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How to rapidly add value in any new company or role

It's time to take on a new challenge. You're joining a new project or company. More specifically, you are skilled or competent in a certain area and seeking the fastest way to gain traction within your new company or role.

It's a daunting experience. New company, new challenge, new expectations. You are entering the realm of the unexpected.

I know where you are coming from. I feel the sense of elation you sense right now. I've been in this situation quite a lot over the past 5-6 years of my short career thus far. My passion lies in understanding the complexity (and often chaos) that comes in engineering difficult products.

I've worked as a Systems Engineering consultant across BIG customers like the Ministry of Defence, MBDA, Rolls Royce, Bombardier Transportation and Network Rail. I've developed complex products from Missile Systems to 'On Edge' Machine Learning products. I've recently moved to Dyson to continue my journey as a Senior Systems Engineer. I've now got to go through that whole 'on-boarding journey', yet again! Working across different industries and organisations poses a difficult challenge. 'On-boarding' at a new customer or project is uncomfortable. The most important metric of this experience is reducing the time taken to get your feet under the desk and move into a space of delivering meaningful work. I've learned a few things along the way. From my beginnings as an in-experienced graduate engineer which would take 1-2 months to now as a Senior SE of 3-5 days. (It's day five of my new role and I'm supporting transformational change for the business). I've distilled some key lessons and learnings from my experiences thus far and want you to sample them and taste them, like a fine whiskey, pick the ones that are useful and tasty, spit the shit ones out and tell the distiller which ones are crap. (I'm the distiller). Try implement some of the below lessons and see if you can reap the benefits of rapid onboarding. Specifically, the aim is to spend less time dilly dallying with on-boarding processes, focus more on identifying the gaps or skills needed to deliver meaningful work and hopefully, create a 'bigger buy in' at your new organisation where you're experience and expertise are valued immediately. Most importantly, you'll probably avoid the disasters of blending into the background and coming across as an over bearing baby. Let us begin.

Begin with radical transparency. I'm conscious that occasionally I may appear pessimistic when asking probing questions. Clarify your aim with whoever you're discussing the concept with. By beginning with transparency you can soften the harshness of your questions. "Hey, I really want to understand this process so I'm going to find out what's good, what's bad and where the value can be added. I don't mean to be pessimistic, just direct.".

For example, "what is the extent of our requirements management process? How do we know that the information provided is valid?". It may come across as the Spanish inquisition but by understanding the framing of your question can enable you to realise a more accurate viewpoint of your current org.

Dive deep. Dive deeper than ever before. The key to maximising everything out of this opportunity you've crafted is to actually say yes to everything. Not in the context of "hey do you want to do all of my work", but in the context of, "hey, a random social event is happening on Friday, do you want to come?!" or, "hey, we need someone to think how we do X, can you help". Say yes to opportunity outside of your comfort zone. Understand what your new organisation wants you to achieve. Study your role description. Discuss this with your Line Manager. Understand the team strategy, understand the metrics which are measured and figure out how you can deliver within that bounds. If success isn't defined, help define success. I want to come across as an enabler of 'achieving success', be it a deliverable or team alignment. I do this by delivering high quality work and change for the better. I measure this by assessing how much I listen, how much I create and how timely I can do both of the prior mentioned. Help define your teams success. Don't sit on the side-lines. Relax into your role - sometimes, shit just takes time. You can learn lots, very quickly but there are some things you cant. There is no point in stressing if you don't know all the stakeholders or know everything needed about a particular subsystem. Write it down, and figure out a plan how you're going to learn that over time. Which leads onto the next point. Identify the gaps you have in knowledge and create your learning needs. Quickly. Right away, what do you know, what do you not, where are the quick wins and where are the more long term skills you need to build. Map this out, stick it down into an accountable format and discuss with your manager / mentor. The worst things are things you don't know you don't know. Try and work those out. Use the term "WE". You're part of the team, its not a 'you and them'. Its an us and a we. Become part of the team. Be sociable, even if its painful, use them soft skills. Shit comes easier when you do. Dress like the team, don't be an outsider. If its 'touch and go' on the styles. Then choose the slightly smarter look for safety and respect. Finally, Listen twice as much as you talk, my friend. Two ears, one mouth.

Best Regards, Connor

Lead Systems Engineer @ The School of Systems Engineering


If you are interested in taking the first step in becoming a Certified Systems Engineer, check out our 'How to Nail the INCOSE ASEP / CSEP Exam' course 'here'.

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