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Onboarding – Digital and with heart

December 22nd, 2021 | by
Two women and a man in a video conference smile at the camera

Sarah und Philipp in interview

On board in the CSE department

Philipp and Sarah support the Computational Science & Engineering department of the IT Center, or CSE in short. In this interview, they tell us how they experienced their first time at the IT Center, how the digital onboarding went and what tasks their job entails.

Janin: Please briefly describe the department of the IT Center you work in, which group you belong to and what the tasks of the department and group are.

Sarah: I work in the education group “MATSE” and there in the education administration. The department is part of the education for mathematical-technical software developers (MATSE), which is offered in combination with the dual bachelor’s degree program “Applied Mathematics and Computer Science”. I work there in the administration and my tasks include administrative activities such as maintaining the database, checking attendance at courses, but also organizing various events. These are, for example, the IHK certificate award, the feedback seminar or the beginner meeting. I work together with a colleague and also take over the representation for the two. This includes semester planning and the application process.

Philipp: As a doctoral student, I belong to the “High Performance Computing” group. We take care of everything that has to do with supercomputers in the area of research and teaching.

I am not involved in teaching myself, but I am occasionally involved in the preparation of courses. Otherwise, I am in charge of the “Research” area and help customers and students with I have specialized in the field of I/O. I/O stands for Input/Output and usually means explicitly reading or writing input/output data to hard disk storage. In the context of High Performance Computing, there are challenges in the area of file systems that go beyond those of a classical computer. In particular, parallel access by thousands of users must be considered. Data volumes – both in size and number of files – are also not trivial to manage, especially in the age of Big Data and Machine Learning.

Basically, the Computational Science & Engineering department is responsible for supporting the RWTH chairs, research groups and external partners of the IT Center. The focus is put on high performance computing, data visualization and education. Besides the groups “MATSE” and “High Performance Computing”, the groups “Virtual Reality/VR” and “Visualization/Vis” are part of the department. The colleagues of the VR group participate in the provision of fundamental basic services for data visualization in virtual environments, also conduct own application-driven research in the areas of virtual reality and immersive visualization, and open up VR technology for broad use at RWTH Aachen University. The Vis group focuses on the area of scientific visualization and appropriate solutions for visual analysis in specific research questions. It also advances the state of the art in science with its own research activities on visualization.

Janin: How was your first working day at the IT Center? What did you experience and how did you feel?

Philipp: On the first day, I was on site and picked up my work equipment as well as met my direct supervisor. In a digital team meeting, I was also able to get to know some of my colleagues. Since I had already written my master’s thesis at the i12 chair, I already knew some of the faces. In the afternoon, I went home to my home office. Since I knew that everything would take place digitally, I was not surprised or found it strange. I think everything worked very well.

Sarah: It was similar for me. I was also on site and got my laptop. But I also set up on site and got to know my direct boss. The welcome was super friendly and open. After that, there was a lot of organizing to do. However, I was very pleased that I was able to meet my direct colleague in a team meeting afterwards. Basically, I did not have any specific expectations of what it would be like, so I was not surprised either positively or negatively. I have to say that I really like it. I am a person who can work very well alone and does not necessarily need to be in the office. Sometimes I am then rather less concentrated. That is why I am very happy with the home office situation.

Janin: How did you feel about knowing that you were being trained purely digitally and getting to know colleagues and managers online?

Sarah: I felt pretty good about it. Especially because we also have regular “standup meetings” where we also exchange ourselves privately. That made it more relaxed and we were able to get to know each other better.

Philipp: That is similar for us. We also do this regularly, mostly in the morning. We meet in teams for coffee and talk. But we generally have a lot of regular meetings and I now know everyone quite well. In the meantime, I have also been able to see everyone in person. However, even digitally, I got an impression very quickly and knew who was doing what and whom I could contact with which question. That was really quite well solved, I think.

Janin: How did you like the digital onboarding? Did you have certain expectations and have they been achieved?

Sarah: The onboarding went really well and I was introduced to the tasks step by step. The main introduction medium was Microsoft Teams and the screen sharing function. At the beginning, I watched a lot and saw how my colleagues were doing it. Everything was explained and it went really well.

Philipp: It is actually the case that many of my colleagues don not work in my direct subject area. I did most of the thematic training myself. But everything that had to do with how things work together, for example, was done by all my colleagues from the team. Whatever fit the situation. When I had questions, I usually just asked around and got an answer from someone who had time. I did not have a direct person who trained me. That is also due to the fact that I don not have a super defined work area. My tasks change from time to time.

Janin: Have you already experienced an onboarding at another company and if so, did you notice any differences?

Sarah: Well, I have never worked in an office before. I worked in retail before, that is where I learned. But that’s something completely different and not comparable.

Philipp: I “only” had internships and student assistant positions before this job. That was relatively similar, since the jobs were also at the university. Except that it was before the pandemic, I cannot see any big differences now.

Janin: When you look back on your first months at the IT Center. How did the onboarding go? What went particularly well and where were there hurdles in your eyes?

Sarah: A special feature, I think, are the processes and the documentation. Right from the start, I had the opportunity to read up on everything in our internal wiki. Step by step – what needs to be done and when. That is especially helpful when there’s no way to ask someone at the moment. Or also that I can just read up on something on my own. I think that is really great and has really made a lot of the learning process easier!

Philipp: I particularly liked how quickly I was involved in projects and could already contribute. I was involved in the procurement of new file systems right from the start, for example in discussions with manufacturers. I thought that was really great! All my colleagues from other departments also gave me a warm welcome, which was not a problem at any point and went very smoothly. I was directly involved and motivated.

We would like to thank Sarah and Philipp for the interview and for taking the time to give us some insights into their first time at the IT Center.

Responsible for the content of this article are Sarah Büttgen, Janin Vreydal and Philipp Martin.

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