As Options welcomes its latest 2021 graduate intake, it made me think about how 12 months ago, I was in the same position, filled with a mixture of excitement and nerves for what lay ahead.
If you had told me when I started that it would be a year until I got into the office with my team, I don’t think I would have believed it! The thought of working from home for a full year in a brand-new company would have seemed very daunting, but my experience with Options has been far from that.
Onboarding remotely definitely presented its challenges; not being face-to-face with your team to ask a quick question or chat over a coffee can easily lead to feelings of isolation. Thankfully, this was never the case at Options. From my first day, everyone was so welcoming across all areas of the company. We were introduced to different teams worldwide through video calls and learned of their experiences, roles within the company, and paths to get there. Some of these colleagues would be people I might not have met for a while had it not been a remote onboarding, so I saw this early insight as a bonus!
The team has worked hard to remotely integrate new team members into the company. In addition to the welcome presentations and video calls, you are assigned a Buddy from your team as your main ‘go-to‘. Having this person from the start helped me feel included in the team and comfortable asking questions. The Buddy System opened communications and put me at ease when reaching out to other buddies, as everyone was always happy to help.
Continuous Learning & Development
A big part of Options is their commitment to continuous learning and development, which hasn’t changed while working from home. The opportunity to develop soft skills and valuable certifications is highly encouraged and is something that I, and many of the team, work on consistently. One of the main focus areas is understanding and developing our knowledge about growing services in the Cloud sector and utilising this best for our clients. Getting paid leave to study and take exams demonstrates how Options values our learning and development. In addition to Cloud certifications, we have access to various online learning tools, enabling us to get a range of accreditations, including Splunk, ITIL, Microsoft 365, Azure and Yale University and their “The Science of Well-being” course.
We are also encouraged to get involved in projects of interest in areas beyond our team. This gives a broader scope of the company and an insight into a direction your career could go. One project I am involved in is the Subject Matter Expert Project on O365 environments. This initiative means I am now qualified to run training sessions with Clients demonstrating key functionalities such as SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. My growth in the past year has been a testament to the remote learning environment the company has created. Always feeling like someone is there to give you a hand or teach you something has been a great comfort while also pushing me to develop my communication skills with those beyond my team.
One piece of advice I can give to anyone onboarding remotely is never to be afraid to ask questions as we are all constantly learning – I would have been lost without the people I tortured with questions when I first joined! I have recently had the opportunity to be a uniquely positioned ‘buddy’, having first-hand experience of remote onboarding myself! My onboarding training has allowed me to help others develop themselves, which I have enjoyed.
The Social Side
The Options culture is one of socialising and collaboration, and as a sociable person, I appreciated getting to meet the team in person.
They have put so much effort into both the remote onboarding process and (when restrictions permitted) in-person social activities to get that socially distanced face time with team members.
One of my first social activities with the team began in October 2020, when we started a “Tuesday PE class”. A group of us would go to the Queen’s Dub to play tag rugby or participate in a mini-Olympics. This was a great way to meet people from the team and from other parts of the company that you wouldn’t be interacting with daily. It also allowed the team to try my baking which I brought for us to enjoy after the exercise (bribery goes a long way when making new friends!)
In May this year, we also decided to take on the challenge of the Mournes Seven Peaks for charity. This meant many training hikes and spending lots of (cold and wet) Saturday mornings up the Mourne Mountains! Undergoing this physical and mental challenge with my colleagues developed our relationships and teamwork. A lot of encouragement was required on the tough hikes – not to mention on the day of the Seven Peaks itself! Nothing like facing adversity together to make the team stronger! I am proud to say the group of six I hiked with completed the entire 18-mile hike in 10 and a half hours, and Options raised over £12,000 for two charities.
As things have slowly started to return to normality through the summer, we have organised more events such as outdoor water events, company BBQs and team nights out. All these get-togethers allow you to meet more people, develop work relationships, and feel close as an organisation – despite not working side by side every day!
Travel is a big draw for most people who join Options, and this was no different for me! The thought of travelling the world while working and developing in my career has always been a goal. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this wasn’t possible as soon as I had hoped, but as the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait”, and I am pleased to say I am currently in our new office in Toronto! I’m spending a few weeks here before flying to New York to meet our US clients and colleagues.
Being able to travel again feels so good, and I am enjoying meeting colleagues from different regions that, until now, I’ve only been able to speak to online. As well as this, getting to experience a new city and culture has been fun. I have been making the most of evenings and weekends seeing the sights, and a few of us were even lucky enough to visit Niagara Falls recently, which was an incredible one to tick off the list!
As you can tell – between working from home and my current overseas assignment, I have managed to fit quite a bit into my Options career to date! I have learnt so much and am pleased we can now see our colleagues and collaborate in person. So, here’s to year two and beyond!