Skip to content

October 11th, 2021

What does it mean to be an Engineering Buddy at Rasa?

  • portrait of Mark Jacob

    Mark Jacob

Hey 👋🏻 I’m Mark and I work for Rasa! I’m one of the Senior Software Engineers here that is focused on the Frontend work we’re doing with Rasa X and Rasa Enterprise. I joined Rasa in December 2019 and it’s been amazing to see the growth over the past (nearly) 2 years! We recently set up an Engineering Buddy Program for new engineers joining Rasa (hint hint - https://rasa.com/careers/) and I’ve written this beautiful blog post to tell you all about it. If you have more in depth questions about the engineering team, our tech stack, our culture or anything else, feel free to reach out to me @mjaycub for any questions or check out the Rasa blog at https://rasa.com/blog/!

Engineering Team at Rasa

The engineering team at Rasa consists of engineers across fullstack, frontend, backend, dev-ops, and QA. Since I started at Rasa, I've seen the company (over) double in size, from around 40 people when I joined to over 100 people at the moment, and we’re always expanding! Part of growing a company and an engineering team to this size involves onboarding engineers of various backgrounds and skill levels to squads with different product focus areas. That's why we decided to implement an Engineering Buddy program!

Within Rasa, we have a regular Onboarding Buddy where every new person to join Rasa gets a buddy, but they are always outside of your team and organisation. For example my Onboarding Buddy, Dominik, worked in Sales Development, and I’m the buddy to Anuka, who does awesome work in our Talent team. This is a fantastic initiative as you tend not to talk about the nitty gritty details of the codebase or the newest ticket you picked up, and you tend to discuss the non-technical aspects such as the office, the teams, the best coffee place near the office, tips for remote working, your favourite beer, etc.!

However, as we're growing and our team begins to work on an ever expanding product and code base, we decided that also adding an Engineering Buddy program would make our new engineers on-boarding less hectic! Having a contact person for engineering questions can be very helpful and ease some of that new job onboarding anxiety.

What does the Engineering Buddy program look like?

When a new engineer joins Rasa, their first week is usually made up of meeting their squad, their new manager, onboarding meetings with several teams and organisations within Rasa and getting their device and environments set up.
In the second week, a new engineer will pick up their first task and begin exploring the codebase. The Engineering Mentor helps with picking out the first issues for the engineer, typically starting with a fairly small ticket. At this point, the Engineering Mentor can help with any questions the new engineer has, from questions on the development environment setup to use, the codebase, our pull request and code review processes or something simple like a suggestion on what the best Slack channels to follow or ask questions in are.

Who can be an Engineering Buddy and what's the expectation?

It's completely optional for existing Rasa engineers to become an Engineering Buddy. Engineers of different backgrounds and disciplines are encouraged to become Engineering Buddies, but only if they are interested and comfortable doing so!
We currently need the Engineering Buddy to be in the same squad that the new incoming engineer will be in, to ensure they have the same product focus and the buddy has enough context on issues and the codebase to be helpful!

An engineer can only be an Engineering Buddy for one person at a time with the time expectation being at least 6 weeks. The Engineer Manager will of course still handle the usual manager responsibilities with weekly 1:1s, feedback sessions, etc.
Before the new engineer starts, the buddy usually reaches out to the new engineer on their first day, even with a simple Slack message. They should also pick out some suitable first issues from their squad board to have ready for the new engineer, starting with a simple ticket and making sure the tickets are of appropriate difficulty.

Once the engineer has joined Rasa and settled into the first few weeks, the buddy is expected to provide technical feedback to the engineer to help them on-board to the codebase and to the new team. They should also be a point of contact for technical or squad specific on-boarding questions, as well as being available for technical questions or general help. Typically, pair-programming or code discussions over video calls are a common occurrence!

As an Engineering Buddy, there are also some benefits for them! They have the chance to meet their new team member and develop some mentorship through this relationship.

Remote First - How does it work with onboarding?

Of course, Rasa is remote-first so we organise everything from our onboarding to our squad meetings to our coffee chats to be remote friendly. When I joined Rasa, we were operating in 4 different countries, and now we're operating in 7 countries!
We organise all of our onboarding, our tools and our on-going processes to be remote friendly. There’s a high chance your buddy might be working remotely or working full-time at home office!

While being remote first, meeting in person can always be nice! If you're in the same city as your Engineering Buddy (or anyone else from Rasa) you can always meet up for lunch, coffee, walks, etc.! (Psst, even if you're not in the same country, you have the chance to meet everyone at our bi-annual offsites!)

We’re currently in the first stages of our Engineering Buddy Program, so we’re still gathering feedback and evolving the process as we hire more and more engineers. We always try to be proactive rather than reactive at Rasa!

From Anca, one of our Junior Engineers at Rasa:

As a Junior Engineer, I benefited greatly from the engineering buddy scheme: it helped me get to grips much faster with the development set-up, engineering guidelines and my first GH issues. My engineering buddy smoothly introduced me to the rasa codebase and also acted as my mentor for any technical question I had. All this meant I felt more reassured when tackling my first issues and PRs knowing that I can rely on somebody for support and advice. Overall, it had a very positive impact on my productivity and motivation, as well as making me feel welcome in the team.

From George, one of our Junior Engineers at Rasa:

I really liked the engineering buddy program and found it super helpful! Whilst I very quickly got the impression that everyone is super friendly and always happy to help, having a dedicated engineering buddy made me feel a lot more comfortable asking for help, especially when having to ask quite often.

Oh! Have I not mentioned... we're hiring! Check out our open jobs at https://rasa.com/careers/! If you have any questions about what it's like to work at Rasa, feel free to reach out to me @mjaycub.