After seeing researchers successfully clone a sheep, this was the first thought that crossed my mind: “If we could clone IBM i developers, our problems would be solved.”
The population of legacy developers is rapidly dwindling and, when you have only a few RPG or COBOL developers left, the prospect of trying to replace one of them is daunting. While I haven’t figured out how to clone developers yet, I have found out how to solve the problem of staffing our clients’ projects.
Let's start by imagining a situation in which, right when a trusted legacy resource is needed for a special project, that person announces retirement – or maybe he or she won the lottery and is leaving the company (kind of the same thing!). Either way, you are now faced with two challenges: first, finding a replacement resource, and second, onboarding that person. At this point, you probably wish you had begun planning for this sooner.
Onboarding a technical resource can be a costly and disruptive process, because it requires quick and efficient training that often involves the time and effort of numerous people – including other valuable resources. Add to this the fact that a new resource can quickly become unmotivated when their onboarding process is inefficient, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Have you ever seen or experienced a training process that begins by letting a new developer simply log in and poke around an application? Such a process employs trial-and-error learning, which can be extremely stressful and makes for a steep learning curve. It’s not an ideal situation.
Now imagine that this newly-trained resource gets discouraged and leaves after six months. This slow, painful, learn-on-your-own, trial-and-error training process has to begin all over again. When the next developer starts, he or she too will struggle through the same agonizing process. Will this person eventually come around? Or will this resource also leave? Isn’t there a way to onboard highly specialized professionals without tying up other employees or using ineffective techniques?
After seeing numerous new employees struggle to settle into their new roles, I jotted down a few ideas of how to make the onboarding process easier:
Using these two simple onboarding approaches will save developers, clients and employers lots of time, stress and money. There are definitely more things that can be done to make the training and onboarding even more successful (examples such as using a “buddy system” and having a detailed checklist spring to mind), but from all of the headaches I've experienced in attempting to introduce new developers to old applications, I've learned that these two steps are the most critical.
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