Part of my role in the employer branding department is to support in making the start of new employees in the company as smooth as possible. At FREE NOW, we do this by pairing each new starter with a buddy on their first day at the company as well as holding a 2-day company induction training in our Hamburg HQ.
Under normal circumstances, everyone who starts at the company (whether locally or in one of our international locations) would have the opportunity to attend this 2-day training. The Onboarding Days (as we call it), is not just all serious business, but also an opportunity to mingle with other new colleagues (we call them “newbies”) as well as with the rest of the team (“affectionately referred to as “oldies”)
With the arrival of COVID-19, It probably comes at no surprise that we had to rethink our normal onboarding process to accommodate the shift of our company to a remote setting.
Aliyu Abdullahi, a software engineer at our Hamburg HQ was one of our new starters who had to quickly adapt to this change and prepare for his first day of work to happen within the four walls of his home. Originally from Nigeria, Aliyu currently works with the Business to Business (B2B) team to make the product experience better for our B2B customers. Read on to find out Aliyu’s impressions of his first few months at the company and his virtual onboarding experience.
What brought you to FREE NOW?
I previously worked in a transport (ride) company locally in Nigeria. I loved it and wanted to be part of something bigger.
So, you recently moved to Germany for the job, do you have any funny relocation stories to share?
In my first weeks here, I went to the store looking to buy body lotion. Since I don’t speak German, I had google translate on my phone to help guide me. When I got back, I was sure I had bought the right product. I found out the hard way that I bought shower gel instead, standing nowhere near the shower full of body wash.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on the fare service for our B2B customers as well as multi-card onboarding for users– teaching them how they can add multiple payment methods to their accounts.
How did you feel when you first found out that you were not going to have your first day in the Hamburg HQ as usual?
It wasn’t so much of a bummer for me as I have worked remotely for 3 years straight previously. So, I was able to adapt quickly to the new remote system.
Thankfully, I was able to go to the office to pick up my work equipment the weekend before our company went fully remotely. The set-up, however, was done remotely.
What was your first (remote) day at the company like?
On the morning of my first day, I was warmly welcomed on board by a buddy that the company paired me with. She walked me through the day to days of working at FREE NOW, making suggestions on things I can do, the transition process as well as checking in me on how I am finding my team and the move to Germany.
Besides that, my team was amazingly wonderful in communicating with me from the start. It felt like I have known them all my life even though I have not met many of them in person.
How has your team/ manager been supporting you through this onboarding process?
My manager was very warm, he welcomed me personally the week before I started. I appreciate that so much! It felt like he did everything he could to make me feel comfortable here.
When you join a new tech team, wherever you come from, you will be alien to the architecture. Also getting used to the team jargon takes some time. Luckily, my team has been openly communicating with me from the start. We are in constant contact with each other over calls to clarify what we are working on and uncertainties.
Also, it is common for us to do pair programming within our team. This basically means that two programmers work together at one workstation. One, the driver, writes code while the other, the navigator, reviews each line of code while it is being typed in. The roles are often reversed as well.
What are your impressions of the virtual induction day format?
I liked how it was organized. It felt as if the company planned for it the whole time. I like the presentation organization as well. It was actually easy to follow with lots of diagrams and videos for better details. I personally don’t think an in-person onboarding would be much better.
How does the company induction differ or is it similar to past experiences?
The main difference is the detail. In the past, I pretty much figured out different things as time moved by. The only thing I was on-boarded on is business and technology. Everything else I just pretty much blended in.
In comparison, at FREE NOW the format was a very good one. It made me feel worthy and part of the company. There were also additional sessions to help new employees understand the company culture and internal services better. I believe there’s a bond that gets created when you understand the business and culture. You feel more attached to the company and this drives you and motivates you further in your job.
Do you have any advice for people who might be stepping into a similar position (starting remotely at a company)?
My main advice for anyone starting remotely is to focus on having good communication skills. Ask a lot of questions when in doubt. Another point to keep in mind is to be aware of activities (through Slack, emails, etc). These tools will keep you on top of all information moving around. Finally time discipline. This means having the ability to take responsibility to do things at the right time without having anyone over your shoulder as you would if working in office space.
What would you like to do on your first day back at the office?
I would set up my equipment well, move around to feel the beauty of the new office, and see all the beautiful faces and smile to everyone.
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