Back in March, I wrote a blog post about my decision to change jobs in pursuit of new challenges as an Engineering Manager at Bitrise. Based on the first six months, it was the right decision to make and I also faced plenty of challenges as well. Choosing a new job is always a bet, and the stakes are whether the company can live up to the expectations you set during the interviews. This post is a collection of my experiences and observations from my first six months as a newcomer.
Onboarding with great support and freedom
On the first day of April — hoping that the promise of my first working day wasn’t an April Fool’s joke — I sat down at my desk in the living room clean-shaven, in a wrinkled hoodie, ready to start at a “new workplace”. The new workplace here meant my laptop and my Google, Zoom, and Slack accounts. I’ve never had an experience like that before, so starting the first day from home was a weird, yet very exciting and interesting feeling.
Onboarding newcomers is a critical process even in an office environment, where they have access to additional information by sharing a space with their colleagues. When you work remotely, you miss out on context and it’s significantly harder to ask for help since there’s no one sitting next to you.
At Bitrise, you receive a list of Confluence pages that contain everything you need for your day to day job (this varies between the different departments). What I particularly liked about this whole process was that I had a relatively large amount of freedom — I had the chance to make my own decisions from the start, choosing my first projects and who I wanted to work with, yet I had help when I needed it. This is incredibly important, since you have a framework to avoid feeling “lost”, but you are not constrained by rules and regulations, which gives you a chance to dive right in, getting to know the people, the product, and the culture at your own pace.
The onboarding package includes a massive checklist with your first tasks. This checklist contains everything you might possibly need from pages you should probably read to the systems you need to get access to.
Thanks to all that, by the time my first week ended, I met everyone I’ll work with, had access to the most important systems, and got to know a lot of teams and processes.
Your opinion matters
Yes, I know this is the biggest bullsh*t that companies use as a buzzword, yet when you start working there and actually share your idea to change something they say “well, this is how we do things here and it worked so far, so…” or something along those lines.
I did not insert my favorite Steve Jobs quote here to raise the bullshit factor of my article Linkedin-style, rather because during my first few days of onboarding, I could see that this mentality is taken pretty seriously by everyone at Bitrise.
When I started, the onboarding documentation was still a work in progress, so I was introduced to it in an almost-done state. For this very reason I was specifically asked to give feedback, and now I also try to ask for continuous feedback from those who join my team.
The onboarding process was just an example of course — in the past few months, I could see this mentality come to life every single day. People here are open to new things and changes, but they also accept that these changes can come from anyone.
Built for developers, by developers
Bitrise, as a product, is a CI/CD for software as a service. What sets us apart from the competition on a market that’s populated with countless other SaaS solutions is the fact that we focus solely on mobile developers. In fact, the company, and the first iteration of the product was actually built by a team of mobile devs.
One of the most recent examples of being mobile-first just happened last week. During their keynote, Apple announced that they will be releasing iOS 14 the next day in a one-more-thing fashion, giving devs 24 hours to prepare their apps. This caused a rather understandable outrage in the developer community. Our teams, on the other hand, released the new Xcode version to Bitrise in less than 19 hours.
For me, this is just another exciting example for the “built for developers, by developers” mindset that is present in the product to this very day. Of course, the team has grown in the meantime, and we have people here who are not actual developers, but every colleague understands the challenges our users face and how we help them.
It may seem evident that a product that targets software developers is actually built with a software development or rather, engineering mindset, but those who worked in IT, especially in Hungary, know that these companies are usually led by a management team with different priorities.
At Bitrise, I feel like everyone wants to create something that is actually great: their own craft, the product, or the way they lead their team. The recipe for this success is that everyone has freedom in their job.
For this reason, even though this is a young startup, I feel like I’m working at a big company with great history and tried and true processes.
Exciting product, unique challenges
I started my journey in the Tooling team. The Tooling team responsible for the open-source library that contains over 300 Steps and integrations. No pressure Mefi, it’s only our most important area!
The growth of the company is an exciting challenge on its own, the kind I have gained a lot of experience in over the past years. However, for me, mobile development was a whole new world: I had experience in this area as well, mainly as a team lead, but not to this extent, so it was a learning experience as well.
On top of all that, I face the following challenges on my very first week:
- Recruitment: Finding and hiring experienced mobile developers, who will join the tooling team to support other mobile developers by building tools and integrations.
- Ownership: The team has to build and develop quickly and keep more than 300 integrations and solutions up to date (which sometimes means 300 different technologies!) How can we stay in the loop, and publish the recent versions of everything and broaden our toolkit-palette?
- Support: Supporting our users the most efficient way. When Bitrise was a smaller company and product, our users had the chance to talk with our developers when they encountered any difficulties or roadblocks. This level of support really helped Bitrise to have an engaged and loyal community, but it’s challenging to scale it up to the numbers of users we have today.
- Learning: Keeping our knowledge up-to-date and fresh is elemental to all of those who are working on a product for mobile developers, but they are not developing apps on a daily basis.
- Open-source: How can we engage with the open-source community? Our aim is to motivate them to create new Steps or to work on the existing ones, all this in the proper format and quality required by us.
We solved most of these challenges in the meantime, or still work on finding a solution for the rest every single day. This list serves as my drive: I can gain experience and solve challenges in areas that don’t have their own handbook yet.
Friendly and talented people
I joined Bitrise after a 10-year-long employment at another company, and the pandemic home office situation did not help at all. Before starting, I felt like a child before their first day at a new class or school.
This feeling did not even last through the first week, as everyone greeted me as an old friend, who has always been around the office or during the coffee break after lunch. And I haven’t met most of them in person to this day.
I also received a cool welcome package with a shirt, a hoodie, a bunch of stickers, a fridge magnet, and a pair of cool socks, accompanied by a note that welcomed me on board. And someone paid attention to this smart detail: new colleagues get a welcome package a few days after they start, so they can put on that shirt or hoodie and feel like they belong here.
Hello newcomer, welcome to the team!
The team is diverse, we have colleagues from Japan, the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Hungary just to mention the countries they are located in right now. One of my colleagues went to the same high school with Michael Jordan — I even saw the signed yearbook!
Added to these, our Recruitment team has a great sense to find extremely talented people: every colleague is an expert in their field and you can learn so much from each of them. However, I never felt like an outsider, not even when a joke was completely new for me.
The party is ON (Zoom)
Despite the fact that we cannot actually meet in person due to the pandemic, the company offers a lot of activities for employees to connect and have fun together. And of course, there are a lot of events dedicated to sharing important news and updates with the whole team.
Here’s a fun compilation of videos we made during lockdown, where everyone shows a glimpse of their home life (my two cats make a cameo at 1:08).
On top of official meetings like All-hands, Engineering All-hands, or Town Hall, which aim to communicate goals, values, and results, and start a conversation around these topics, there are a lot of mini team-building events on the menu:
- Zoom cooking show hosted by someone from the team
- Pub quiz
- Zoom beers with other teams
- With the donut app, you are matched with a random colleague every week and you have the chance to get to know each other while sharing a remote coffee break
- And I probably left out a bunch of other things
I spent a lot of time thinking about the closing sentence of my post, but I couldn’t write anything cute, so I’ll only say one thing: I really love it here.