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Tips when joining a new project

Joining a new project is always an exciting and thrilling event. However, to take the best of it and avoid common caveats, some tips could be highlighted to hit the ground running.

As a background, you’ll notice that some tips will fit into an environment where you’ll change to a new project from time to time. Besides, there’s always a chance that the most important tips won’t be applicable not because of you, but because the environment does not offer the structure required. It’s part of the game, hope your peers notice it.

Before joining the team, gather as much information as possible about it. A chat with the account manager who’s managing the contract would be interesting. Before you start on it, it’s at least expected to know:

  • What’s the project goal (what are the success conditions) ,
  • The risks involved, like known issues or a hard line user,
  • The current structure (including the client-side structure) and
  • The expected life cycle.

Having this information, you’ll be able to assess beforehand how complex will be the new project and how conservative you’ll need to be. Assessing the Risk, especially, will give you great hints about what you are getting into. Probably your company might have its own risk assessment models and templates; if not, do it by yourself… and bear in mind that a project without risk assessment already raises an amber flag; a company without risk assessment methodologies might easily raise a red flag.

OK, you know the basics of this new project, and is time to get together with your new co-workers. Where’s the best place to start? Two things you’ll need to ask for: Documentation and Training plan. In the best scenario, both of them are already available – and organized – before you join the team.

Documentation, whenever available, can be taken even before joining the team. While the details of the contract are being defined, you can start reviewing the documentation, especially taking notes of the questions that rose when studying. Depending on the amount of documents to read, define priorities. It would be valuable to talk to the project’s documentation owners to understand what documents are priorities and would aggregate more value. Unfortunately, when one requests ‘documentation’ for a project, most of the documents provided are too-specific or useless… so focusing on the important ones might save a lot of time – and maximize knowledge.

Training, on the other hand, will depend on several other factors. In the best scenario, there’s already a defined plan with topics and specific people allocated to apply this training. This scenario, however, isn’t common place. Nevertheless, to help you in the future, in case there’s no traning plan, make your own. Sometimes, more seasoned teammates will give you a few  punctual knowledge sharing sessions; in these cases, take notes of what’s trained. Even better, build up a rough training plan or try to agree one. Having it, it will be clear further down the road what’s expected for you to know and what you’ll need to chase by yourself. In case this new project is gathering different companies (for instance, in an outsourcing environment), it is worth taking note of the training progress. Maybe your managers can eventually ask for it,and if so you’ll be one step ahead.

Beyond the Documentation and Training Plan, there’s also a very important milestone when joining a new team: the first contact with your team. You can use this opportunity to clearly state expectations (in both ways) and to get to know personal goals and objectives. Remember that a joining a new project is part of the job, and getting along with the team is very important for everyone’s future.

You can also take advantage of the above in case you have a new member joining the team, this time offering both Documentation Guidance and a Training Plan. In case your team does not have them, take some spare time to work on it. It will be useful eventually.

Hope these tips helps you in your future experiences.

And always remember: Enjoy it. A new project is always an opportunity to know new people, new technologies and gather new experiences.

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