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Starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic

The realities of onboarding virtually and never meeting your team

Alec Favale, Unsplash

May 2020. A couple of weeks had passed since I was offered my new role as a Digital Marketing Manager at 383. It was time to put down the Xbox controller, stop wearing my pyjama bottoms all day, and immerse myself into life at 383.

One little complication: a global pandemic and a national lockdown…

Starting a new role is always daunting, but starting one in the midst of a pandemic adds a lot more uncertainty and confusion as to how exactly it will go.

Thankfully, the week before I was set to start I received an email from Natalie, who’s the  Operations Manager at 383 with a packed schedule, touching on all aspects of the business. I could see my week laid out right in front of me, the Friday before starting.

May 4th. A favourite day for any Star Wars fan and my first day at 383. I jumped out of bed, got ready and made my way to work. Well… to the office in my house, as we were bang smack in the middle of lockdown and no one was going anywhere. However, the commute was easy and the shortest yet all of six metres.

It was quite a strange feeling knowing that I was going to meet my new team, but for the foreseeable future, they’d be nothing more than a few pixels on the screen.

What does a virtual onboarding look like?

In your first week at 383, you go through ‘Cadet Camp’. I’ve not experienced anything like this before – the whole process was great. Consider it a quickfire tour of everything you need to know about 383.

For 30 to 60 minutes a member of the team from each part of the business takes you under their wing to discuss the culture, values, systems and, of course, who you’ll be working with.

It was a pretty packed week, and by the end of it I felt like I had greater visibility of not only my role, but how it impacts the wider business.

I remember thinking before my onboarding, “How will I understand what I’m meant to do if I can’t see anyone?”. To my surprise, onboarding remotely wasn’t a barrier at all… in fact, it might have worked in my favour.

There were little to no distractions. That’s pretty hard to find nowadays in an office – you get offered food, drinks, people come up to say hello… these are all lovely things, of course, but on a pure productivity level, the virtual onboarding was a massive success.

The end of the week arrived and I had passed Cadet Camp. I was now a fully-fledged 383er!

Oh s**t... now what?

I’d be lying if I said the second week wasn’t accompanied by more nerves, as I had to now hone my craft and start to deliver what I had been employed for – managing and promoting our award-winning digital product conference, Canvas.

I thought, as the first week was all planned for me, I’d now be left on my own to somehow navigate my way through the different systems and begin to understand how people work…

…yet again, I was wrong. There’s a common theme emerging here…!

Throughout the week, 383ers got in touch to see how I was settling and if I needed help with anything. Of course, I took them up on their offer.

I figured, if I didn’t ask for help and question anything I was unsure about, I could never properly fulfil my job role and would eventually find myself going crazy at home with imposter syndrome. Something that was highlighted and reiterated during my cadet camp was that we all suffer from imposter syndrome at some point, but I was here for a reason.

Making sense of the new ‘normal’

As the dust settled on cadet camp, I began to make sense of my ‘new normal’, quickly adjusting to working from home full time and catching up with my team each day..

I have weekly check-ins with the different teams I’m involved in, and each week we set clear goals that we need to work towards. This has been really useful – as starting a new company and not knowing how they do things, it’s easy to get lost doing ‘stuff’ and not making real progress, especially when you’re sat at home and not in the office.

Google Meet and Slack are a big help and make collaborating with the team so much easier – you can quickly jump on a call, share your screen and get your problem resolved quickly.

However, there is one thing that still throws me…

…I still can’t grasp how tall people are.

When all you see are people from the chest upwards it’s hard to gauge if they’re four foot nothing or towering heads above everyone else… I’m sure I’ll be in for a couple of shocks when I finally meet the team IRL.

Taking a moment to reflect

The pandemic has well and truly changed everyone’s lives. But, if you take a moment to reflect on your outputs, you can quickly see how some of these changes are here to stay and, in truth, are for the better.

Onboarding remotely was definitely a strange experience at first, but the amount of value I got from it far outweighed any negatives. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to finally step foot in the office and meet the team in person, but for now, I’m quite happy with my current setup.

I get to spend more time with my new puppy, enjoy the luxury of no traffic & can snack on as much food as I want with no judgement.

My advice?

If you’re looking to start a new role, but unsure whether now is the right time, go for it. We live in a world where everything can be uploaded to some form of cloud & it makes onboarding a hella’ lot easier than you may think.

I found the immersion into our values and culture really helped me get into the mindset of a 383er and the openness everyone showed towards me instantly made me feel settled and part of the team.

"I get to spend more time with my newborn puppy, enjoy the luxury of no traffic & can snack on as much food as I want with no judgement."

It’s been 4 months since I started and I’ve had the chance to work on some really cool and exciting things! We had to move Canvas to March 2021, but doing so, offered us a unique opportunity to put together something special and add real value to our audience… with that in mind we curated CanvasFest!

We’ve got some great partnerships for CanvasFest and have teamed up with some of the best brains in digital & product to share their stories & insights on building exceptional digital products & experiences!

If you’re in the product or digital world, I recommend checking out what we have in store!

Like the sound of working at 383? We’re always looking for superstars to join our team. View our open roles here and drop us your CV.

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