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My first year experience

Name: Lindsey Coffee-Johnson

 

Pronouns: She/Her
Role/Title: Consultant, Developer
Office Location: Atlanta, GA
Home Location: Atlanta, GA
Describe your First Year Experience in one or two words: Unexpected!

I’d love to hear about your career journey. Can you talk about what led you here and your decision to join Thoughtworks?

 

Thoughtworks was actually my first job out of college and I found it completely by chance. I was at the Grace Hopper Celebration looking for a bin to toss an empty cup in and while I was standing around, a Thoughtworker from a nearby booth started a conversation with me. They booked me in for an interview that day and I accepted an offer a couple of months later.  

 

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted at the time, either in a company or from the work I would be doing. Going into consulting seemed like a good fit for me generally, but also a good option because it gave me a chance to explore different types of work in different contexts. What sold me on Thoughtworks specifically, though, was my experience interviewing and the Thoughtworkers I met in the process. 

 

I studied Computer Science in college, so during that time I was around a lot of other people interviewing for positions at tech companies. Anyone who has gone through that process–or knows someone who has–knows how unnecessarily stressful and unpleasant it can be. But interviewing here was a surprisingly good experience and I discovered after starting that it really did reflect the culture of the company. The interview process was built around showing off what I could do rather than what I couldn’t, teaching me new things and being receptive to learning from me, and getting to know my values and my views. I’ve since found really open, supportive Thoughtworkers who are incredibly patient in teaching me, who listen to and learn from me despite any differences in role or tenure, who value open discussions around equity in tech and social justice in general. While there have been plenty of surprises since starting here, the glimpse I got of Thoughtworks culture during my interview process has been happily consistent.

 

 

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?

 

Onboarding was an exciting but strange time for me. I signed my original offer letter in a pre-pandemic world but I didn’t start until a little under a year after the pandemic had begun. Everyone was still fully remote at the time. So, instead of flying to Chigaco for onboarding and to India for Thoughtworks University, I got set up, met my coworkers, and took part in the first fully remote Thoughtworks University from home. This was no one's idea of how this was supposed to go. It certainly wasn’t mine. But despite that–maybe in some ways because of it–I actually had a really positive onboarding experience. 

 

Without strict formal hierarchies, Thoughtworks can be a confusing and somewhat disorienting place–especially during your first month or so while still learning to navigate the benevolent chaos that makes things here run. To help navigate that, I was always paired with at least one go-to person (but likely several) for whatever questions or issues came up, and I found it incredibly easy to reach out to whoever I needed to. While joining during a global pandemic didn’t necessarily make navigating Thoughtworks simpler, I never found myself stuck not knowing who to ask for help. Even being remote, I found so much support and understanding throughout my first year. 

 

Even if this wasn’t my first job out of college, I don’t know how I could compare my experience onboarding here with onboarding at other companies. When I joined, most places were still trying to figure out what to do with new hires during a global pandemic. What I can say, though, is that I was never afraid of not knowing something, of not picking things up quickly enough, or of not knowing who to turn to.

 

 

What has been your favorite part of your Thoughtworks career to date? Any milestones? “Ah-ha” moments? 

 

I won’t be the first or the last to say that one of the best parts of Thoughtworks is the people. There are not only plenty of incredibly kind, thoughtful, supportive folks here, but a general expectation that we hold each other accountable for maintaining that. I have gotten great advice and warm support from people I had never met before after reaching out just asking to chat. Relationships here are valued in a way that breeds openness as opposed to exclusivity. 

 

But maybe one of the things I value most about being at Thoughtworks has less to do with what has been great and more to do with how we handle the less-than-ideal things. Like anywhere, there are things that I don’t like or agree with that happen here all the time. What feels different, though, is that I’m not afraid to talk about what isn’t working–whether the issue is on a client project or internal, individual or structural–I know I can always reach out to whoever I need to and have a conversation about it. Not only will they make time to chat, but they will actually hear me out. While things may not always be perfect, people here are genuinely trying to make things work. As a consultant, a big part of what I do is find what isn’t working and look for ways to make it better. As a Thoughtworker, I appreciate that that practice shouldn’t be confined to client projects.

 

Thoughtworks is a lot of things, but it’s definitely not a place where you just have to accept that things are the way they are even when they don’t make sense or are actively harmful. It may not be simple, but speak up and you will find someone to listen.

 

 

What advice would you give to someone who is starting their first day at Thoughtworks?

 

Thoughtworks can be an incredible place to be but it can also be a very challenging place to be. This is an environment where you have a lot of agency over the direction you’re going in. You’ll likely find yourself with periods of time where what you do is very much up to you. This can be a disorienting experience, but it can also be a really amazing opportunity to progress in whatever direction you choose. 

 

So, my main advice would be to be intentional about carving your path. Understand what it is that you want and how you want to get there. If you don’t, you may very easily end up somewhere you don’t want to be. This doesn’t mean knowing exactly what you want from your very first day, just being aware of where you are and noticing what is working well and what isn’t working so well. And if something isn’t going well, bring it up! Other folks may or may not agree, but the feedback is always valuable. There will very likely be times where you’ll have to advocate for yourself. However, there is no shortage of Thoughtworkers who will be there to back you up, so you won’t go it alone. 

 

So reach out to folks. Meet people. There are lots of Thoughtworkers here who not only want to see you succeed, but have the skills to help you do so. That combination has the potential to be incredibly potent if you know how to take advantage of it.