The First Ninety Days

The farther you travel up the chain, the less hand holding there will be. Similarly, you shoulder a larger responsibility to prove your value. This seems simple, but I learned a hard lesson, by only half-grasping these truths.

Having just started out at my first gig as a senior software engineer, a gnarly project came across my plate: implement an Angular file uploader. It was highly technical, required a broad understanding of both our backend and S3, and had been sitting in the JIRA backlog for ages because no one wanted to touch it. It seemed like a great opportunity to show off my chops.

But I goofed. Between tricky backend requirements, encoding issues, integration headaches, and efforts to build a robust tool, I ate up the better part of three weeks. And all for something that seems pretty simple on the surface. I was given some leeway, but I set of a lot of alarms by spending so much time on a project with so little visible surface area.

I'm proud of the work I did, and it's turned out to have been quite useful throughout our app. But I could have saved myself a lot of pain by focusing on more visible features to earn trust and show value in those early stages.

A lot goes on in the first ninety days at a new job. You're learning a new system and potentially a new stack. You're meeting coworkers, learning the culture, and slotting into the workflow. But the most important thing, and thing I failed to grasp, is that you have build trust. Hiring engineers is really hard, and just because you made it through that process doesn't mean that you've already won their trust.