Employee onboarding done right.

You can only make a first impression once. How DigitalOcean puts lots of love into theirs.

Caylee Betts
Jun 2, 2016 · 5 min read

This article continues from Part 1 in a series about joining the product design team at DigitalOcean. I’m now 3 months into employment and want to share the unique onboarding experience that I think a lot of companies can learn from.

Welcome to DigitalOcean. You’re family now.
Onboarding at DO begins before your first day. I started receiving Parklet (now part of Greenhouse) tasks like “Complete I-9 Form” or “Fill out Parklet profile” and I was able to read ahead to tasks as far as 90 days out. Many were HR-related, but a lot of them were specific to the design or product teams, like introducing myself to key co-workers or determining goals for my first 30, 60 and 90 days. I finished all my pre-boarding tasks and hopped on a video call with Katie Birch, DO’s Employee Experience Specialist, to talk about my first day. We spent the call getting to know each other and I became that much more excited to join the family.

The week before my start date, I was invited to DigitalOcean’s 4th anniversary party in Soho. I got to meet almost everyone in the company over drinks and food, which was such a great way to be introduced to new co-workers. The following day, the design team took me out. I was over the moon with all the inclusion and care that went into my onboarding before I even started. DigitalOcean knows how to make a gal feel welcome!

Some of the awesome swag waiting at my desk on day one.

On my first day, my desk was covered in swag — everything from shirts and stickers to a hoodie, a tote, and even a Kindle — and I spotted some Swipies being used in the wild. So, safe to say, things were off to a terrific start. In the welcome meeting, our benefits were explained really well and the list of perks continued to grow. We learned about the different departments of the company, all sorts of resources we have access to, events and organizations we can be part of, and more. Like many onboarding experiences, there was a lot to take in, but so much care was taken to make everything relaxed and easy to digest.

An example of my tasks. It felt great having direction and making progress on my first day.

Parklet was my north star for the first week. Eric Jorgenson had a great point in his onboarding article: new hires completing tasks on the first day gets an easy win on the board. It felt great going down my list and feeling like I had purpose and direction right away. No one wants to be that person on their first day bothering the poor soul sitting next to them, nor the person sitting around watching the clock without a thing to do.

I was invited to join #guppies (genius) on Slack, a channel for new hires to find their way together. I actually kept pretty busy — I sat in on meetings and attended department-specific onboarding sessions, where directors ramped us up on what their team does. I’ve never seen this before, even though it seems so obvious. DO structures it so that there are two one-hour department sessions per week, and within your first month you should be through them all. I scheduled one-on-ones with each designer to learn more about their product vertical and had a welcome lunch with my new product team. The design team had planned a jam session on our style guide, Buoy, so I got a look into the styling of our cloud product.

Later in the week, DO’s talent development team hosted a seminar with an outside company called LifeLabs, who drop in monthly to train us how to be better co-workers, creators, and human beings. I’ve come to learn that employee-enriching programs are common here (book club, frequent team-building events, sports teams, fitness classes, gym membership benefits, education benefits, unlimited PTO, specialized training, manager training, lunch and learns, even team off-sites ending with professional DJ school… the list goes on.) The week ended with Goalfest (product design’s weekly workload recap and forecasting meeting), my first AMA/Company all-hands, and Earl’s one year DO anniversary on the rooftop across the street. An unmatched first week, for sure.

The view from Earl’s one year anniversary on The Jimmy rooftop.

Onboarding sets the tone for your culture
Not every company takes success and spreads it generously to its employees. Being at DO, it’s obvious (and confirms ideas I’ve admiringly read about) that taking care of your people will result in them taking care in their work. DigitalOcean takes pride in making work fun, making people feel included, and producing a really clean and powerful product. Companies striving for this culture, take note: this attitude must be present from the first day. All of the invisible elements of onboarding — that welcome call with Katie, the inclusion in events prior to (and since) my start date, and the sprinkle of personality and fun throughout — are the important first impressions I had of working at DO.

It’s been a pretty awesome first couple months.

So, here I am, now three months in. I wanted to share a few of the key gestures that made me feel so warm and fuzzy as I was joining a new company in a new city. I am super curious about scaling culture and am passionate about paying it forward to make others feel welcome as they join. (I do my part and say hi to the new hires every Monday morning! Can you believe 60 people have joined since I started three months ago? Talk about fast growth.)

Want to read more about onboarding? I loved this article Percolate wrote about their onboarding. It sounds amazing; I especially love the idea of a formal buddy system.

What amazing onboarding experiences have you had? Where did others fall short? What would you like to try in your company?


Feel free to reach out on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you!

Does DigitalOcean sound like something you’d be into? We’re always looking for talented people to join the team. Check out our current openings.

Caylee Betts

Written by

Entrepreneurial product designer into startups, sports, sleeping outside, dogs, travel and mezcal old fashioneds.

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