I get bored easily. Maintaining variety in my job has been invaluable to help me maintain concentration on my work. I was particularly lucky to land at Amazon back in 2007, as Technology companies (and Amazon in particular) supports people moving around.
For my detailed job history, you can look on LinkedIn. In short, I joined Amazon in the Global Payments group, then moved to the Amazon Retail Marketplace, then went to Facebook Ads, then joined AWS Networking, then moved to Amazon Devices, then Amazon Game Publishing, then Bezos Academy. Since 2007, I've worked in 2 companies for 7 different groups. This might not be impressive for a software engineer, but as a senior leader, this is a long list of jobs.
What I wanted to focus on is how I learned to ramp up quickly in new positions. I knew if I was going to switch positions more often than other senior leaders, I needed to be able to provide value immediately. I knew that being successful quickly was a key element in being able to grow my career while still maintaining the variety I desired.
What constitutes ramped up?
When moving to a new team, there are a few key elements to learn before you can provide value. The product you're working on, the partners you'll work with, and the systems behind the product.
- Who are your main customers, and secondary customers? How is the revenue distributed across your customers?
- What features does the product have? Which features are the most important, and most used?
- What key metrics does your team watch, and why do they care about those metrics?
- Who are your partners on your team? What are their experience levels, how long have they been there, and who will you likely work with the most?
- Who are your partners elsewhere in the company? Why do you need to work with them? What are their priorities?
- Do you have external partners? Who are they, and what do they do?
- How are your systems connected? How do they work?
- What core technology do your systems use?
- What are the various states of your systems? New? Being rebuilt? In maintenance mode?
Ramping up - The organic method
In my experience, most people slowly ramp up in a position organically. When an engineer gets a bug to fix, they start to learn how that system works. When a manager has to hire a new employee, they meet their recruiting team for the first time. When a project manager needs to add a task for a team, that's when they first assess what that team does.
I don't think organic ramp up is acceptable. It's lazy. It's the difference between being uncomfortable and confused for 3 weeks, or for 6 months.
Reducing ramp up time is critical. Most employees ramp up at a certain speed. If you ramp up slower, you will look like a worse employee. Fair or not, the impression you are giving your co-workers is of someone with less energy and less intelligence than the average employee.
Alternatively, if you ramp up faster, you will look more intelligent and more energetic than the average employee. As you are new, and your co-workers have nothing else to go on, their only impression of your capabilities will be how quickly you figure things out.