7 Ways to Ramp Up New Team Members Fast

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  — Dr. Seuss

Many moons ago when I joined the Microsoft Developer Support team, it was a big awakening.

I was suddenly surrounded by some of the smartest people on the planet from all walks of life.

There were former doctors, teachers, robot builders, scuba divers, musicians, and more … all with amazing technical depth and a passion for more from life.

I didn’t really know what to expect, but this was a bit like nerdvana.

Actually, it was more than that.  I had landed in the middle of a giant technical playground, where the people that played here were high achievers, productive artists, and ground breakers.

The Art of What’s Possible

Their tenacious grip on the future and the art of the possible inspired me to grow above and beyond in ways I had never imagined or ever thought possible.

They helped me expand my mind and paint a much broader canvas of ways to shine in this life time.

Suddenly there were no limits on what people were capable of.

And, the tribe around me ate big challenges for breakfast.

How in the world could I possibly keep up?

I was now surrounded by a level of top talent I didn’t know was even possible.

A Culture of Extreme Learning and Growth

They had built a league of super heroes with a passion to change the world.

Luckily, they had also built a culture of extreme learning and growth. They deliberately focused on ramping up new team members quickly and effectively.

New members were able to hit the ground running, and quickly catapult their performance through a culture of trial-by-fire, tough love, and extreme support.

7 Ways to Inspire and Lift Others to Greatness

I want to shine the spotlight on 7 specific practices that really helped new team members learn the ropes and get up to speed fast.

Here we go …

1. The Buddy System.

New members were assigned a “buddy.”  Your buddy would help you learn the ropes and get quickly acclimated.   It was like having a friend with experience to lend you a helping hand, give you encouragement along the way, and even help you make the most of the local scene.

Imagine what happens to your confidence when you know somebody has your back when you first join a new work environment.

There’s nothing like it.

2. Magnificent Mentors.

Mentors were the ultimate short-cut.   It was like a game of chutes and ladders.  If you got the right mentor, your learning and growth would be on warp speed.   The right mentor could literally shaves weeks, months, or even years off your ramp up time.

Imagine what it was like to be learning in real-time from some of the best of the best.

3. Trial-by-Fire and Immersive Learning.

People loved to pair up on problems.  It was a great way to combine skills, abilities, and experience and to take on big challenges.  It was a fast way to quickly share the tricks of the trade.  It was also an extremely powerful way to expose new team members to some of the toughest challenges and to help build their confidence, while somebody has their back.

4. Brown Bags  of Brilliance.

They were called brown bags because they were really a “lunch and learn.”   Imagine an hour of deeply insightful exploration of a topic, on a regular basis.   The brown bags got people talking.  It got them thinking.  It got them inspired.  It kept them learning.   It helped them stay fresh.

Imagine what it was like when all your teammates were constantly sharing their best insights and lessons learned in a simple and informal fashion.

5. Week of Wisdom.

A Week of Wisdom involved spending the week in the topic of your choice.  The idea was for you to take your passion as deep as you could go, and then come back and share it with the team.    Because you knew you were going to present your learnings to the team, it was a great way to stay focused on learning useful insights that you could share, while exploring the topic from new angles.

6. Champs.

A “champ” would basically take on the role of an evangelist for a topic, and spear head efforts to learn everything possible about the topic.  Being the champ for a given area meant that you would own knowing that topic inside out, upside down, and backwards.   And, because you were a center of gravity, you would learn at an even faster pace as people started to throw challenges and questions your way.   You effectively became the “go to” person, and you were expected to earn your stripes by living and breathing it, and sharing what you know with others.

7. Readiness Guide for XYZ.

I was truly amazed the first time I saw a “readiness” guide.  It was like a living “owner’s manual” and “driver’s guide” on the topic.   It would be all of the best insight bound into a single document that would walk all the key concepts, the big ideas, the way to get started, the best resources to use, and the best knowledge all at your finger tips.

There is nothing quite like a well done readiness guide.

It’s no wonder that many of the people from this early breeding ground went on to brilliant and amazing things.

It was the ultimate dojo of personal development in action.

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Image by Kevin Poh.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. After 15 years, still one of the best and most fun gigs I ever had at Microsoft. Amazing people, awesome times, cool challenges changing every day. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Another practice that I observed at Microsoft which lead to amazing success, went like this:

    A senior person would get really good at some in-depth technical area. They owned it. Anytime anything was to be done that even touched the area, they were the ones who got involved…they were fast, they were good, and quality was super good. After a short period of time…this becomes a trap. No one else would learn it, because they already had a “master.” So it made it hard for the experienced guy (or gal) to move on.

    So to avoid the trap…they would assign a problem in their area of mastery to a newbie to the subject…sometimes even a totally new person. They would guide them a little bit, but mostly let them figure it out, so they would begin to learn it. After a few of these efforts, the expertise…the mastery…was spread around the team, instead of localized on one person. Then the “master” was able to move ahead to new challenges, new technical areas, and so on. If they came across a truly gnarly problem, they could re-engage and work in partnership with one or two of the others who had taken on the area.

    It mitigates the career risk of going “deep” on a subject, and it mitigates the risk to the team of losing their expert.

    • Excellent insight and a great practice.

      I’ve been on teams where they’ve built “single points of failure” and it’s really a problem.

      I’ve also been on teams that build “resource pools” of expertise, and it really helps scale the business, while growing and scaling the people at the same time.

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