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All Consulting CTO/CIO

How do you handle the onboarding at a new engagement?

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Jumping into the fray at a new firm is never easy. You’ll have new people’s names to remember, new web dashboards to login to, to bookmark, etc. New passwords to remember, new workflows to learn.

Join 38,000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

While fulltime folks typically onboard logins in a week, and don’t contribute code for a month or more, consultant engagements mean hitting the ground running.

Here’s what I try to manage, when first diving in.

1. Deposit & agreement

When I start at a new engagement, I require a deposit. There are a lot of moving parts to that happening. In engineering speak, it acts like an integration test across your entire organization. All the departments must be aligned. Legal with the agreement language. Finance with the banking details, and invoice. CTO or manager with a clear picture of scope of work.

In getting past that first hurdle, both parties, will express their working style. And usually there are compromises that must be made on both sides. But the effort each one makes is essential to a strong and equitable relationship that you’re both working to build.

Related: How to hire a developer that doesn’t suck

2. Over communicate

Sometimes your teammate doesn’t know you’re also working to get things over to legal. And legal doesn’t know you’re working with finance. And finance doesn’t know you’re trying to tune a database. And the network admin doesn’t know your email address isn’t setup.

When in down over communicate. Don’t be afraid to repeat in an email what you thought you’d communicated clearly on slack. Sometimes slack messages are missed, as there are so many that get thrown around. It’s easy to miss a notification.

When in down, communicate again. Ask for clarification. Ask if there is anything someone may be waiting on.

Related: Why generalists are better at scaling the web

3. Keep daily notes

I’m a big fan of providing daily progress reports. There is a hell of a lot of detail buried in most tasks, and much of that gets lost in the shuffle.

Putting together your own notes of what your day looked like can help management understand that complexity. It can also help communicate where the organization is getting stuck. Sometimes surprises here can help unblock the org in other ways.

Related: Why i ask for a deposit

4. Beware the Slack rabbit hole

Slack can at times be a blessing, allowing you to reach someone immediately, but also sometimes be a curse. Have I seen every notification? Does the person who posted a note *assume* that I saw it? Which thread was that detail posted in anyway?

I personally like to repeat a lot of communications in email. From a consulting perspective this is also essential as it provides me a paper trail of what conversations we had. Remember once an engagement is completed, you lose the entire Slack message thread. That’s not true of email.

Related: When you have to take the fall

5. Anticipate login issues

Typically at the start of an engagement there is an email setup, and other authentication hangs off of that one. AWS confirms via email, or perhaps there is an SSO solution like OKTA. Inevitably, these interconnected pieces take time to setup. And one will hit a snag slowing down your over all onboarding.

Expect hiccups and challenges in this process. It’s normal for it to take some days. Imagine that FT hires typically onboard in a week, and don’t contribute code for a month or more. So keep everything in perspective on these points.

Related: How do I migrate my skills to the cloud?

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Categories
All Blogging

My DIY Disqus hack for blog discovery

I discovered disqus about a year ago while enjoying one of my favorite blogs, Fred Wilson’s AVC.

Believe it or not for a while I had it installed on my wordpress blog and thought it was pronouced DISK-OUS.

Join 5100 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

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What disqus does beautifully

Disqus does a lot of things great. The first thing you realize is they remove a huge hurdle for users across the web. Managing multiple logins on blogs here and there, when you just want to comment. This is your first of many wins.

Bloggers can count on an increase in discussion, commenting & overall engagement. What’s more it reduces spam. Great!


Bloggers want traffic, thats one reason they spend their valuable time sharing their knowledge. Jumping in to Disqus is one great way to do that. More robust discovery can push this much further. Driving traffic traffic for all of us will drive adoption of disqus across the web.

Disqus provides a one-stop dashboard for all of this, and it’s wonderful for bloggers.

What i wanted more of…

I found myself using disqus, but wondering…

o bloggers – who are the big shots?
o how do I find opinion minded people?
o how do I find intelligent discourse?
o can I encourage more discussions on my blog?
o I want web audiences discovering Sean Hull’s Scalable Startups
o How do I search – for this article, a comment that I posted?

I found myself keeping a list of disqus blogs. I would follow these blogs around the web, and thought – Why am I doing this? Why isn’t this part of the software? What am I intuitively searching for?

Why is database administration talent in short supply? They are the Mythical MySQL DBAs

A call for @disqushelp on twitter

I posted a request for info on twitter. @disqushelp was quick to point me to their Disqus Gravity Project. As I commented on the designing disqus gravity blog post it is a wonderful tool and proof of concept. It sure illustrates where disqus is taking things and the important visualization possible. But unfortunately it wasn’t helping me. 🙁

Also take a look at: Why Generalists are Better at Scaling the Web

How I hacked disqus digest emails

I was receiving the disqus digest emails. I think when you signup you automatically get those. I was mostly just deleting them, as they didn’t have much of interest in them. Then I started clicking through, and realized – hey wait, Disqus is kind of doing what I want already. They just need a little help.

I decided to go to some of my favorite blogs. I visited AVC, RWW, Wired, HBR, businessweek, computerworld, chrisbrogan.com and scrolled down to disqus comments. I then clicked “community” tab. Along the right side you’ll see the most active commenters. I then clicked through to their disqus profiles, and “followed” them just like you might do on Twitter.

Also: How I increased my blog pagerank to 5

After doing this for the top 5 commenters on ten to fifteen blogs, my disqus digests emails started bringing me new blogs! This is super cool. I’ve discovered some Venture, some technical and some iPhone blogs I never new about.

What was missing – discovery

Discovery is tech vernacular for what I was doing. Scouring the web for subject matter experts was exactly what I was doing. Picking the ones that used disqus allowed me to share my thoughts and weigh in across the spectrum of topics I knew well.

Disqus digests came up short for some people. But after I started using the follow feature, suddenly blogs and authors were popping up on my radar. Exactly what I wanted.

Keep up the good work guys. Would love to see the iPhone app if in fact it’s under development!

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