Tips for Effectively Onboarding a Junior Developer

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A junior developer is a vital resource to a growing company. Not only do they help you build features and improve your product, their fresh perspective means that they bring new and innovative ideas to the team.

After a new technical hire accepts an offer, it’s extremely important that your team has an effective process to guide them in their first days, weeks, and months on the team. Successful onboarding means less time wasted trying to figure out processes, and more time spent working on real problems and building great products.

We spoke with one of Galvanize’s members, Jerad Harbaugh of Acumen Digital, to get tips on how to onboard junior developers the right way:

The Right Prerequisites Are Essential

While it isn’t technically part of onboarding, looking for the right skills is key to setting a new hire up for success. Before you start the search for a new junior developer, have a thorough list of prerequisites and know why these skills matter to your team.

In addition to technical knowledge, considers other areas like flexibility, adaptability, interpersonal skills, leadership/management skills, problem solving, and creativity. All of these are important, but the most important prerequisite is passion.

Is the candidate dreaming about code? Are they going home and working on side projects? Are they teaching themselves new frameworks or languages? Make sure to find someone who’s always striving to grow – this type of passion usually leads to success in their first developer role.

Create a Welcoming Environment

It’s important to have high expectations for junior developers, but don’t immediately expect them to hit the ground running and start cranking out code. They need time to adapt to their new environment, understand rules, set goals, and prepare for the programs and projects they’ll be working on. Set up your new developer by readying workspaces, provisioning account credentials, and providing all the necessary tools they need on day one.

Pair programming should be an essential in part of your developer onboarding plan. Use pair programming on a rotating basis for the first several weeks. Pairing rotation expands the sphere of your company’s knowledge everyone on the development team, and new members will be able to learn the codebase, standards, and team processes much faster than if they were on their own.

Over time, new developers will begin to understand how to how to break down large, complex issues it’s smaller more manageable projects. Developers get better at defining problems and are more open to asking questions when they have a peer, so make sure your senior developers are ready to jump in and offer help when needed.

It’s also a great idea to make new developers feel welcome and supported through team dinners and happy hours. The more 1-on-1 time you can set up between new and more experienced developers, the better.

Encourage Learning and Side Projects

There are a ton of online tools and resources for developers who want to continue their education. Your junior developers should use Egghead.io, NSScreencast, Lynda.com, RailsApps, and RailsCasts to keep their skills fresh and learn about new technologies. Attending meetups and conferences is another great way for developers to expand their knowledge and network. Always encourage junior developers to expand their skillset through a variety of resources, both online and offline. You’ll all benefit greatly from the new knowledge they bring into the company.

If you create a supportive and welcoming environment for new hires to challenge their skills while picking a new ones, your junior developers will have a great experience. If you take the time to do onboarding the right way, your new hires will make a big impact on your team’s long term success.
Click here to read more more about pair programming.

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