I. M. Wright: “The new guy”

We hope that you know about I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code,” by Eric Brechner (Microsoft Press, 2008). Eric Brechner is Director of Development Excellence in Microsoft’s Engineering Excellence group.

I. M. also writes a monthly column, and the column for this month can be found here.

The podcast for this month’s column is 8 mins 34 seconds and is here.


Here’s the beginning:

“Hey, you’re the new guy!” Marvelous. You’ve transformed from a useful, relevant, sought-after authority to a roadside attraction. Whoever you were before, whatever value you used to embody, whatever accomplishments you might have achieved, now amount to nothing more than marketing hype. Your new co-workers may be outwardly curious and pleasant, but inside they are skeptical and wary.

Look, most people are nice. They want you to succeed. But really, what have you done for them lately? Nothing. After a few weeks, your new-car smell will fade, people will stop treating you like a novelty, and they’ll expect results. You’ve got a lot to prove, yet you know nothing and nobody.

Depending on the job, it will be six to 12 months before you’re up-to-speed and can deliver as you have in the past. Meanwhile your productivity drops, your confidence wavers, and your reputation sinks. Marvelous. Yet, you took the new role to enhance your career. What the heck were you thinking? You were thinking that once you got acclimated, life would be better. How can you get acclimated and minimize the collateral damage to your well-being? There are concrete actions you can take.

Eric Aside

At Microsoft, we should place more value on what new hires have done prior to their current assignments. By failing to appreciate people’s past achievements, we relearn lessons the hard way and discard accumulated talent. Given that the fully burdened cost of experienced engineers is well over $200K a year, that’s a pile of money we are composting.

Sure, people can’t just rest on their resumes—we need results for today’s challenges. However, it wouldn’t hurt to learn about people’s past experiences and consider their recommendations as a starting point. Everyone could use a head start.

Establishing order

Here’s a quick five-step guide to start you on the right path:

1. Get a grip on yourself. Understand who you are, what you bring to the team, and your initial and long-term limitations.

2. Build your support group. Get to know the key people on the team and value their support.

3. Extend the honeymoon. Take care of immediate concerns that will give you quick wins, instant credibility, and breathing room.

4. Learn the ropes. Understand the basic workings of the team and get yourself into the flow.

5. Start your quest. Pick a relevant and compelling project, and then dive into it, learning all its connections as you go.

We’ve got our plan—let’s put it in action.



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