« All Episodes

Listener Question: Simon Asks About Assimilating into A New Company Culture

Published 3/18/2016

In today's episode, I answer a question from listener Simon about assimilating into a new culture.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode! Head over to Linode.com/developertea or use the code DeveloperTea20 at checkout for a $20 credit towards your cloud hosting account! Thanks again to Linode for your support of Developer Tea.

And lastly...

Please take a moment and subscribe and review the show! Click here to review Developer Tea in iTunes.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I answer a question from listener Simon. It's been a while since I answered a listener question so I'm excited to do that today. I'm hoping to keep this episode short because I've had some long episodes recently and of course Developer Tea is focused on trying to deliver the most value in the least amount of time so we're going to try to keep this one pretty short today. Today's episode is sponsored by Linode. If you are looking for a cloud hosting provider, specifically a Linux based cloud hosting provider, Linode may be the perfect opportunity for you especially with the deal that they have for Developer Tealisteners which I will talk about later on in today's episode but first I want to get to Simon's question. This question is really cool because actually Simon sent in a question last year and I'll link to that episode in the show notes where I answered his first question but I want to go ahead and talk about Simon's question today because I think it's actually a really interesting question and one that a lot of you may actually be going through especially if you have been hired recently or if you're moving to a new job or perhaps you're moving to a new school. There's a ton of people who actually experience this every single day so I'm going to go ahead and read Simon's question now. Simon writes, Hi Jonathan, I wrote to you last year about how do I switch mindsets from my personal project to a day job. I followed your advice to take a step back and think about what was missing in my job to make me want to spend so much time on my side project. I am now moving to another company and in fact another country from France to Sweden. Here is my question for you. How can I succeed in integrating into a new company, a new working culture and a new development team? Of course I'm not asking you about French and Swedish differences or culture shock but there might be some issues and solutions that could be useful for any developer moving to a new job even in the same country. Thanks for sharing Simon. Simon you're exactly right I'm very glad that you didn't ask me about the differences between France and Sweden I wouldn't be able to speak to that. I've actually never been to either one of those countries. I would love to go one day but unfortunately I wouldn't be able to speak to the culture shock between France and Sweden if there is one I'm assuming pretty much anywhere has a culture shock and that's actually what I want to talk about. We aren't just talking about going to a new company like you're saying or just to a new culture or just to a new team really we're talking about plunging ourselves into a new culture. Your question is a fantastic one because it's perfectly applicable to anyone that is in a transition state. Once you've been awarded a job for example the next few months are major points of transition and there are plenty of challenges that go along with that. Simon you mentioned that you're not necessarily talking about culture shock but any significant change in the team you're working with the location and culture you are working in or the role you are filling can absolutely trigger a feeling of culture shock. This can seem difficult for people who are not ready to handle it so I'm really glad you decided to reach out to me Simon. You're at a critical point in your career. I'm going to outline three points that I think are important to remember when you're acclimating to a new working environment. When you're experiencing some of that culture shock that working environment shock keep in mind every situation is different and the level of culture shock you experience will certainly vary from another person who may be going through a similar experience. You may even experience more culture shock moving next door than you do moving to a different company. So there's no rule or predictable way of determining just how much things will feel different, how much things will change for you in a given position or in a given location, a given geographic location. So with that in mind let's jump straight into these three major points. I want you to remember when you are in a transition period. Simon and anyone else who is in a transition period. By the way I went through this same kind of thing. I went through this same transition period when I moved from my undergrad college to my master's degree. I went through a period of major culture shock. So I personally identify with the subject and it's something that I care about a lot. So if you're listening to this episode and you want someone to talk to you about this particular subject, please reach out. Of course if you have any questions whether it's related to this episode or not you can always reach me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. Okay. So tip number one, no matter how much you prepare for it, freezing cold water will always make you shiver. No matter how much you prepare for it mentally, freezing cold water will always physically make you shiver. Now I'm using the metaphor here of jumping into a freezing cold lake or a pool. There's very little mental preparation you can make for the drastic temperature change. Your body experiences, the instant you are submerged underwater, that will prevent your body from shivering. And in the same way, when you experience a cultural change, it's important to realize that you may not be able to totally prepare for every experience you will have even if you can see it coming from a long way away, even if you can mentally prepare for it. You're not going to be able to fully prepare for it because there's a lot of emotions that you can't simulate. You can't really expect what it's going to feel like. The important part though is to remain calm and be present throughout those changes. Don't panic or fight the experience. And remember that the change is a part of the acclimation. Remember that you are the one who chose to jump into the cold water. You've decided to experience this cultural change. So expecting it to not feel like a change, well that's just not going to happen. You've decided to experience this change. So be present and realize that the shivering is going to happen. But shivering is not a bad thing. This is the part that's super important here. Shivering is actually a response that your body naturally creates to keep you warm. This is the important part. The human brain is a powerful adaptation engine. It takes work and it may feel foreign at first. But the brain is built to withstand adapting circumstances and analyze them and learn how to thrive in new environments. However, this automatic response, it may feel alarming at first because it's new and it's foreign. Recognize that change isn't easy when you go in and accept that acclimation is a process that occurs during the change not before it. You can't start that acclimation before you have started that change. So no matter how much you prepare for it, freezing cold water will always make you shiver. You can't think your body into a colder state to prepare to jump into cold water. You can't mentally create that situation for yourself. Instead you must actually be ready for the situation when it occurs and recognize that that's going to be a shock. So tip number one, once again, no matter how much you prepare for it, freezing cold water will always make you shiver. Tip number two, don't be afraid to reach out. This one's a little less catchy, right? Don't be afraid to reach out. The fact is that transition periods can often feel incredibly isolated. You can feel very alone in this period. That can cause anxiety, it can cause depression. When you get to a spot in your transition where you are feeling isolated or lonely, make it a point to reach out to someone specifically from your new place of employment and let them know you like their guidance and you like to connect with them. Remember, they hired you. They want you there and they want you to succeed. If you are feeling like your acclimation process is causing you anxiety or stress or depression, you need to ask for help. Good employers are willing to encourage and enable their employees and if they are taking a bet on you by hiring you, they will also likely be happy to help you in the process of acclimating. So make sure you reach out. Of course, there are other things that you can do to help cope with anxiety with depression. One of those is be active. Go outside, get exercise, eat well. Make sure you aren't overworking. Make sure you aren't staying inside. Make sure you aren't staying alone for extended periods of time. These are very common ways of getting out of that situation of loneliness and anxiety. And ultimately, if you need help, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Start by asking the company that you work for because they are your advocate. They quite literally are paying you to be there. They're paying you. You are an investment for them. They are putting money into your pocket because they want you at their company. So go ahead and reach out to them. They want you to be there. They're most likely to help you in your situation. I have one more tip for you, but first I'm going to take a very quick sponsor break. Today's episode is sponsored by Linode. With Linode, you can instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. It doesn't matter if you're in France or Sweden, the United States, all around the world, you can instantly deploy in the Linode Cloud. You can get a server running in seconds with your choice of Linux distribution with resources and a node location. They have eight data centers. And their plans start at only $10 a month. Of course, they have hourly billing with a monthly cap on all their plans and all of their add-on services, which include backups, node balancers, and long view. There's virtual machines for full control. You can run Docker containers on Linode. They have encrypted disks and VPNs, etc. You can even run a private Git server on Linode. If you're worried or if you are interested in knowing about the speed of the network, they have native SSD storage. They have a 40 gigabit network and they run on Intel E5 processors. On top of all of this, there's a seven day money back guarantee. You should go and check out Linode if you are wanting to run a Linux server. But if you haven't been convinced yet, then hopefully this next part will convince you to go and check out Linode. Linode is offering developer to listeners $20, simply for using the code developer to $20 at checkout. That's a $20 credit that is immediately applied at checkout. You can get that coupon automatically applied by going to linode.com slash Developer Tea. Of course, that link will be in the show notes at spec.fm. You can use the code directly when you check out Developer Tea 20. Thanks again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. We've gone over two tips for Simon and for anyone else who is in a transition period trying to acclimate to a new environment, to a new job, to a new culture. Tip number one was no matter how much you prepare for it, freezing cold water will always make you shiver. The idea behind that being that even though you mentally want to prepare for the change, really the experience you can't absolutely prepare for it, you just have to be mentally ready for all of those feelings that come along with change. Number two, don't be afraid to reach out if you are starting to feel a sense of loneliness or isolation, the best way to break through that loneliness and isolation is to actually reach out to another person and specifically reach out to somebody at the company that you're working for. They are your advocate. They want you there and they believe in you. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't hire you. Hopefully, they wouldn't hire somebody they don't believe in, right? So make sure you reach out if you are experiencing those feelings. And number three, acclimate by participating. A less formal way of saying this is fake it till you make it. In a scenario where you are the outsider and you're trying to acclimate to a new situation with new people, perhaps the most powerful thing you can do is participate in the culture, meaningfully and deliberately participate in the culture that you are currently unfamiliar with. And this seems obvious, but many people instead choose to search for ways to bring their own culture into the new situation or try to find their own culture in that new situation. And this doesn't work out very well. It ultimately leads to even more isolation. So instead, what you want to do is identify the rituals, identify the habits, the values, the activities that are popular in your new culture and try them out for yourself. This is actually part of the fun of going to something new. This changes your world view, especially if you're going to a new culture. So you want to try these things out for yourself. Make sure you participate in all of the things that your new team is doing, for example. Make sure you aren't staying out of them just because they're unfamiliar or because you feel awkward participating in something that you've never done. Even if it feels unnatural or uncomfortable by participating in culture in your new environment, you're actually becoming a part of their culture. Let me say that again, even if it feels unnatural or uncomfortable, even if it feels totally foreign to you, even if you feel like the outsider by participating in culture in your new environment, you are actually becoming a part of the culture. And this exchange is powerful. It will lead to lasting relationships and a true feeling of belonging because you are actually participating. That means that ultimately you are becoming a part of that culture and you're contributing you're shaping that place just like anyone else who is there has shaped it. So acclimate by participating. Don't sit on the sidelines. Always throw yourself into the game, even if it feels a little bit awkward. And it will feel awkward. It is very normal for it to feel awkward when you do something that you're not used to doing. Be prepared for that awkward feeling just like we said before. It is that feeling of jumping into the freezing cold water where you're not really necessarily ready for it. But you can identify that you're not ready for it and you can deal with that feeling when it does occur. Simon, I hope this was helpful to you in your current situation. And I hope anybody else who's going through a period of transition in your life that this is helpful to you as well. If you're like Simon and you have a question, please feel free to reach out by contacting me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. Of course you can also find me on Twitter at at Developer Tea. If you contact me and you don't want me to share your name, for example, on air, that's totally fine as well. I just love hearing from people who are listening to this show and I love sharing my thoughts with you. The thoughts that I present in these kinds of episodes, by the way, are not the entire picture of the story. I don't have a doctorate in figuring out how to acclimate to a new culture. These are simply my thoughts. These are the ways that I see things. And hopefully they provide some value to you. And more importantly, hopefully they start a conversation between you and other people that you work with, you and your family, you and your friends. Hopefully this is the kind of thing that is catalyzed by these episodes of Developer Tea. Thank you so much again to today's sponsor, Linode. If you are looking to host an application or a website on a Linux server, you can do so on Linode in just a few minutes. On top of that, they are giving out $20 bills, basically $20 of credit by going to Linode.com slash Developer Tea. So go right now, check out Linode.linode.com slash Developer Tea, or you can use the promo code Developer Tea 20. Of course, that link and the promo code can be found at spec.fm in the show notes, along with every other episode of Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening. Make sure you subscribe to the show and whatever podcasting app you're using. Until next time, enjoy your tea.