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Insights / March 11, 2022

Starting a New Job Is Hard

Image of spiral staircase with round opening to the sky, with text: Starting a new job is hard.

By Cassi Johnson

Starting a new job is hard. This isn’t a significant revelation, but it has been 5.5 years since I last changed organizations and 3.5 since I last changed roles. I am in the thick of it now in my fourth week of a new role as Director of Product Strategy at Software for Good. I am finally getting the hang of the tech platforms we use, learning the communication and collaboration styles of the team and its members, and meeting more of our clients and partners. Every day my main task is still learning, but now in my fourth week I am contributing more as well.

As a newcomer, I feel like I am in a unique window of opportunity to boldly harness my not-knowing into value for my team and our clients. I am asking questions every day about how and why we do things the way we do them and what assumptions we are making as we engage with partners. This week we have had in-depth discussions about terms like “dashboard,” “reporting,” and “interface.” What does this mean to you? What comes to mind when you think of this? What does it look like? How is it used?

My experience tells me that a great deal of design and strategy work is just this: unpacking assumptions and developing shared understanding about the language we use and the outcomes we seek. It is humble work because as strategists we have to ask questions that seem simple. Our expertise is feeling comfortable not being the expert in the room.

Software for Good as an organization has also been having conversations about what “for Good” means in the context of our work. How do we increase our impact and surface the harm and unintended consequences caused by technology? How do we unpack the assumptions we make in the course of work as a result of the identities, experiences, and world views of the human beings who write our code? How do we ensure that our teams’ identities, experiences, and world views reflect those of the people we serve so that our code is adaptive to community needs? I feel fortunate to again be a part of a team, as I was in my last team at the City of Saint Paul, who sees this work as the core to our mission.

I am curious about your experiences of being a new person in an organization. How have you navigated this transition time? What helps you learn about team culture? Have you been able to keep your not-knowing as you became more seasoned in your role? How is your organization surfacing ways that your team culture, experiences, and world views inform the policies, practices, and products you develop?