"What is like to start a new job during a pandemic?"
I could answer this question for myself, but to give a complete view I interviewed my colleagues who also started working at DMC in 2021. In this blog, I documented our experiences starting a new job remotely in multiple areas of expertise spanning four different time zones.
Provide Technology Tools and Support
I am a new hire located in our Chicago office. My title is administrative assistant, however, I get the opportunity to help the internal operations team in many different ways. I started at DMC in early February. As I began to learn about the new position, I also learned about the workflow. Thankfully, I have a great team that was patient and quick to help me acclimate.
To say that I was set up for success is an understatement. Since I started remotely, I was sent all the technology I needed to create a positive, productive work environment. I quickly realized that troubleshooting this technology was the norm for the first few days. I thought this would be more of an issue since I was remote, but thankfully the DMC IT team was always ready to help. For example, when I couldn't figure out why my dual monitors weren't connecting, the IT team quickly helped resolve the connectivity issue.
Welcome New Team Members
Before I even started, I was blessed with DMC-branded swag that instantly made me feel like I was part of a team. I know that crew neck sweatshirts cannot physically give you a hug, but I swear these do. It was a sweet way of saying, "Be excited because we cannot wait for you to start!" After a year of the pandemic, I did not realize how much I missed that interaction. Love is a strong word, but I love my team.
Working in both admin and project coordinating worlds, you quickly learn the "balancing act." Everyone is respectful, helpful, and fun—but as a new hire you must use your voice to say, "I didn't quite understand this process, do you mind working through this with me again?" or "I have the bandwidth today, how can I help you?"
The biggest necessity when working remotely is communication. You'll be lost in the weeds if you do not approach each day with humility to learn and a willingness to work. Something unique about working remotely is the dependency on Slack and video calls. I was told repeatedly by family and friends, "Your new job will be a lot of Zoom." Yet, after a week, it became second nature.
Maybe I'm just reverting to my days of AIM (if you know you know). If you aren't lucky enough to know, at one time, instant messenger was life and the competition of typing with fiery intent to send a little joke is an endorphin rush that any '80s and '90s kid knows. Basically, working remotely has all the joys of the early 2000s without the hassle of double collared polos and pucca shell necklaces. Instagram may want a contour with perfect lighting, but thankfully with video calls, if you're having a bad hair day you can just turn off your video.
Lauren's work station at home
My background is different from the engineers I interviewed. Starting my career in the hospitality industry, I'm also a musician and comedian with experience in venue management. I have extroverted tendencies, so it was a bit difficult to adapt to the work-from-home life. I want to interact with my coworkers on levels higher than instant messaging, but you learn to be flexible. One day in the future, the entire team will be in the DMC office bonding over the latest hot spot in Chicago, but for now, I'm grateful to be part of a team that's inviting, empowering, and understanding.
Eli Whitmire - Systems Engineer in Automation (California)
"I am a systems engineer ramping up in automation with a year of post-college work experience. I knew that I would have a little over a week to become acclimated to the ins and outs of DMC before heading onsite with a client in California. My week spent ramping up remotely was fast-paced and challenging, but also rich with information and connection. Frankly, I expected my experience of starting a job remotely to be hours of dull training and tutorial videos. Thankfully, I was gifted with the opposite: interactive training sessions lead by knowledgeable team members that truly cared about helping me succeed at DMC.
I was surprised by how it is to learn company values and culture remotely. One thing you don't realize when entering a new environment is how much you learn from observing others. When working remotely, you aren't able to learn by observing your coworkers' behavior. You also lose the ability to look over and ask them small questions. Having to ping your coworkers or manager rather than watching or quickly asking in person creates unique learning challenges.
Another challenge that comes with starting a job remotely is keeping your cat from infiltrating your workspace—but maybe that's just me. The main thing that has stood out to me is the effort DMC makes to allow for personal connections to be made within the team. Between game nights, video cooking competitions, and casual meetings, making connections with other employees has been effortless. I'm looking forward to continue working on my current project out in California, so I can continue to make meaningful improvements to my current project, as well as continue to explore the scenic Bay Area."
William Meier - Senior Engineer in Automation (Chicago)
"I have experienced working remotely during the past year, prior to starting at DMC, so I didn't need to learn the skills around virtual meetings. I always felt welcome, and everyone is friendly and responsive. If that were less true, the experience would probably have been intimidating.
My top takeaway is KEEP THE CAMERA ON! Having the two-way video minimizes the feelings of remoteness and makes it harder to multitask. The big upside to working from home is that there's no commute! However, it comes with the big downside of no face-to-face interaction, lunches, etc."
Ramon Randle - Systems Engineer in Test & Measurement- Chicago
"I'm a Chicago-based test and measurement engineer. In college, I majored in engineering physics and spent a year at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign using LabVIEW to develop an application for research. My expectation of starting a job remotely was that it would be very straight-to-business and not a lot of time to get acquainted with my team members. I found it surprising that I was given the chance to meet some of the team (online, of course) through many fun events. Even though I have not talked to them as much as I would have in person, I still consider them friends and not just coworkers.
I find remote work the most challenging when I encounter small problems. It would be easy to just walk over to someone on the team if we were in person and show them my screen to explain my problem, however, I don't want to be constantly jumping into video meetings to try to address a problem that I could eventually solve myself.
There isn't anything I can think of that hasn't gone well. Integrating into the team has gone smoothly. I'm learning lots of new things, and the physical work setup was rather flawless! I am looking forward to getting ramped up on some really interesting projects and to being applying my knowledge to real-world problems!"
Takeaways on Starting Remotely
So, what did I learn from talking to my colleagues? To some, their previous experience made the transition easy, and others found it more difficult. One thing almost all of us agreed upon is missing the simple interactions with coworkers—those five minutes at the water cooler talking through problems or overhearing the inside jokes off the office. We miss the opportunity to learn by observation, but we're adapting. Whether you started working onsite days after training or are juggling sales calls like me, DMC keeps giving us the tools to grow.
Learn more about DMC's company culture and contact us for your next project.