Describe your First Year Experience in one or two words: Exhilarating and Crushing
I’d love to hear about your career journey. Can you talk about what led you here and your decision to join Thoughtworks?
My first jobs in high school and college were working at a bookstore in a mall, and being an emergency firefighter in Alaska. My whole career after that has followed suit in my quest to become an expert generalist. I love to learn a thing, pester everyone around me with a million questions, get enough knowledge to be decent at that role or on that subject, and then find something new to learn. I was also a massage therapist, I was in Human Resources for 10 years (went from receptionist to payroll to benefits manager to Risk Manager for the company). I was a research analyst and a house renovator and I worked in construction one summer - they hired me because I already had my own hardhat. I went back to school for an MBA in economics and international business so I could understand the financial pages. That was an expensive and silly thing to do...but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The common thread through most of these things, of course, is technology and/or data, and the efficient wrangling thereof, but that was something I found it really hard to find a home for myself in....until Thoughtworks.
Ok take me back to your first day at Thoughtworks. Your first week. Your first month. How has your onboarding and First Year Experience differed from previous onboarding at other companies?
I've been at Thoughtworks for 7 years and I left to be a contractor for a short while and came back - that means I've onboarded twice! I can tell you the differences between the two times, but both were extremely helpful. In the first instance, I had a small cohort in Chicago in a room for 3 days of orientation. Three of us who started together have had opportunities to work together at various times and are still quite close. In the first week I sat at a table of friendly junior folks and compared notes with them, and announced: "I'm going to do every job at this company and I'm going to die here." (To general bemusement, I think, but then, most of these people had never worked for the kind of subpar organizations I had worked for before, and didn't know how easy they had it.) I got an onboarding Mentor who was also a product person and attached myself to her like a limpet for the first couple weeks, while meeting a lot of the great people in the Chicago office. In the first month or so I was lucky enough to shadow on an Inception and I was amazed at how much info could be collected if people just focused themselves. In the first 3 months or so, I was added as a Project Manager / Iteration Manager / Business Analyst to a team, and having never played any of those roles before, I thought - well, why not? If I'm going to fail at these, I might as well fail all at once. That project was a little bit doomed, but at that time it was really my team who taught me what I needed to know about how to work at Thoughtworks (bless them all, I'm sure I was a trial - an utter babe in the woods. Never been a consultant; didn't know much about agile; only knew there must be a better way to work than I always had worked and I was determined to learn it).
The second time around, there was so much more structure and support; I didn't get an onboarding Mentor per se, though I think I may have if I had wanted one or if things had changed that much in the 6 months I was gone! But the Trello board as reminders or announcements of where to find things, and the continual updates on how the company was working due to COVID and changes to work travel and so forth - that was all readily available either from the Trello, email, the orientation days, or the Hub. I wasn't hitting up the First Year Experience chat as much as maybe some folks do, but I did tune it to it for good reminders (what is the time code for this thing again? oh yeah!) and chimed in with some of my own answers. It was easy enough to get back up to speed quickly - so quickly that I myself was an onboarding Mentor a few months after I started back.
Of course, that is not to discount the network of folks I had worked with and who were still around to update me on new stuff too - because of course the people are what makes Thoughtworks, everyone says so. And that is in fact why I returned from my contracting venture - I left for money. I came back for culture. I was grateful that Thoughtworks left the light on for me.
What has been your favorite part of your Thoughtworks career to date? Any milestones? “Ah-ha” moments?
So many aha moments, naming them would be like counting stars. I remember vividly the first time I was impatient for Monday to come. I've easily learned more at Thoughtworks in 7 years than I learned in 20 years of working before that + 3 years of grad school. As a non-technical person, the amount of technical information that has rubbed off on me just by being around such technical superstars continues to routinely amaze me - and when I protest that I am not technical but someone points out that I've just explained how inceptions and domains interact fluently, I can sit back a little and see how far my understanding has come. There is still a lot farther to go, and that's my other favorite part of this: the eternal horizon of things to know. I appreciate that in a culture of like-minded learners, I too have something to contribute. From my general business background and having worked at places that operated very much like our clients do, I can sometimes provide insight into what the businesses really care about (hint: it's almost never a specific feature set) and why the businesses are operating in such unique ways to my colleagues who are experiencing it only 2nd hand, and possibly for the first time.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting their first day at Thoughtworks?
Ask all the questions. Eat all the snacks. Prepare yourself mentally to fail at something, but do it anyway. Find yourself someone who can give you the inside scoop, share your brain with your cohort, and DIVE IN.
Anything else that you wanted to add?
It's not exaggerating to say that Thoughtworks changed my life; it gave me entry into a digital world I could only watch from as an outsider before that; and it gave me instant credibility, even as a new person, to voice an opinion and have it heard. Many of my friends loathe their jobs; I am constantly grateful that I do not. I'm not saying it's all roses - it can be incredibly frustrating - but it's not usually boring, and it's made me twist and grow in ways I never would have thought possible. And the community....well, the community is well worth coming back for.