Motivation

Onboarding n.

The action or process of integrating a new employee into an organization or familiarizing a new customer or client with one’s products or services

Oxford Dictionaries

After working with several undergraduate and graduate research assistances (URA/GRAs) at the University of Illinois, I’ve devised an onboarding script. The script, as the above definition highlights is meant to standardize the process of introducing a new member of the team to group and get them up to speed as quickly as possible. Prior to writing down the onboarding process, I opted to use the first meeting to get the RA’s computer setup. As a result, the RA was often a bit unfamiliar with the tools. I’ve found using the first meeting to talk about the scope of the project instead often lead to better long term outcomes. Not to leave the RA in the wind though, I opted within a subsequent meeting or over a remote collaboration tool, to have RA could ask questions if they ran into an issue with the setup.

Having said this, please note that the onboarding script is not a panacea for allowing the RA time to learn. Merely, it provides a good reference guide should anything go astray.

The Onboarding Script

Greetings and Salutations New URA/GRA,

First off, welcome to the RESEARCH GROUP NAME. We talked about a lot of things today. Here is a brief summary:

SCHEDULE A WEEKLY MEETING:

I would like to touch base with you each week via a face to face meeting. If needed, we can meet multiple times in a week.

Please let me know what your availability for this semester is so that we can set up a meeting time. For the most part, my time this semester is very flexible. This means I should be^[Not a guarantee of availability.] INSERT AVAILABILITY.

These face to face meetings are more or less to see how everything is going and if I can help out in any way.

After the meeting, please write up a very short (e.g. spend less than 10 minutes) description of:

  1. Goal/Task worked on this week.
    • e.g. Worked on creating a model, making feature X, proving theorem, or …
  2. What progress has been made for the week on the task?
    • e.g. Built XYZ, Ran Model, Obtained Data, Proved only…
  3. Were there any issues that arose or impeded your work?
    • e.g. Difficulty coding, obtaining/working with data, James forgetting to do something, et cetera
  4. What kind of solutions did we brainstorm?
    • e.g. Trying approach … to fix …
  5. Goal/Task for next week.
    • e.g. Work on …

Please e-mail the description to both the LEAD PI and myself.

If there is nothing to really talk about with me or you have a big exam that you need to focus on, please let me know via e-mail or give me a call / text that the meeting needs to be cancelled.

Note: I will still expect a weekly description.

SETUP WORKSPACE:

»> MAKE SURE TO RUN ALL INSTALLERS ON WINDOWS WITH “RUN AS ADMINISTRATOR”!!!!«<

Slack

Slack is a communications platform with many additional “addins” that enable everything from live reporting feeds to creating a new todo task. (See https://slack.com/apps). As an added benefit, Slack has the ability to ping multiple team members.

Please register at:

GROUP SLACK ADDRESS

Also, download the appropriate slack client (Desktop & Mobile App) via:

https://slack.com/downloads

RStudio Version

The RESEARCH GROUP primarily uses the latest version of the RStudio integrated developer environment (IDE). Please download it from:

https://www.rstudio.com/products/rstudio/download/

R Version

We also use the latest version of R across all of our deployments. As of this writing, the version of R is 3.3.2. To download it visit:

WINDOWS:

https://cran.r-project.org/bin/windows/base/

OS X:

https://cran.r-project.org/bin/macosx/

LINUX:

https://cran.r-project.org/bin/linux/

Required R Packages

When you load into your R session for the first time, please install the following packages.

install.packages(c("rmarkdown","devtools","ggplot2",
                   "RcppArmadillo","reshape2","lubridate",
                   "microbenchmark","rbenchmark))

COMPILER

You will also need to download and setup a compiler. This varies by operating system.

WINDOWS: http://thecoatlessprofessor.com/programming/rcpp/install-rtools-for-rcpp/

OS X: http://thecoatlessprofessor.com/programming/r-compiler-tools-for-rcpp-on-os-x/

GIT & GITHUB

As a group, we use git via GitHub to version control our code.

Please create a GitHub account here:

https://github.com/join

Please download the GitHub for Desktop client here:

https://desktop.github.com/

WINDOWS:

Please also download and install git. Make sure to select install in version PATH.

https://git-scm.com/download/win

macOS/Linux:

This should already be installed by now.

LATEX

We primarily use LaTeX to write papers. This is also mandatory for using knitr to weave R code or figures within a document. Please download and install the appropriate distribution

OS X:

https://tug.org/mactex/

For El Captian (10.11 >): Read https://tug.org/mactex/elcapitan.html

WINDOWS:

http://miktex.org/download

CRASH COURSE IN GIT:

If you have yet to learn about git, a version control system (VCS), then please take the free online git course offered by https://codeacademy.com. The course is about 2 hours long and will get you accustom to the git workflow.

https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-git

WEBSITE BIO:

The *RESEARCH GROUP has a website that lists active and alumni members:

INSERT WEBSITE URL

Please e-mail me the following when it is convenient for you:

  1. 250px x 250px picture with a white background. The photo should be professional, but warm (e.g. Smile!)
  2. A brief biography of your origins.

SUGGESTED READINGS:

Please read up about the following:

INSERT TASK READING

TASK:

You will be working on ….

INSERT TASK DETAILS

CONTACT INFO:

If you ever need to reach me, my contact info is:

(xxx) – yyy – zzzz

email AT uni (.) edu

Office: Building XYZ, or a quiet secluded area nearby.

MISC:

I look forward to working with you this semester. I know that through working together we will get a lot done and learn considerably from each other. (You will likely end up teaching me more than I end up teaching you!)

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I have an open door policy.

Sincerely,

You