You've hired a consultant developer. Now what?

Your team needs support to meet the deadlines for an important feature work. Or feature work is delayed due to the use of unsupported tools versions on which your app is currently running.

To give your team some momentum, the company decides to hire a consultant. They will be onboarded next week. Great, help is on the way!

Now what? After the great news, you probably started thinking about:

  • how can I make their work easier?
  • will they have everything they need?
  • what else do they need access to?

Don’t panic!

Onboarding a consultant on your team for the first time can be scary. Here are some tips to make that onboarding smooth for yourself and to help the consultant developer get up to speed.

Think of this post as your Consultant Onboarding Guide. Ready?

Consultant Onboarding Guide

The main reason for a consultant not to give value right away is delaying access to all accounts they need to do their job.

Another reason is not sharing the priorities and what you need help with, as clearly as possible.

Give consultants access to all accounts you can

Chances are you onboard a new teammate once in a while. That’s a great opportunity to draft a checklist to follow next time.

The problem is: that you might not know what access to give them and to what. And that can be the first task to document: a list of accounts a new teammate needs to have.

Slack, or any other communication channel, can give you hints on what accounts people need. Search for

  • “Get access”
  • “Can I get access?”
  • “How do I get access to it?”

From there, you’ll get a hint of what types of accounts:

  • you can invite them to right away
  • they need to be invited after they have the company’s email account (and what tools they can use with the company’s account)
  • they need to request access to someone for specific access levels

The most common accounts needed are:

  • Gmail
  • GitHub
  • Slack
  • JIRA
  • Logs, Monitoring, and Exception systems (Busgnag, Sentry, Datadog, etc.)
  • Platform as a Service systems (AWS/Heroku)
  • VPN(s)

If possible, give them access before they start. That way, they can get things up and running on the first day.

Clarify your communication styles and how you want consultants to keep you updated

Every project is different. Every team has its system and culture. For us, it’s helpful to learn right away how you like to get updates from our work. For example:

  • Do you prefer Slack messages? How often?
  • Perhaps a weekly email to accommodate your busy schedule?
  • Do you want to keep in close touch with them by having 1:1s?

Setting up communication expectations will make the collaboration smoother and enjoyable for everyone. We love keeping the communication channel open, so we can raise concerns when problems arise.

Treat consultants as if they were a “normal” employee

When onboarding a consultant, having them participate in the team’s rituals helps identify bottlenecks and opportunities to help your team even more. It may be tempting to skip inviting them to all of your team’s rituals to give them more time to do their work.

But from my experience, the most beneficial aspect of bringing a consultant on board is to get a fresh perspective on how your team works and improve the processes.

As consultants, we rotate off from projects often, and we see the same problems all over again. It’s an additional benefit of not only getting things done, but also helping your team develop better practices along the way.

We want to leave you better off than when we started – bringing tools and practices for you to not get into the same problematic situation you were when you first hired us.

Help the consultant developer flourish

When writing this post, I asked my colleagues to share how clients help them flourish. Here’s what Matheus Richard has to say about what clients do that make him flourish:

  • No micro-management, please
  • Some clients were light on meetings. This was great for my productivity since I had fewer interruptions
  • We could always use async communication when needed
  • Freedom and trust. We’re not “code monkeys” or “butts in seats”. Freedom to work on improvements to code as well as other areas of the business is important

In short, the more aligned they were with our values, the better the relationship. The sooner you agree on what that aligment is for everyone, the better.

Why did you hire a consultant in the first place?

Why did you hire a consultant? And why from this company and not from another?

Keeping this in mind during the time we’ll be working together sets us up for success.

Have you ever hired a consultant? How was it for you? What did you find helpful and what would you do differently? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

See you in the next post!