Welcome to Mars! A Beginner's Guide to Hi-tech
So, you got your dream job in a successful startup company. You passed about 6 interviews, nailed a home assignment (in my case a design assignment), signed an 11 page contract (in English vs. your native language ) and now you are about to start working…but wait - do you know what you are actually getting yourself into? If not, this article is for you.
Six months ago, I got accepted as a Product Designer at Minute Media. As a former studio designer, who came from a media company, it was very exciting for me to start working in hi-tech. What I didn’t know is how different it was going to be from my previous roles. I don’t mean different because everything was in English, or because the kitchen is always full with groceries (yum). I mean different in the terminology, in the working methods, and in many other ways that I didn’t anticipate.
As you all know, the first day at a new job is always challenging. Besides the fact that you don’t know anyone, or even where the toilets are, your bigger problem is that you don’t know the company. You might know some things in general - but it takes time to understand the product, the vibe, the lingo. One of the things that helped me get onboard quickly was the many meetings that filled my calendar from day 1, including weekly product meetings, tech updates, product reviews, etc. Another thing was “one on one” introduction meetings that my manager had scheduled for me with different co-workers from different positions in the company so they could explain their roles to me.. Those meetings helped me understand things much faster.
What are they talking about?
If this is your first job in a hi-tech company, you might feel like you landed on Mars at first. When I joined Minute Media, half of the words and terms I heard in meetings, I just didn’t understand, as a result, I felt embarrassed. For instance, “OKR,” “Pods,” “Sprint,” “Q1,” “SEO,” “CTO,” “PR,” “CTA,” “MVP” and many more. Learning all these new terms caused me one big headache, leaving me thinking:“Where should I start?”
I figured that in order to understand more, I had to ask… sometimes I asked more than once. After a few days, I was able to divide most of those words into categories: words that are connected to the company’s working methods, job titles, etc . For example, “SEO” stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and “CTO” means Chief Technology Officer.
But the work didn’t end there as there are many more terms that you need to know when you are new to tech. Some of them you can read about in this link I found. Others, you will learn in time - just don’t be afraid to ask!
Another thing that I found very different when I first joined hi-tech was the working methods. For example, I used to work with the other designers in a studio, far away from the developers and the product managers. My communication with them was mainly by email, and that caused many problems and misunderstandings. Not to mention, most of the projects were not planned in advanceand I never had enough time for “ping pong” with the developers. As a result, I was never pleased with the final outcome. But as I learned, those things don’t really happen in hi-tech. Here are some reasons why:
In Minute Media we work in pods, which means that we work in a unit that is made up of different roles in the company. In this working method, I find myself working much closer with the product managers and even with the developers. The collaboration between the co-workers in a pod is very important for the mutual goal. We meet and talk about the product, we understand each other’s limitations and needs. It’s a much healthier process. For more on that, you should read Michal Trujeman’s post on how we achieved that harmony.
Every pod works in sprints. A sprint is a two week time frame that is dedicated to a specific task/goal. At the beginning of every sprint, the team gets together for a “planning” meeting. In this meeting, the team decides what they are going to work on, and they set the goals for that sprint. During those two weeks they sometimes meet for updates, and in the end, they have a “retro” meeting to discuss the sprint and the outcomes.
At the beginning of the year, we all get together for an OKR (Objectives and Key Results) meeting. In this meeting, we look back on what we achieved in the previous year and we set high level goals for the upcoming year, broken out by quarter and by department (Commercial, Operations, Finance, Tech & Product, Community and, HR). The meeting is managed by our CEO, who is broadcasting live from the offices in London to all of our offices around the world. He begins the OKR meeting by talking about the company’s strategic mission statement, and after that he continues to the company’s general OKR. Then, he talks about each department’s OKR, assigning grades to each of their goals which were decided on by the team leaders.
Being new in hi-tech is exciting, but it’s probably different than what you knew before. It might take some time to get onboard, to learn about the company and to understand the terminology. The important thing is to come prepared, and to not be afraid to ask when you don’t understand something.