My career took off in a very different direction before I landed in observability and Grafana Labs.
After a 3-year apprenticeship in aircraft and parts maintenance at a large European airline, I studied mechanical engineering with a focus on aircraft maintenance. Eventually I moved into technical customer service and worked as a key account manager in parts maintenance. But after more than a decade of circling the same industry, I decided it was time to try something new. My curiosity led to a coding bootcamp in 2019, which became my ticket to a junior developer job at a German startup.
As I enjoyed taking off in this new field, the pandemic hit and taught me what I also valued in the company I work for. With the shift to remote work, I had more freedom and autonomy over my time that I didn’t want to give up as organizations tried to implement back-to-office policies or hybrid work models. But I also wanted a dynamic work environment with a steady stream of projects that were innovative and exciting to work on.
Luckily last year, a friend started working at a company that could offer me all of that: I applied for a job on the Observability Experience Squad at Grafana Labs and accepted a position working on frontend development. From that point on, it was a countdown to launching a new professional journey.
What I learned in my first weeks at Grafana Labs
After four whirlwind weeks, here are my takeaways about life as a Grafanista thus far:
- Be social Many people at Grafana Labs encouraged me to reach out, participate in teatime dates, and invite others. And I am enjoying this openness.
- Be courageous to admit when I am stuck There is always someone ready to help.
- Be patient when starting a new job My personalized onboarding plan was nine pages long, and it is impossible to do everything that was listed within the first month or two.
Two weeks notice — and preparation
Once I handed in my notice at my former job in March, the transition between the two companies was fast and furious. Grafana Labs wanted me to start as soon as possible so within two weeks of accepting the job, I replaced my computer, started receiving welcome emails, and took care of all the necessary paperwork (e.g. German background check, setting up my internal Grafana Labs profile, etc.). I also learned I had to plan a trip to Whistler, Canada, in May for GrafanaFest, a company-wide gathering hosted by Grafana Labs and my first opportunity to meet my team and other coworkers in-person.
Week 1: Getting to know Grafana Labs
In my first week, I met my manager, my onboarding buddy (someone to help me navigate my early days at Grafana Labs), as well as the members of my squad. From the very beginning, it was the best onboarding experience I have ever had at a company. My team prepared an onboarding plan that contained everything I needed to get started, including links to tools, docs, and further information as well as suggestions on where to dive in first. At the same time, I was free to set my own pace and decide which topic I was ready to tackle on any given day.
So I spent my introductory week getting to know people and the company. In turn, I made my first major discovery about what people value at Grafana Labs: transparency. Transparency at Grafana Labs means most Slack channels are public so everyone has access to messages about products, problems, and yes, cute pets. All meetings are either being recorded or there are notes — both of which are available to everyone.
Even the OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) from the company level down to individuals’ goals are made public each quarter. I never understood why OKRs are commonly kept private so it’s been refreshing to not limit my goals to conversations between myself and my manager anymore. At the same time, I have to get used to this kind of transparency, which not only means I am making a lot of information available. There is also so much information exchanged on a daily basis that I have to learn how to choose what is essential to read and what to skip.
“The Grafana community is everything to Grafana Labs. We work closely with them every day to make our products better.”
Week 2: Onboarding bootcamp
Some newbies at Grafana Labs have to wait to attend the company’s onboarding bootcamp because they are hosted once a month. But luckily the April onboarding bootcamp fell on my second week on the job. In the afternoons, I had a lot of meetings blocked off on my calendar when all departments — finance, sales, marketing and product — could introduce themselves as well as provide an overview of what they do and their work. Other meetings were about diving into Grafana Labs’ culture and business strategy. There were also several teatime dates with smaller groups and individuals to get to know each other better.
Like the first week, this one was packed with a lot of information and I learned so much! But my major discovery was that the Grafana community is everything to Grafana Labs. We work closely with them every day to make our products better.
Week 3: Technical take off
After setting up my local environment, I could finally start with my first developer tasks. In my onboarding plan, there is a dedicated section where my team listed some open GitHub issues that were nice to start with. So I transferred unit tests from enzyme to react testing library in Explore while doing research about the actual components and getting to know the repository.
My big discovery this week was that my onboarding buddy gave me a hand as soon as I needed it. I tend to dig deeper into an issue without asking anyone for help, because I feel that I should already know a lot more by now. But here, it’s safe not to know.
Week 4: GrafanaFest
For weeks, everyone at Grafana Labs had been buzzing about GrafanaFest since this was the first opportunity to get most of the company together in person after more than 2 years. More than 600 Grafanistas gathered in Whistler, British Columbia, for a week in order to meet one another and take part in a packed agenda of amazing events that were organized for us. We had some history lessons about how Grafana Labs began and were presented with a broad vision for Grafana Labs’ future. We had discussions in bigger cross-functional groups as well as smaller specialized groups about new features in our products. We even got to choose our own adventure set against the beautiful backdrop of Whistler. (I went mountain biking downhill for the first time in my life!)
It was the greatest way to meet people in my squad as well as others on teams I had never heard of before. I also gained a better understanding of who is actually doing what in the different orgs within Grafana Labs. The major revelation at this point was that after weeks of Zoom calls and Slack messages, it was nice to see that my colleagues are real, 3-dimensional people — and they do, in fact, have legs!
“I tend to dig deeper into an issue without asking anyone for help because I feel that I should already know a lot more by now. But here, it’s safe not to know.”
My future as a Grafanista
After a great start, it’s now time to learn more and get settled into the technical work while still building connections with more people. In the coming months, I will dig deeper into observability as well as the Grafana repository, start my own work-related projects, and meet a lot of new people as we continue to scale. (Grafana Labs has a Slack channel for teatime dates that I signed up for!)
Furthermore, I’m introducing Grafana into my personal life. I got inspired by my colleagues who are monitoring their plants and even sourdough starters. (Did you already see Ivana’s blog post about it?) So I am currently planning my first homelab project that will be realized with the help of Grafana.