Everyone imagines their first day at their first job in different ways, but I never could have imagined onboarding for my first job out of college in the midst of a pandemic. My first day as a software development engineer with Groupon’s Layout Service team was October 5, 2020. I was assigned to the Chicago headquarters office, so I originally imagined my first day starting off greeting the giant cat in a spaceship by the office’s front desk, and then walking through the other quirky areas of the office as I made my way to my team. That was drastically different from reality, which was moving back in with my parents after graduating and simply opening up my laptop to “meet” my team. It’s been about six months since that first day and I’ve learned and grown a lot in that time. Today, I want to share some of my thoughts and experiences throughout those six months and how, despite still working virtually, I found confidence and belonging at Groupon.
When I first started working, I had a lot of thoughts. I wanted to do well and exceed any set expectations, but I was never sure if I was doing enough or working fast enough. Seemingly simple tasks ended up taking much longer than anticipated and I often needed help finding the right file in the code base, which was always a blow to my pride. I know those feelings were all natural and expected. So if you are feeling this way, just know you are not alone. No matter how frustrating those experiences might be, they are a part of your growth as a new engineer to the workforce and company. But at the same time, it still wasn’t easy. There was a lot of confusion, which for me was heightened because of the isolation of working from home. However this period thankfully did not last long.
I minimized this time of confusion by taking a few initiatives that would provide me with a solid support system. The first two happened simultaneously. The first initiative was to rely on my team more instead of trying to struggle through tasks by myself. Of course, there is a lot to learn in the struggle, and I recommend that if you’re starting off, you should struggle with a task for a little while before you ask for help. But struggling by yourself for too long can also hurt. At times, in the spirit of proving my competency, I would spend too much time jumping down rabbit holes in the codebase just to find out I was looking in the wrong place. After spending some time reflecting on why I was so unwilling to ask for help, I realized that it was the same mentality I had in my internships. At your first job out of college, it might take a bit of time to break out of that intern mindset where you’re trying to constantly prove that you’re a competent candidate. When you start working, your mindset should be different. You are competent, and that’s why you were hired. Furthermore, your team is there to help you learn and be a better engineer. You should rely on them as they are also relying on you.
The other aspect that helped me, especially onboarding in covid, was having another new hire buddy and a mentor. It just so happened that a team that Layout Service worked closely with also had a new graduate as well. We would often have zoom hangouts and ask each other questions or just chat casually. I also had a mentor who was extremely helpful when asking questions about Groupon or about expectations as a new grad (outside my manager). My mentor was close in age to me, so a lot of my concerns were experiences they went through recently as well. For me, having a buddy and mentor to talk about the good aspects and frustrations of work was really helpful and suddenly working from home didn’t feel isolating.
I spent my first couple of months at Groupon with that support system, but around my third month, I started to feel unmotivated. I was still working hard on my tasks, but the initial drive to exceed expectations started to falter. This was a disheartening time for me as I am usually a very self-driven person. I started to ask questions like “Am I really enjoying this job?”, “Is tech the right path for me?”, etc. At that time I opened my LinkedIn app and found that I missed a message from someone at Groupon congratulating me on my first day of work. In a panic, I quickly messaged them on slack to set up a 1-on-1 meeting to mainly apologize for my tardiness and thank them for the well wishes. Little did I know that this little 15-minute conversation would change my trajectory for the next three months.
In this meeting, I casually brought up my concerns regarding my lack of motivation and was quickly consoled that this was a common feeling, especially with working from home for such a long time. Afterward, I was quickly connected with other women in tech in higher positions, different teams, etc. As the month progressed, I had more conversations with amazing women at Groupon from different tech positions. It was so empowering to hear other women’s tech journeys and to talk about my experiences. They all related closely with the struggles I was facing and hearing their stories helped me gain back motivation while reminding me why I chose to pursue a job in tech.
After gaining my motivation back, I was feeling much better, but still lacked that impact that I wanted to have. I mentioned earlier that when I first started working I wanted to do well and be helpful to my team. At first, however, it felt that it would take forever to be that asset. As I spent more time talking with other engineers in different positions and teams, I learned that my main priority was to ask questions and learn as much as I could. As I began to solely focus on absorbing as much information as I could, I saw I was being entrusted with more and more difficult tasks.
Something else that helped me feel more valuable as a team member was, as I was developing my engineering skills, to see what other skills I possessed and how I could leverage those to benefit my team. For me, that was leading Knowledge Transfers for the Consumer Web organization. Around my third month at Groupon, my manager asked me to help with organizing Knowledge Transfers which are meetings where we ask members of the Consumer Web organization to share knowledge on some topic. Running Knowledge Transfers includes booking speakers, making events, and creating awareness for the event. Though the tasks themselves aren’t that taxing, they capitalized on my organizational skills and gave me ownership over an event. Not only did this give me the opportunity to meet even more wonderful people at Groupon, but every successful event gave me more confidence in my presence here.
To sum up the basic take-aways from this reflection, I would say the following: Your team is your biggest asset so learn as much as you can from them. Try to find a buddy and/or mentor to talk to about your concerns with and if your concerns persist, try talking to other Grouponers as well. Finally, as you develop your engineering skills, try to figure out what holes in your team you can fill in.
Despite my first six months at Groupon being remote, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on the Groupon culture or spirit. I’ve seen myself grow and I’m looking forward to all that I will learn in the future. To all new grads in the future, just know it’s okay to feel confused. Your team is there to support you and you already are a valuable member no matter how much experience you have. We are all rooting for you and you will do great, so just enjoy the process!