In 2021, as Test Double celebrated its tenth anniversary, we found ourselves asking: “How do we maintain a collegial, collaborative culture and cut down on tacit knowledge during rapid growth in a 100% remote organization?”
Test Double has been completely remote since we started in 2011. There are a lot of things that we do right as an organization to make that possible (and encourage others to do those things too!). And being 100% remote works really well for our folks for a variety of reasons. We’ve been growing pretty quickly, aiming to expand our impact towards helping improve how the world builds software. We recently fielded an Onboarding Buddy program to ‘pass the torch’ by sharing Test Double best-practices and resiliency techniques as new arrivals settle into daily life.
We started tackling elements of the problem. Some of our folks spearheaded an effort to identify, adopt, and implement a better knowledge management system for Test Double to increase discoverability of information for new hires and veteran Test Double Agents alike. Minnie Lee and I began to discuss the balance of expanding Test Double and maintaining the successful parts of our company culture fostered since 2011, and digging deeper into how we can welcome people into our organization.
The first goal with Onboarding Buddies was to provide an immediate sense of community. There are a lot of ways that we connect at Test Double, but admittedly it can be a little daunting for a new arrival! Client teams interact with each other daily; that includes team check-ins, meetings with clients, and pairing or mobbing on code as you’d expect at a product delivery software company. Beyond delivery, we’re all part of an external-to-client-teams Homeroom Group of 4-6 people, where we meet weekly for folks to share recent client situations, discuss what we’re working on or learning, talk about hobby projects, etc. Company-wide, we offer:
- weekly company-wide hangouts where we have presentations on topics of interest, the state of the company, cool emerging technologies that folks are learning, among other topics
- optional book clubs covering consulting, technical tooling, and general interest
- weekly randomized Coffee Time pairings with other Test Double Agents
- monthly randomized pairings with peers on other clients to cross-team collaborate
- monthly Rotating Brunches (group Coffee Time!) that everyone is encouraged to participate in!
Onboarding Buddies are one of a new team member’s first friendly and helpful colleagues. They act as your ambassador for helping you establish your network of relationships within Test Double. When you join Test Double, you will meet with your Onboarding Buddy at least once per week initially so you can get to know each other as they share all of the great ways to connect with our brilliant people. They can get you up to speed on understanding where to meet new people, what a day in the life at Test Double looks like, and how to become an effective and resilient double agent at Test Double. An Onboarding Buddy is someone who has been at Test Double for a while and knows a number of people in our organization. They’ll offer to make introductions to others who share your hobbies, consultants who you might be working with on a specific technology, and anyone who you’d get along with as they learn more about you!
Beyond a sense of community, we really wanted Onboarding Buddies to help new arrivals learn where to find answers, where to ask questions, and what documented resources are available. We have many avenues to ask for assistance at Test Double — technology-specific (and active!) Slack channels, more general #help and #consulting Slack channels, subject matter experts who you can ask directly, peers on your client team, your Success Agent (our hybrid of Developer Advocate, and personal growth and development aspects of management), and peers on other client teams or the bench. Some of these avenues of help can feel a little intimidating — asking your Onboarding Buddy in a one-on-one context is a lot less scary than posting on a Slack channel with a 100+ person audience. If they can’t answer your question, they can point you in the right direction.
Finally, we wanted Onboarding Buddies to provide both mentorship and a direct line of support that a new employee could turn to. Your first day at Test Double may also be your first day joining a client; some have described the experience as “jumping into the deep end of the pool.” It’s intense, but I found it exhilarating — on my first day at Test Double, I found myself flying out with eight other Test Double Agents for a week-long engineering summit at my client’s headquarters office. Not everyone enjoys jumping into the deep end, so Minnie and I wanted to make sure there’s a lifeguard on duty to provide support!
On the professional development side, the aim of an Onboarding buddy is to provide everyone joining Test Double with recommendations on what has worked well related to client impact, and what may work for enhancing their individual daily life in terms of avoiding feeling isolated or siloed on a client engagement. As a company, we have a wealth of experience at a variety of software development clients. I’ve found that working as a software consultant at Test Double is an absolute experience accelerator. When preparing this program, Minnie and I aimed to further streamline how that experience is gained from day one through informal mentorship. Your Onboarding Buddy — along with teammates on a client engagement, and agents your Onboarding Buddy will introduce you to — are your conduit for rapidly learning and applying new skills, growing existing skills, and sharing/teaching skills you bring to Test Double.
We piloted aspects of the Onboarding Buddies program in late 2021, and rolled out the current program in early 2022. Since then we have onboarded 30 new team members! At Test Double, we care a lot about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Onboarding Buddies is just one of many ways we’re working to build a more inclusive and welcoming company for our people. If this seems like the culture you’ve been seeking, check out more about what it’s like to work at Test Double.