From Malaysia to Berlin: Qayyuum’s Onboarding Experience

Qayyuum’s transition to Babbel’s Berlin office is a journey of technical collaboration & cultural connection, as he integrates into the Cheshire Cat team.

Join us as we sit down with Qayyuum, a Backend Engineer who became part of Babbel’s Cheshire Cat team in May 2023.

Back in February, Qayyuum took the stage at Babbel’s Monthly Commit, our in-house engineering talk show, to share insights into his onboarding experience. Recognizing the value in his story, we decided it would be great to bring this narrative to a wider audience through an interview.

In our conversation, we’ll delve into the details of his onboarding journey — from the team lunches that fostered initial bonds to the buddy system that provided essential support as he navigated his new role at Babbel and life in Berlin. Qayyuum will also shed light on the importance of thorough documentation and the collaborative approach of pair programming that have been pillars in his time with us.

To get started, and for the readers to get to know you, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hello! I’m currently employed as a backend engineer with the Cheshire Cat team here at Babbel. Our team’s primary role is to oversee the content platform, which entails managing and serving the learning content across Babbel. We are responsible for a range of backend services, with key areas including the content delivery and tracking user progress and completions. Additionally, our team plays a consultative role, offering guidance to numerous stakeholders and other teams within Babbel who utilize our content.

Can you walk us through your initial impressions during the Babbel Take-Off and Welcome Day? How did these experiences align with your expectations before leaving Malaysia?

The Take-Off and Welcome Day at Babbel were both engaging and informative, providing a comprehensive introduction to the company.

I was warmly welcomed with a tour that showcased the company’s diversity and dynamic culture. The in-depth overview of Babbel’s strategic direction, business model, and products during Welcome Day perfectly matched my expectations of a high-functioning company and reinforced my enthusiasm for joining the team. Additionally, the InfoSec Onboarding training was particularly impactful, teaching me robust data and technology protection techniques, demonstrating Babbel’s strong commitment to security and its workforce.

In terms of my expectations prior to leaving Malaysia, the transition was smoother than anticipated. I was able to settle in Berlin with my family a full week before my start date, thanks to the efficient communication and organization from Babbel. The People & Organization team deserves special recognition for their role in facilitating my relocation; they handled the complexities so well that I experienced minimal concern over the logistics.

Integration into a new team is very important. Could you share how the team lunch and onboarding sessions helped you navigate this new adventure?

Integration into a new team is indeed pivotal, and I firmly believe that cultivating strong relationships with team members is crucial for effective collaboration. The team lunch offered a relaxed setting to meet my colleagues and start forming bonds of trust. The warm welcome I received made me feel valued and an integral part of the team from the outset.

Following that, the onboarding sessions were instrumental in equipping me with the necessary knowledge and setting clear expectations, which are essential for working both effectively and efficiently. These sessions laid down the framework for my journey at Babbel, helping me to navigate my new role with confidence.

I do see that you also had a buddy matched with you to show you the ropes of Babbel and beyond! Please tell us about this experience!

Absolutely, the buddy system at Babbel is a fantastic initiative that goes beyond professional guidance. My buddy, Ömer Gülen, acted as a compass, helping me understand the nuances of Babbel’s culture and introducing me to the informal yet significant aspects of communication within the company. It’s one thing to read about company processes and values, but it’s another to see them in action through the eyes of an experienced colleague.

Moreover, this relationship extended beyond work. My buddy offered insights into life in Berlin, from local customs to leisure activities, which greatly enriched my personal experience of settling into a new city. This holistic support was invaluable in making my transition smooth and enjoyable.

Documentation is key in any role. Could you give us a sneak peek into what documentation looked like? What worked and what could be improved? 

You’re absolutely right; documentation is the backbone of understanding and navigating one’s role, especially in a landscape where remote work is prevalent. It serves as a critical resource for information, allowing for effective independent work.

During my initial phase at Babbel, I primarily relied on two comprehensive resources: the Babbel Software Development Documentation and Captain Cat Documentation. Both were well-constructed and aimed at a broad audience, providing a solid foundation for understanding the engineering environment.

However, I noticed a gap in documentation specific to our team. This prompted me to document my onboarding journey, initially for my personal use. As I progressed, it became clear that these notes could greatly benefit others. With this realization, I started to formalize my notes into documents that could serve as both a guide for new team members and a reference point for existing engineers. It’s an ongoing process, but one that I believe strengthens our collective knowledge base and fosters a more supportive environment for onboarding.

You already mentioned some of your experiences from your onboarding, but what were your most significant learning resources and tools that you had in your reach throughout your initial weeks at Babbel?

Without a doubt, my teammates were the most invaluable resource during my initial weeks at Babbel. Their first-hand experiences and deep understanding of our systems provided me with insights that no documentation could. Pair programming, in particular, proved to be an incredibly effective learning method. It allowed me to acquire technical knowledge while simultaneously building a rapport with my colleagues. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have paired with each team member, which enabled me to amass a comprehensive understanding of our work.

Beyond these practical experiences, I took the initiative to record and organize the knowledge I acquired into a document. This document is meticulously structured, with clear instructions, processes, and references sorted into specific sections for ease of use. It has been shared with the team, and from it, I’ve developed a checklist template for new joiners, incorporating suggestions from the team.

This proactive approach has now come full circle, as I observe new team members utilizing this document. It has become a tool that not only streamlines their onboarding process but also empowers them to contribute more effectively in a shorter time frame.

Reflecting on your journey so far, what are the most valuable insights you’ve gained from your overall onboarding experience at Babbel?

Reflecting on my onboarding experience at Babbel, one critical insight stands out: the quality of the onboarding process is directly proportional to the confidence and comfort one feels in their new role. Engaging and thorough onboarding is not just about imparting knowledge; it’s about setting the tone for an enriching journey within the company.

Through my experience, I’ve learned that documentation and knowledge sharing are dynamic, not static, endeavors. As our team expands and assumes responsibility for new services, the need to keep our documentation current becomes increasingly important. Outdated information serves no purpose and can be more of a hindrance than a help. Maintaining and updating our shared knowledge base is a continuous effort that requires active participation from the entire team. It’s this collective responsibility and ongoing process that ensure our documentation remains a robust, relevant resource for all.

Thank you for joining Qayyuum on his journey and for reading the Babbel Magazine!

If you’d like to learn more about our engineering culture, please check out Babbel Bytes.

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