Monday, May 21, 2012

IT New Hire/Contract? Thoughts on IT On-Boarding

Being a contractor, I get to see and experience the on-boarding practice of different companies in different industries on a regular basis. This gives me an opportunity to provide a 'value-add' for the companies that I'm contracted with. Because of my fresh perspective, I can more easily pinpoint areas of opportunity for improvement in the first week on the job.

One thing that has always surprised me, and remained fairly consistent in all of the companies that I've worked with is that they don't seem to have the infrastructure ready for new hires.  I always seem to spend the first week doing one of the following:
  • waiting for a computer or even a desk to sit at.
  • waiting for access to my computer or to files, folders, applications, servers, etc.
  • setting up/configuring my computer - installing required applications, setting up internal website bookmarks in browsers, etc.
  • waiting for licenses for the applications I need to run to do my job.
I find this lack of organization dumbfounding.  HR knows that a new hire is getting on-boarded weeks in advance.  Similarly, the team/department should know as well.  I don't think there are any real good excuses for having new hires sit on their hands for the first week while everyone gets organized.  Bringing new hires on board should be a Standard Operating Procedure.

While I'm waiting for access or a license, I busy myself with looking for things that people with history at the company would view as the 'status-quo', but are really issues that could/should be considered problematic or improvable.

Opportunities like:
  • Single Points of Failure.  (email server(s), monitoring server(s), shared drive(s), VPN access, etc)
  • Lack of network segregation between environments (can I ping/telnet from a dev or staging server to production?)
  • Misnamed or legacy names for servers or monitoring notifications that are understood by employees but a source of confusions for newbies
  • Lack of templates for common documentation
  • Lack of exportable outlook email rules that can be shared with the team
  • Lack of exportable browser favorites that can be shared with the team
  • Consolidating and organizing documentation (critical documentation in 12 different folders scattered through different directories is a recipe for confusion)
  • Lack of Automation - continuous integration through to automating deployment.  Automating monitoring
  • Preventing Fat-Finger errors (adding confirmation messages in start scripts)
Granted, not all of these will be applicable for every IT position.  Also, share your findings with your new supervisor and get his blessing before going and changing everything.  Suggest with encouragement, don't criticize! You don't to come across like your trying to relieve someone of their position.  You are there to make things better for everyone.

So, next time you are on-boarded for a new IT position, keep these things in mind.  Hopefully they can help both you and your new company.  Also, if anyone has some other suggestions of things to look for, please add a comment!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

business idea - Muffin wrappers

Make edible muffin wrappers - My wife had a problem with some new muffin wrappers she tried sticking to the muffin.  Why can't they make edible ones?  If you get the texture just right, it could change the muffin/cupcake industry....

In fact, making products out of 'by-products' is good business.  Henry Ford did it with waste wood from his Model T's.  He turned it into charcoal bricks that ended up being used for fire fuel.  This side product eventually turned into a company called Kingsford Charcoal.  If you've ever had a charcoal BBQ, I'm sure you've bought a bag of their briquets.