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Onboarding

If you’re joining Roblox, you better be ready to get to work

In the past 6 years, Roblox has grown—from 103 employees to 1,600—and so has their onboarding process.
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· 5 min read

In our first onboarding profile, we met GitLab’s HR department, which documents everything under the sun to make remote ramp-up processes as “self-service as possible.” Roblox takes the opposite approach. Employees of the online gaming platform and game creation system told us new hires aren’t left to choose their own adventure; instead, the company’s structured onboarding approach leans “toward hand-holding.”

When Dmitri Essiounine joined Roblox in 2016, the online gaming platform had just 103 employees, a number that made it feasible for each engineering team to have its own onboarding process. Six years later, he said, it employs ~1,600 and counting, and standardization has become the name of the game.

Essiounine, director of engineering at Roblox, said the company grew so quickly in this period that sometimes new hires would join a team before it had developed robust “best onboarding practices.” To ensure each new hire was set up for success, no matter their manager, he said, Roblox chose to standardize the onboarding curriculum across the entire department.

Online or in-person boot camp is now the centerpiece of engineers’ onboarding experience at Roblox and is designed to fill any knowledge gaps that might exist between new hires and their managers and mentors.

New hires complete two “tracks,” for which senior-level employees volunteer to teach courses related to their expertise. The first covers “common core” topics relevant to all engineers, such as security, privacy, and the basics of building Roblox games. Managers assign their direct reports to a second track based on their roles, whether back-end or front-end development.

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Essiounine conceded that having new hires sit through two tracks of boot camp is “a little bit more costly,” but he thinks it’s “worth investing in people up front.”

“The mentors would have to [have] the same conversations with their mentees anyway,” Essiounine pointed out. Standardized onboarding, he said, can give time back to managers and mentors and provide some peace of mind knowing everyone has the fundamentals.

We talked to Essiounine and a recent engineering hire, Jun Jang, about the experience of completing such an involved boot camp.

Hit the ground coding.

When Jun Jang joined Roblox fresh out of college as a software engineer in 2021, he was assigned to what he called “mini projects” (also called “ramp-up tickets”) to complement his daily boot camp requirements. These assignments, Jang said, were “really helpful” and allowed him to “actually get some experience of what it was like to work with the tool instead of just reading about it.”

Essiounine said that it’s “kind of [Roblox’s] rule” to have employees complete simple, low-stakes assignments (well, for an engineer) within the first week of starting. For new hires who may be nervous, Essiounine said he hopes this will help them build confidence and “get in a good groove.”

Jang said he completed most assignments in the company sandbox—an engineering environment that is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of building sandcastles for imaginary worlds, engineers build and test code that won’t go into production, meaning new hires don’t have to worry about disrupting or breaking the public-facing platform.

Roblox doesn’t evaluate an engineer’s productivity during their first three months, Essiounine said, so they can play in the sandbox and get acquainted with development tools. But managers do check the onboarding assignments to pinpoint topics that could require additional coaching.

“We’d rather you fast fail right away if there’s issues or anything like that, so we know what to improve on,” Essiounine said. “I remember one new hire. They came from a bad environment of testing…So, [with them], we really doubled down on those tickets to kind of help them get ramped-up. And then everything else was pretty smooth.”

Both Jang and Essiounine told us that if new hires need help getting up to speed on a subject, there is no shortage of guidance available: they can work directly with their mentor or manager, replay relevant lectures, or ask questions in a Slack channel for new hires. Jang said that when he started, he asked his mentor about everything, from the particulars of processes to whether the team socialized outside of work.

By the time he finished onboarding, Jang said he felt confident in his ability to leave the sandbox and tackle real software engineering tickets.

“It definitely was a confidence booster for me when I finished those onboarding tickets. I was like, ‘Okay, I kind of touched every part of the system. I think I know how most of it works,’” Jang said. “The process really helps you kind of prove that to yourself, and gives you the confidence to go forward.”—SV

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SusannaVogel1 on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Susanna for her number on Signal.

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