Day 1 on your first project can be exciting but overwhelming, so I’d like to share a few tips from my personal experience to get you ready for your first day:
Knowledge is Power
If you’re starting on a new client, hopefully you will have received at least some knowledge transfer regarding the client and project details from a project or account manager. Even so, you should still do some light research to understand what kind of company you’ll be working with and the industry involved. Take notes! Start a folder related to the client – you could receive a lot of material on the first day, and it’ll also show that you are organized.
The first time you are at the client site, you will want to get through the basic housekeeping items as soon as possible to get yourself situated. These include getting a badge (Dress for picture day!), identifying available parking lots, accessing the wireless network, and of course, finding where you’ll be sitting. I’ve worked from a variety of locations, including what appeared to be a large storage closet, a conference room with 5 other consultants, and my own cubicle. Make yourself comfortable where you are placed, but find a private area to take calls and hold meetings where you won’t be bothering others. Space is limited at many client offices, so learn how to book available conference rooms or get to know an office administrator. They can assist you with most of the housekeeping tasks, and they know where all the snacks are! Also, keep in mind that some clients will require you to attend a contractor orientation, so make sure you attend one of these sessions to start project work without delay.
On Day 1, you could be doing prep work for a project kick-off, you could be in product training all day, or instead, you could be thrown straight into a meeting with the client – it all depends on what phase the project is in. Therefore, it’s important to understand your responsibilities in the big picture of the project. This will help you excel and differentiate you from others. Your role will vary depending on project type. For instance, if you’re staffed on an engagement that includes a list of deliverables, your project progress and timeline will be monitored closely, possibly through several sprints and rounds of system releases. Conversely, if you’re on a staff augmentation engagement, you are essentially “loan staff” to the client. You may not have deliverables written into a statement of work, but you’ll still need to have a firm grasp on project expectations and goals to be of value to the team.
Your project team could be composed of contractors/consultants, including ones from other consulting firms, direct client employees, or a combination of both. In addition, the project manager could be someone on the client side, someone from Capgemini, or in some cases, from a third party. Knowing the organizational structure of the team you will be working with is key. It will definitely help to know who to report to directly and who to escalate issues to, should they arise. Also, pay attention to the collaboration and reporting tools that the team uses. It could be a good time to brush up on your SharePoint or Excel skills.
Make Friends and Adapt to Culture
Needless to say, be friendly and courteous to all client staff – You could be getting coffee next to the CIO of the whole company. Also, get to know your client’s IT team. They could make work easier by lending you an external monitor or by granting you access to internal client sites for project collaboration. Office culture will differ from company to company, so make it a point to adjust your behavior and attire accordingly. If you’re on a local project, ask around to see if Casual Fridays are observed. Likewise, find out about 9/80 schedules and whether working from home is appropriate.
Outside the Office
When starting at a client site, you could get invited to various team outings. Take advantage of these opportunities! This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to chat about work. Actually, many team members would probably prefer not to. It’s easier to develop positive relationships in a more relaxed, casual context. Plus, it’s always nice when the manager pulls the corporate card out to cover everyone’s dinner. Often clients encourage their contractors to participate in company-wide activities. Sign up for these events; you can get to know your project team by building a house or doing a charity run together! Don’t miss out on growing your network. Many companies regularly hire contractors for project work, so chances are high that you’ll see someone on your team again at a different client.