things done

That's something which caught me a bit off-guard. All tools and systems are different. I find myself asking questions to the interns who know more than me. It's sometimes worrying (do I really deserve my title in the company...)

> How do I make "new friends" at work?

I'm just trying to be a nice guy, keep a positive attitude in all circumstances, help other people when I can. Generally, it takes a bit of patience to make friends. But eventually, you meet people whose personality somehow matches yours and you build a network of friends/allies within the company.

This is something I don't do enough because I'm introverted, but it's probably good to be pro-active in meeting new people in the company. Attend social events, talk to people during breaks and so on...

I changed teams internally about a year ago after 6 years in the same team. Changed into a completely different area with no domain knowledge and a technology stack that has nothing in common with what I was doing before.

Some of the things that have helped.

Be a sponge. Absorb everything, all the time. Ask questions. Read everything. Make sure you get time with people who can answer questions / teach you things. People, almost always, are happy to spend time with you.

When something aligns with your existing expertise, and there's always something, jump in. Offer advice, solve problems. If your company culture is healthy, your new team mates will really appreciate it. Different perspectives are so refreshing.

It'll take time to feel like you're an integral part of your new team / company. From what you already told us, I think it'll happen sooner rather than later in your new company.

The first thing to do is to get to know the people in your new team. You have to take the initiative; go out to lunch/coffee breaks, introduce yourself (but keep your ego in check) and ask about them and their work; always be sincere. Find out commonalities and use it to start conversations.

Identify the "key" players, in particular; the "Guru" who knows the most about the System Architecture/Code base etc. Ask for a couple of days of his time (eg. brown bag lunches etc.) and request a "Brain Dump". Take copious notes etc. and then sit with the Design/Implementation documentation and Codebase to quickly come up to speed. You can also do the same with each person on your team so that you can quickly catch-up to the status quo.

Ok, I'm in the process of doing this myself (started a new position after 12 years at my last job just over a month ago.) I take the approach that I always liked with people who I helped mentor at my last job: Just dig in on each new task, try and figure things out and when you get stuck, outline what you did/figured out, what you think maybe the next step is, and ask some clarifying questions before you get completely in the weeds. Take some notes so you don't need to ask THAT question again. You'll get up to speed reasonably quick, won't flail too much, and generally be respectful of other's time.

Remember, you're new and it's ok to be clueless at the start. Just try and use each new thing you do to accumulate clue and you'll be fine.

Hey, I really recommend the book 'The first 90 day's. Its immensely helpful for just this.

I just changed jobs after 8 years. I am one month into the new gig. What it did was spend the first two weeks solid, doing one-to-ones with all key stakes holders, and taking copious notes from each and every one. That includes engineering managers, team leads, architects, DevOps people, sales, legal, HR. Ask what's working well, what's not, top gripes. Talk to people who are resigning for exit interviews, lots of good inside info there. Then volunteer for crappy jobs to bid trust. Customer support escalations, documentation. This gives you a reason to dig and ask questions in a pointed way, and builds trust.

What would be the advice that you'd already write to yourself? You might spur a couple of HN'ers to riff on what you will say yourself ;-)

I've only done 6 to 12 months stints, so no advice from me I'm afraid.

Something to note is that your credibility doesn't go with with you in a new job. You need to build it up again more or less from zero. Focus on being competent and as long as you are pleasant, the natural comradery of having a shared goal will follow.

Yes, it's simple advice, but when I recently started a new job it didn't automatically click that no one knew my capabilities, personality and previous career accomplishments. No one wants to be saddled with dead weight - especially in tech where there can be a high cognitive load.

Number 1, 2 and 3 is not to try to justify your title and impress people with your knowledge. I routinely see new experienced hires immediately trying to show off how much they know and lecture the people who are already there. They usually fail big time because nobody likes them and their suggestions show a lock of understanding.

In the first few weeks listen a lot, ask non-confrontational questions and learn as much as you can. If you are good, you will find areas where you can help and your help is welcome.

One piece of advice: If you find yourself saying things like "At my old job..." just shut your mouth. I mean this with the utmost respect that phrases like that are the best way to alienate your new co-workers. Listen and learn to how they do things, then over time start improving things if you see opportunities. If they want to know how you've done it in the past, they will ask. Otherwise, you just look like a know-it-all who can't adapt.

> I have no clue how to get started…

Think WHO, not How.

Build out your own a strategic org chart of the people WHO really get things done in the new company.

Reach out to individuals for a simple introduction— see where your circles overlap.

Assuming good tonality, ask WHO you should speak to next?

Look for the outliers and power connectors. Those guys who seem to know and really get along well with everyone.

Personal experience— my second week on the job, I met a British Ex-Pat who ran our São Paulo sales office. He became my linchpin to all our overseas operations.

Per my own policy, I try not to stay any one place longer than 3y. It keeps my skills sharp, my pocketbook full with appropriate raises, and is fun for new challenges.

There is a lot of good advice here, so I will just add: be a pleasant person to work with! It will take you far (and is generally the right thing to do anyways :) )

Very similar career trajectory and move -- just approaching the 1-year mark.

In hindsight, I wish I would have:

- Listened more and Talked less in general

- Consistently started with "Why does this happen this way" vs. "This isn't the way that the industry does it, and we should aim for that"

+ The end states I defined were generally correct, but historical context matters and informed the route in ways that I would have benefitted from knowing about.

- Spent more time helping people realize my perspective on their own, vs. just communicating the necessary end-state and the justification.

+ Even if I'm right in what we need to do, people want to solve their own problems and feel ownership for the outcome when they've joined the cause on their own

- Really dug into it when contributors failed to meet their commitments to me to understand if there was a prioritization problem or an alignment problem (or if there's a skill or commitment gap in play).

- Remembered that it's just a job, and nobody there is going to be at my funeral. It's a transactional relationship that's less important than my mental health.

In terms of things I feel I did well with and/or found engergizing:

- Lots of new, really smart and talented people in my orbit

- Tons of information and perspective sharing, new reading, new insight

- Taking the time to meet people (this was hard over COVID), but bi-weekly 1:1s are key. People will generally tell you the (or at least their) truth in 1:1 conversations in a way that rarely happens in large meetings.

+ Chatting with my lunch crew on the daily is where I have historically gotten most of the valuable intel and feedback, and hashed out long-term strategies for the group or organization. It's also where people in my orbit communicate their vision and build coalitions around common pain points. I feel kneecapped by this and haven't found a good substitute.

+ There's really no substitute for sharing a meal with people. It's human and important.

I also came away with a deep appreciation for how good many of the "invisible" functions at my last job were, and what excellent leadership qualities were on display.

1. Don’t expect to be very useful for three months or so. 2. Keep a list of things you hear people saying and don’t understand. Periodically ask about a few of them (but not necessarily in real time). 3. Get ready for the joy of learning new things - it is a better long term strategy for your brain to go to different environments and learn new stuff that you wouldn’t have been able to predict before. And it’s fun.

According to this recent article and discussion on HN, you are likely making a change for the best. So congrats and take it easy!


I find that there can be a lot of inefficiencies and flat out problems that existing employees have learned to accept. Being an outsider helps to see the problems that they've learned to ignore. Fixing those types of issues (after learning the backstory) in a positive way helps to integrate you with a new team.

If you are used to being the guy everybody goes to it is a big change since nobody will depend on you if you are new. But that is fine, it takes som time to get recognised in a new work environment. If you are skilled it will change in 2-3 months.

You’re in a position now where people come to you. This won’t be true in the new company, don’t make this mistake.

"Brace for impact" probably describes the event well, but you'll survive.

New people have permission to ask lots of questions, embrace this.

be friendly, be nice.

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