Starter League Prepared Me Well

I will never look at joining a new team the same way again.

Starter League’s culture, when I first joined, was very much a meme culture. We used animated GIFs a lot to really express how we felt about things. And that was really big for me. It was the first time I’d been part of a team that communicated so differently. It’s also one huge benefit to having real-time communication thanks to tools like Campfire and Slack.

On a deeper level, it set the mood early for the company, and how we ultimatley interacted with one another. Now that I’ve experienced working with multiple teams both at Techstars, and now independently as a contractor, I’ve seen the variations between team relationships.

But here’s what I’ve learned —

Have a personality

Why aren’t more people expressive in their communication internally? Why can’t you have a little fun, and a little banter on a regular basis? How else do you get to know the people you’re going to be working with for a long, long time.

Be clear

Always seek clarity. Be as normal with your speak as you can. Be as explicit as humanly possible. Stop being so political with the way you say things, and just say them conversationally. If you have to, say them out loud first, because pretty typically the way we talk is our most conversational way of speaking.

Words aren’t always the best way to be clear either. Especially when working with product. The best way is to show what you mean. This could be a screenshot with Skitch arrows pointing to it, or minor edits using Web Inspector, or better yet, recording a screencast walking through and explaining out loud what you mean.

Repeat that

Don’t be afraid to ask what they mean to say, or for someone to re-explain something in different terms. Or even if it’s a single term you’re not getting, ask what it means. Your goal is to be on the same page as your team member, and just nodding along is an assumption that you are. I view it as a compliment when someone is taking their time to truly understand what I’m trying to get at.

Question all the things

Ask why. Do things have to be this way? Can the process change? Can we try new tools, and experiment with new things? Any process that’s already set, can and should be questioned. Especially when joining a new team, or a young (not in age, but in formation) team.

Maybe you have familiarity with a tool or process, the rest aren’t. And maybe it’s just the right fit for the right time.

Document it

If you’re confused about something, and find a solution — post it. This ties well to being clear. If there’s a series of events, or process, or bug or question in your mind that you solve or hope to solve, I bet someone else is curious about it too. If you’re finding internal ah-ha’s, or even bug-fixes, document it internally somewhere. Let other people on your team have access, and contribute to it. Private Tumblr’s work great for this.

So long as you’re focusing on being clear, being you, being open, and being confident enough to ask why when you join a new team — you should have the ability to not just assimilate into a new culture, but influence it.

Got it? 👍 Cool.




Interaction Designer working in Chicago.

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Arvin Dang

Arvin Dang

Interaction Designer working in Chicago.

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