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I've just joined a new company where a lot of the developers have been working for more than ten years. How do I integrate into the team without stepping on too many toes?

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5  
Shuffle your feet. –  Dan McGrath Mar 17 '11 at 8:25
    
I'm at risk of tripping then. –  John Shaft Mar 17 '11 at 11:16
1  
Ah, I found more requirements! So, you don't want to step on too many toes AND you don't want to trip. Is standing still on the spot an viable option or do you have any mobility requirements? While we're here, can you define too many? 1? 10? 50? At how many toes will you consider this project a failure? Also, relative to tripping, how many toes does it take until it is a bigger risk? Maybe we can work out an appropriate snuffle-to-step ratio that will meet your desired risk profile on both fronts... –  Dan McGrath Mar 17 '11 at 11:21
    
I think failure will be deemed if the toes join together to form a boot –  John Shaft Mar 17 '11 at 11:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 25 down vote accepted

IMHO Integrating in a new environment is great, it is one of the most fun things you can do :)

What I do :

  • listen a lot
  • try to remember names from the beginning
  • take notes, so you don't need to ask a question twice. (Especially , servers, password little trivia the team takes for granted)
  • don't try to change their world, in the beginning you have to learn why they do stuff, and only when you have a full understanding you can start discussing problems you have identified. (If you think you see a problem , always ask off course)
  • keep promises, this is something that applies always but I have found it is specifically important when starting new in a team.
  • don't be afraid to take on difficult tasks, if you think a task will be a challenge indicate this and just do the task.

And o yeah, just do your job. Nothing works better than getting things done.

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6  
+1 for "try to remeber names from the beginning" –  user2567 Mar 17 '11 at 8:38
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+1 for take notes - really important . Do not ever think you know better about the existing system than them. –  Aditya P Mar 17 '11 at 9:08
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Strongly agree with try to remember names from the beginning, I am terrible remembering names so WRITE THEM DOWN (when nobody is looking or you may seem a little crazy). –  AlexC Mar 17 '11 at 9:19
    
+1, very well said -- "keep promises" and "don't try to change their world", I've spent an enormous amount of time in the beginning of my current assignment trying to educate people with almost no results, now that almost a year has passed they are all doing what I want them to do automagically :) –  bobah Mar 17 '11 at 10:04
    
Good common sense responses. Not having changed companies for a while it's easy to lose experience in these situations. I agree that it's fun :) –  John Shaft Mar 17 '11 at 11:20

@KeesDijk wrote most of what I would have written (+1 for him :-).

Some more:

  • Make sure you properly understand the instructions / tasks / problems you are given. Don't hesitate to ask for clarification if you aren't sure about something. It is better to ask "stupid" questions beforehand than to work for days or weeks to deliver something which turns out to be not what was requested. (This applies universally, but especially for juniors and new team members.)
  • Strive to understand how the team works: who plays what roles within the team. Who is throwing in new ideas? Who is good at elaborating them? Who is focusing on implementing the nitty-gritty details? Who is ensuring the people work towards the same goal, and processes run smoothly? Etc. Try to identify missing or incompletely covered roles and find your "niche". Again, don't be afraid of asking the seniors about what they miss. Usually there are also tasks disliked by many or most developers (such as manual testing or documentation); don't hesitate to take these and do your best to execute them. Your goal is to help the team succeed; if you can achieve that, even in small things initially, your help will be appreciated and you are off to becoming a good team member.
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+1 for the things I forgot, totally agreed. –  KeesDijk Mar 17 '11 at 9:08

Read the docs they provide you, or off the wiki or doc mgmt system - and ask intelligent queries if you have doubts - i.e. don't annoy them ;)

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