Day 1, Week 1, Month 1: Here's what it's like for newbies at 6 Chicago tech companies

by Michael Hines
July 27, 2017

For many Chicago companies, onboarding is an opportunity to show new employees what truly makes their culture, people and work unique. To learn more about the value of an awesome onboarding process, we talked to recently hired employees at six Chicago tech companies about their first day, week and month at work.

 

BenchPrep’s enterprise e-learning software leverages data-based personalization and gamification to make learning faster and more efficient. The company’s cloud-based software is used by the ACT and HR Certification Institute.

Enterprise solutions manager Bea Conley and software engineer Joshua Miller weighed in on what it’s like to be the new kid on the block at BenchPrep.

What do you remember about your first day at BenchPrep?

Bea Conley: When I arrived at my desk, there was a card signed by literally everyone in the company to welcome me. That gesture was so personalized and unexpected.

Almost everyone came up to my desk throughout the day just to introduce themselves and ask how my day was going. It was so welcoming. Getting to meet people from all the different departments created a very warm atmosphere.

Joshua Miller: BenchPrep assigns new hires a “buddy” as a resource and to help answer questions that aren’t necessarily position-specific. They’re purposely chosen from a different department so you can get acquainted with people outside of your comfort zone and have someone other than your manager to answer your questions. I thought that was pretty cool.

BenchPrep requires you to have one-on-ones with everyone at the company in your first week. As I was going through mine, it made me realize how much BenchPrep cares about its culture. It was great to break the ice with everyone, from junior-levels to senior-levels — and even our co-founders.

How did your team make you feel welcome during your first week? Did you get to work on any interesting projects?

Conley: We had a global expansion party where there was a live band and photo booth! It was very exciting to see everyone so pumped about how much success we’d achieved.

I challenged myself to lead a product demo on my own for my coworkers. I wanted to get acclimated with the technology as quickly as possible, and ended up giving a live demo that was actually not terrible within my first week!

Miller: The biggest priorities for me were acclimating to the culture, meeting everyone, getting my dev environment set up, learning more about our technology and getting my hands into code. I was able to implement a new feature that impacted tens of thousands of users.

The team made me feel so comfortable, too. It was the perfect balance of trusting me to do my job but not siloing me off. Support was there when I needed it, but there was no micromanagement.

What stood out the most about your first month at BenchPrep?

Conley: I was able to secure a meeting with our top prospective client, someone we had been trying to get a meeting with for years. I’ll never forget our CEO asking me, “How the heck did you do that?”

I also loved how much this job energized me. You know you like your job when you don’t want to leave on a Friday afternoon.

Miller: The general energy of the team was contagious. It’s great to be part of a company that wants to help students and continuing education, while the executives actually care about their employees and have a profitable business model, too.

BenchPrep makes you want to come into work in the morning. Our office is like being in a living room where everyone is just getting work done.

 

Peapod has been in the internet grocery business since before the word “startup” came into vogue. The company has been around since 1989 and currently operates in 24 markets across the United States. Consumer insights analyst Dan Meyer let us know what it’s like to be “Podsters” joining Peapod.

What do you remember about your first day at Peapod?

Dan Meyer: The thing that stood out was sitting down with my supervisor for my orientation. He showed me this immense road map of what he wants to turn our group into. It's impressive because of the scope, but it also represents a very clear vision and what my role is going to be.

How did your team make you feel welcome during your first week? Did you get to work on any interesting projects?

Meyer: I felt like I got to dive right in. My first project was to do a quick study working with Peapod's customer care team. I met a team of people incredibly eager to talk about their roles and how they can help me.

They were wonderful and we worked together with ease and I was able to deliver some sound insights to upper management.

What stood out the most about your first month at Peapod?

Meyer: The thing that has stuck with me the most is how empowered I am to do the things I need to do. Here, I feel like I get to invent, test, and report, all within the framework given to me that first day.

Last week, I had a meeting with a C-level executive. In the past I've dreaded these meetings because I'd leave the room thinking I'd been asked to do something impossible or completely out of the scope of what I was brought in to do. Not here. When I left that meeting, I felt empowered and energized to contribute with clear goals in mind.

 

LiveWatch simplifies home security with its DIY “Plug & Protect” system that can be controlled via mobile app. Senior security consultant Nefertiti George shared what it’s like to be a new member of LiveWatch’s sales team.

What do you remember about your first day at LiveWatch?

Nefertiti George: Everyone was friendly and open. People came up to me and shared their excitement that I joined the family. They shared inspiring words of encouragement without overwhelming me.

How did your team make you feel welcome during your first week? Did you get to work on any interesting projects?

George: There was tons of laughter. The atmosphere was fun in an authentic and organic way, but business was still being taken care of. I shadowed the first week, which provided me a better idea of what my job duties would entail and it allowed me to become more familiar with my teammates.

What stood out the most about your first month at LiveWatch?

George: The collaborative support. Everyone is on my side, cheering me on. I love the one on one support which precisely pinpoints the awesome ways I can improve as well as the impressive ways that I'm "killing it.”

 

Braintree makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to implement payment systems. The PayPal company also offers white-glove support services and fraud protection.

According to API support specialist Holly Stotelmyer, “Space Jam” (you read that right) is part of what separates Braintree’s onboarding process from the rest.

What do you remember about your first day at Braintree?

Holly Stotelmyer: When I arrived at my desk, there was a photo of Michael Jordan from Space Jam stating “Welcome to the team, Holly!” signed by everyone on my team. It was such a kind, heartfelt gesture from my new team.

I knew right then I had made the right choice. I also met a bunch of people from the greater support team for lunch that day, which was also really nice.

How did your team make you feel welcome during your first week? Did you get to work on any interesting projects?

Stotelmyer: What was great about my training was that my “Braintree 101” classes were with a larger group of new hires from throughout the company, so I didn’t feel like I was disconnected from the other teams. Also, all support new hires meet Friday afternoons with one of our leads to discuss successes, questions about general practices or just vent any feelings of imposter syndrome.

It’s not easy getting up to speed on a company’s knowledge base quickly, and I really appreciated that leadership acknowledged those feelings by scheduling this time.

What stood out the most about your first month at Braintree?

Stotelmyer: Even though I was new to the company, my opinion was valued among my team and leadership. Anytime we saw something that could be done better, more efficiently or deliver better service to our merchants, we were all empowered to bring it up for discussion and implementation.

I considered it a huge vote of confidence when I volunteered to be the liaison between our team for a monthly meeting discussing product improvements with product leadership and my manager approved!

 

ItemMaster’s cloud-based platform makes it easier for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to manage and update every bit of product information. Product updates on the platform are pushed to both digital and physical shelves, and marketing materials can be updated too.

Innovative tech is what separates ItemMaster from its competitors, but customer service is also important. Senior developer Josh Duncan and customer success manager Lauren Gillespie walked us through the first month on each of their teams.

What do you remember about your first day at ItemMaster?

Josh Duncan: My first meeting as an employee was participating in ItemMaster’s standup, which is a daily all-company meeting. I noticed immediately the positive energy and collaboration in the room!

Lauren Gillespie: I was invited to sing a song or tell a joke on my first day, a tradition everyone who joined before me has done too. It was a really unique and fun welcome into the company.

How did your team make you feel welcome during your first week? Did you get to work on any interesting projects?

Duncan: Many aspects of the company, such as catered lunches, the fancy coffee machine and numerous snacks are tangible evidence of the attitude that the company believes in us not as resources to use for the company's goals, but as assets to invest in as part of the company's growth.

Gillespie: Josh and I both really liked getting to know everyone in other departments the first few days. It's a great way to get a better view of the big picture for the company, and how our teams contribute and interact with everyone else.

What stood out the most about your first month at ItemMaster?

Duncan: We identified an operational need pretty early in my time here that I got to investigate and learn more about. I raised a question while I was working the issue and the reply was: “What do you think we need to do?” 

It was a great reminder of the importance that ItemMaster places on empowering the team, whether you’ve been here a month or a year.

Gillespie: After a month, I really see how the work we each do has such a large impact on the success of ItemMaster. We are encouraged to be problem solvers. We ask each other questions and work on challenges together. And we keep learning and growing as we go!

 

Sertifi helps businesses go paperless by offering eSignature and payment technologies. If the experiences of marketing and communications coordinator Emily Coughlin are any indicator, beer and barbecue are a big part of onboarding.

What do you remember about your first day at Sertifi?

Coughlin: They ordered barbeque in for lunch which, right off the bat, was a very good sign because I’ve never met a pulled pork sandwich that I didn’t like.

What stood out most was the conversation I had with our co-founder, John Stojka. He asked me what I was hoping to gain from working at Sertifi. It was the first time a company asked what I wanted from them. Right then I knew Sertifi looked out for its employees and sought to make sure they developed professionally.

How did your team make you feel welcome during your first week? Did you get to work on any interesting projects?

Coughlin: By the end of the week, I wrote and posted my first blog for the company about the release of our new eAuthorize product. I obviously emailed a link to my mother immediately after it was posted.

Our HR manager, Olivia Kilian, planned a super fun happy hour for the team! I feel the same way about beer as I do about pulled pork sandwiches. It was a great opportunity to get to know a lot of people from our office that I don’t necessarily get the chance to work with every day.

What stood out the most about your first month at Sertifi?

Coughlin: I definitely hit the ground running and spent most of it planning for an upcoming tradeshow that we attended in late June called HITEC. The event didn’t occur until a couple months after I started but it was my baby since day one! I also had the opportunity to plan Sertifi’s first customer advocacy event in my first month.

Both HITEC and the customer event were exciting to work on and, in my opinion, turned out really well! My first month at Sertifi was even better than I hoped it’d be. It was full of exciting projects, excellent learning opportunities and great times spent with smart, talented, and fun colleagues!

 

Images via featured companies. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

What traits make your company's onboarding process unique? Let us know with a tip or a tweet @BuiltInChicago

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