Force yourself to learn by doing – BATMAN!

Learn by doing – A skill that looks simple and really hard to master. I have tried several methods of learning by doing during the past 2 years. Of course, I had some success and some failures. But in my current team, I believe I found the best solution so far – this concept is called Batman.

Who is the Batman?

Batman – eh??

At my current team, there is a special role that rotates between the team members every week. In every single week, there is a person who has a responsibility to minimize the interrupts and this person is the Batman.

  • Live issue? Call Batman!
  • L3 support question? Let the Batman answer it!
  • The build server is broken? The Batman will check this!
  • … 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtoMN_xi-AM

Batman equals support. Support does not equal Learn by doing. What is it know?

Yes, I know – for the first sight, that role seems to be a simple supporter, but please think a bit about it. What is the best motivation to learn something? If you have no other choice. If you are the Batman, there is no question, you will learn. 

Did you want to learn about one of your projects? Maybe you have already put that into some kind of learning list, prioritized and already have scheduled the time to take care of it. But what happens if something brokes and you are the men who have to fix it? Or you are the person who must answer the question? 

In that case, you have no choice. You must learn it. That is the purest possible way to learn by doing. Right here, right now. There is no excuse and no procrastination: you learn it now and you will answer the question or fix the bug.

Okay, it means, I have to do everything?

No, it’s not. Your job is still a teamwork. You can still ask questions to your teammatesBatman can still teach you the necessary steps. But the responsibility is yours. You have no choice – you must learn by doing and you must do it now. There is no tomorrow.

Final thoughts – my first Batman week

I had only about 3 or 4 weeks of effective work with my current team when I went on my summer holiday. After a week, I got the information that I am the Batman!

First reaction

I have been shocked. Just now started on that product. And I know almost nothing. Today, I am the person who will be asked. And I have no idea what to do now.

What I have learned during that week by digging deep

First of all, I have learned where I find the tasks related to the Batman. In one day, I had to learn our input sources (emails, slack channels, boards) from outer teams.

  • I have gained knowledge about our error logging and monitoring.
  • I had to learn a special query language. 
  • I was digging deep into our invitation process. 

Summarize

Learning by doing is an easy concept – You create some kind of learning project and implement it. But finding motivation is the other part of it. If you have good motivation, you can 10x your result. Yes, painful. Of course, it’s hard. But I think that week was my most effective learning week in the past years :D.

Internal onboarding

The Internet is full of useful advice about the onboarding process, but there is almost no information about internal onboarding – when you are an employee and do a side move between teams. That is what I want to talk about in this post.

Onboarding process

Onboarding is a process when you start a new job at a new company. Larger companies have their script about the first day/week/month or maybe a larger interval of a new hire.

The employer part is to introduce you to your team, give you the necessary hardware and software, talk about the company, the organization and helping you to start your new career.

As an employee, your part has the same importance. Your goal is to create a good picture of you. Sometimes you spend more time with your co-workers than with your family so you can gain a long-time benefit with some networking. You also learn about the organization, the customers, the short and long-term goals, the company culture and so on.

Why do we talk about internal onboarding?

Maybe you are wondering, why should I take care of internal onboarding? There is no change, I just moved from team A to team B.  Who cares. Please read this article carefully and maybe I can answer this question.

Your old team. Prepare to leave

You know that you are going to move. And you know where. Now the question is what is your legacy? Are you leaving a messy disaster behind you or close your previous career?

What do you want? Do you want your manager and your team to open a bottle of Champaign when you are telling them that you want to leave, or you want them to ask you to stay?

Firstly, you must close you pending projects and pass your knowledge and your ownership to your teammates. You prepare your team to work without you. You don’t want daily phone calls about your last project, do you?

Secondly, if you have a vision of your project or projects, share it with your manager. Create a to-do list about what you would do if you stay. How could you improve? Maybe your ideas will be ignored or maybe, you make an impact without doing the implementation. You cannot lose with that.

Handle good relationship. You cannot know what will be in the future. Maybe 3 months later, you will work with the same team again. There can be organizational changes, or you can have a common project. In that case, I bet you want to have a good rapport – and it is a rule: you want people to have a good picture of you.

Prepare to your inside onboarding

You have a good reputation with your old team. And you are going to build a good reputation with your new team. That means you plan your inside onboarding. You not just leave on your last Friday at team A and start at a new desk on team B, but you proactively prepare yourself.

If you do a sideways move inside, you have great opportunities. You know who will be your next manager, you can check the organization structure, create a list of your future teammates and so on.

There is my recommendation about the preparation phase

Schedule a meeting with your future manager

Ask who will be your manager. Be proactive, schedule a one-on-one meeting with him or her during the first day, as soon as possible. When your next manager is reading the meeting request, they will know that you are serious and at least, you have some soft skills. If you put some topics into the request message, you show the next level of preparation. You don’t want to do just a small talk, you have exact topics.

one on one
The first one on one meeting is about introducing yourself to your manager

And prepare to ask a lot. You want to lead the conversation. You show that you are eager to learn about your team members and the culture.

Collect non-official information about your next projects

Don’t wait until your first day – ask the team members about the ongoing projects. About future projects. The roadmap.

Ask about the technology stack. Try to identify the gaps in your knowledge. And you can start to learn.

Inside onboarding – the first few days

Be an early bird – at least for one day

On the first day, you should be the first person in the office. You wait for your team at your desk and say good morning, have a nice day to all your new teammates.

Talk with each person if it is possible

Try to talk with every team members if you can. You can ask about almost anything – but of course, please don’t be harsh – your goal is making connections. That is the team that you will work with so you have to know the individual persons.

Learn the official roles

Learn who is responsible for what. There is no question, your goal is to know who to ask if you stuck with something. And you don’t want to walk around at every single case when you need some help.

Learn the non-official roles

I have worked with multiple teams. Good teams are close to a well-organized player team. There are a supporter, a tank, and a carry. And, there is a lead. And sometimes these roles are doesn’t even close to your official team structure.

Sometimes the team leader just a supporter. And there is another person with a good reputation who controls the team indirectly. Your task is to identify these roles. I saw a team when the leader was unable to make decisions and always accepted the idea of the same person. What do you think, in that case, who was the real leader?

Get some beer
get some beer
Go out and get some beer

During the first week, ask your team to go outside of the office. Eat well, drink well. Hear good stories and tell good stories. Build a personal relationship.

Your first month

You have some or a lot of existing knowledge. Your manager maybe knows nothing about you. And you really don’t want to be handled like a brand-new guy who just now came to the company. Talk to your manager and the technical lead and create a plan for your first month that both sides can accept. Show them you know exactly how you can be a useful team member in the period as short as it possible. Maybe they had a plan about your start how they can gain benefit from you in two months. Show them you can be useful in one month instead.

Write a project and role journey

paper notebook
Write down your ideas and thoughts

At the end of the first month, you want to get an ownership of a project. So, in the first moment, I recommend you write a journey. If you see some unfilled gaps or possible projects, you write it down. Ask the key members about their most painful problems and create a list. Prioritize your list based on their impact on your career. And schedule a meeting with your manager at the end of your first month.

Gain a domain knowledge

Buy a notebook. Not a Dell XPS but a paper one. And if you hear a new information about your domain, write it down. Try to create a private wiki page for yourself about the domain. Gain knowledge about your business domain.

Ending thoughts

First sight, inside onboarding comparing to change an employer, seems to be an easy task. But think about that, it is not easier. It is not harder. It is different.

Please think about that.