Onboarding Onfido as an engineer

Being onboarded at a fast-growing startup

I joined Onfido three months ago. Although I’ve always worked in startups, this is the first time I’ve been integrated into a team of almost 40 - the company has been growing extraordinarily after their series A round back in February 2015. I've always enjoyed the informality of five people working in a small room, and even the chaos felt pleasant at times, but it's a completely different matter when a company is growing at such a high rate. There are a couple of different aspects to tackle when introducing a new employee to a big company: its history, its current employees, its general rules and, obviously, the technical introduction to the code, infrastructure and development environment. This is what my first month at Onfido felt like.

The first hour

At Onfido, we hold “Scrum of Scrums” on Tuesday mornings. The whole company gets together around the pool table and listens to the latest updates from the various teams over breakfast. Asking a newcomer to show up on a Tuesday is very clever because, within the first hour in the office, they get to hear all about the company, have a quick idea of who’s in charge of what and, while everyone is gathered over breakfast, they are introduced to the rest of the gang. On top of this, the company pays attention to the fact that first weeks are exhausting and deliberately starts you off with one that's 4 rather than 5 days long!

The first day

Once breakfast is over, you will have the first debrief of the day. You’ll learn about the company, how it was born and what its future plans are. Then comes the time to know about everyone in the team. When I joined Onfido, the company had around 35 people and Ellie, our Head of Talent, told us something unique about each member. Although you’re not expected to memorise all of them in 10 minutes, she really makes an effort. She invited us to a super cool game, almost like a reverse Guess Who? One by one, Ellie would go through every single member of the team and tell us their name and a little trivia about them. This is an awesome way to make you feel at home, and you’ll eventually remember some of it when you talk to them later on. Unfortunately, this is not being done anymore, as with 65 employees it’s quite hard to keep it brief, but we’re trying to find new ways to achieve the same goal while not consuming as much time.

The first week

Now familiarised with the team and the office, it’s time to get comfortable with your workstation, change a few default passwords and set up accounts for email, Jira , Slack , BitBucket

The first time I opened Jira, I had two little tickets assigned to me, nothing too complicated, but something that would get me fiddling with most of the codebase as a gentle first step into it. After the first ticket comes the first commit, and then the first pull request. We use pull requests to keep the git history tidy and make sure we keep the high standards of our code. By assigning reviewers from other teams we make sure that pretty much everyone can be involved in any area of the code no matter which team they belong to - it keeps the knowledge flowing.

The first month

As you get familiar with the codebase, the development process and the whole team, you start being included in all the other aspects of the great culture of the company. You attend Onfido's first social event, join the team for dinner and become part of the cleaning rota.

On the technical side, I was trusted very early on with the difficult task of being on tech support duty for a full sprint: 3 weeks. This means you'll be putting out fires for a while instead of building new features, as well as fixing bugs reported either through the customer support or by our internal operations team. Once again, this is useful when learning all about the different aspects of the app codebase, as well as some internal lingo.

The whole engineering team is split into separate, smaller teams which focus on a specific part of the app: document scan and recognition, data handling and validation, experience and growth, internal tools and devops. Tech support and pull requests are handled across all teams to try and get everyone involved as much as possible in all the different parts of the product.

And beyond

Since my first day on July 21st, the team has grown from 37 to 65 people and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. It’s been a great ride so far, and I look forward to what this journey will bring next. If you want to come and work with a friendly and highly motivated team, check out the open positions.


Author image
Tiago is a Software Engineer at Onfido.com and writes some of the Ruby code that powers Onfido. When not in the office, he's probably shopping for funk/disco records and spinning them.
London, UK