Before we get into my first month at Postman as a data analyst, let us back up two decades. In 1999 two psychologists coined the term “Dunning-Kruger effect” as a label for a cognitive bias in which people who are incompetent at something don’t recognize their own incompetence. The idea is shown in the graph below: Just as you begin a task, you’re grossly overestimating your performance, but once you go through the process of learning, you actually begin to underestimate yourself. After you slowly get better in your role, you finally reach a Plateau of Sustainability.

Chart showing the Dunning-Kruger effect (Wikimedia)

Let’s look at my own journey toward the Plateau of Sustainability and plot the confidence levels that can span the first month of a new job. Here are six common experiences one can face in the first 30 days at a new company:

1. Starting a new job with first-day jitters

Onboarding at a new job can consist of downloading software and uploading documents. Project-wise, day one is supposed to be anti-climactic, but that doesn’t stop you from being nervous. My first day on Postman’s data team was like that until 2 p.m., when I met my managers for the first time. The meeting left me very excited.

Day 1:
My Level of Confidence: Unknown.
My Level of Competence: I think I know what an API does.

2. Facing the first valley of despair

When working with Postman, API requests can be organized with Postman Collections. This lends itself to building many services on top of existing APIs. To understand the product better, I was tasked with building my first collection, and—like most new employees—I wanted to make the best collection this company has ever seen. I spent time thinking about what I wanted to do and was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually thought of better and better ideas with time. Great ideas don’t always just come to you as soon as you start a new job, so a little bit of context and a reading habit can help.

In the process of building what I hoped would be the best collection, I immediately got stuck and stumbled upon the concept of agile development during this first “valley of despair.” It can be tempting to get everything right, but it’s good to start with the seemingly simple and get feedback that will help you evolve more quickly. “Incremental progress” was the lesson of the day.

Day 7:
My Level of Confidence: What is the meaning of my existence?
My Level of Competence: Postman does that, too?

People here read books very fast. We talk about fantastic books a lot. In general, my first week involved a lot of researching, reading, and understanding the philosophy of both the company and its data team. (You can better understand both, too, in this recent blog post about how Postman’s data team does data democratization). I learned that the values enshrined at the highest level of Postman are adopted in the daily routines of team members at every level. Here, as important incremental progress happens, the bar is continuously set higher each time. At a company as ambitious as Postman, it helped me to accept that I must allow myself time to get better. So, with a medium-term goal in mind, I began focusing on the steps to reach that goal.

3. Surviving the first valley of despair

Surviving a “valley of despair” phase at a new job can come with the smallest of victories, but it ultimately reminds you that you’ll be fine. Remaining calm is important. I have found that writing down my thoughts during a stressful scenario helps me get out of my own head and work towards a faster solution.

 

Day 13:
My Level of Confidence: What doesn’t kill you…
My Level of Competence: I want to make my next Postman Collection.

4. Finding a solution on your own

This one’s always a little tricky. As a newcomer, you don’t know how much you should know, and so it is easy to get into the trap of thinking, “This is just how it is here.” Fight this impulse. Things can feel intimidating because while your seniors are extremely knowledgable and helpful, they’re also busy tackling large projects. As a new employee, make sure you spend time going through the struggle of finding out solutions as best as you can on your own—if you then find that you’re wasting too much time caught in the web of your own errors, seek guidance.

Day 18:
My Level of Confidence: About the same.
My Level of Competence: I feel like Archimedes and Newton all at once; the apple has fallen in the bathtub.

As Postman moves towards asynchronous communication, there is a lot of effort being put toward improving processes so that information is not siloed (read about how the Postman data team has built a knowledge repository). If you find that you need to keep reaching out to a particular person for information, suggest better documentation to improve the onboarding process.

5. Learning how to manage your time

Managing time is like Zeno’s paradox. Why is it that you are always just a little behind when you take a finite amount of time to solve a problem? The hours spent crying over spilled SQL feel like minutes. You think it will take approximately five hours to solve a problem, and then experience that it’s taken three days.

Day 22:
My Level of Confidence: I need coffee.
My Level of Competence: Deadlines are constructs of a capitalist society.

Rest assured, the time between when you want to finish something and when you actually click on “submit” will usually get shorter. It will take time to understand how much time tasks take. The value of a process is important: understand the “why,” understand the data, think about the “how,” and then model and execute. Finally, there’s always the review.

6. Facing the third valley of despair

After surviving the second valley of despair, I was given ownership of a high-priority analysis. This time, I found myself feeling excited about the new challenge and the next valley of despair that, thankfully, didn’t seem so daunting anymore.

Day 30:
My Level of Confidence: Ask me again tomorrow.
My Level of Competence: Discovering new ways to make mistakes while writing SQL queries.

At this point, I’m looking forward to many more days of finding my way around the unknown—and meeting many more new challenges—at Postman.

Did you find this blog post interesting? If so, you might also be interested in working at Postman. Learn about joining the Postman team here.