What It’s Like To Join in 2023

I still get a jolt every time my phone lights up with a notification about an email from my now manager, Hailley Griffis.

After weeks on tenterhooks while I went through the application and interview process for my dream job — checking my phone at every available moment for a ‘You’re through to the next round’ email — it’s a tough habit to break.

I’ve been Buffer’s newest content writer for a little over 30 days, and it still feels a little surreal that I’m here. I made it.  

I almost didn’t send my application. I knew it would be competitive — Buffer’s values and perks are like a sirensong for talented people all over the world — and, you know, imposter syndrome is a thing. (I wasn’t wrong. Hailley and the team received over 1,500 applications for the role! She wrote about how they handled the tidal wave of amazing applicants in The Content Writer Role at Buffer: What We Looked For In Applications).

I’m definitely glad I didn’t know how stiff the competition would be going in, as I doubt I would have had the confidence to apply. (As an aside: this is your sign to shoot your shot. You never know what might happen.)

Regardless, I’m so grateful I was able to ignore that little naysayer in my head and take the leap! Working at Buffer has been everything I hoped it would be — and a huge learning curve.

Here, I’ll share exactly how I was onboarded to the fully distributed, remote team, along with a couple of things that have really surprised me about life at Buffer as I got settled in.

The one with the offer

I had my final interview with Buffer founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne on my birthday — and found out I got the role that same day!

I was enjoying a birthday dinner with family, my phone within reach so I could obsessively check my emails when it lit up with a Gmail notification. An email from Hailley. My first thought was: “There’s no way they would have let me know this soon. They ruled me out after my interview with Joel. It’s over.”

And then I read the subject line: “We’d love to invite you to join the Buffer journey, Kirsti!”

I let out a sound somewhere between a squeal and a squawk, which had my sister and her fiancé going, “What? What? What happened? Did you hear back?”

I told them. Cue tears. More squawk-squeals all-round. Even our waiter was very excited.

first 30 days buffer
My sister snapped a photo of this moment of pure joy.

When the hubbub had subsided, I read Hailley’s email several more times to make sure I understood everything — it was a lengthy one. In it, she had outlined everything about the job offer, including:

She also flagged Buffer’s salary transparency policy: “One more element that I know you are aware of but I wanted to mention again is that we try to live our value of transparency by sharing our salaries openly,” she wrote. “If you choose to come on board with us, we want you to be fully aware that your first name, city, and salary will be added to our transparent list here.”

This was one of the first things Joel and I had discussed in our interview, so I was already fully aware of and on board with this.

I happily accepted the offer then and there. Hailley was thrilled to hear from me so soon, and she responded before the night was out (she is a couple of hours behind me). Next, I should expect to hear from Jenna Meindertsma from the People Operations team, she said.

“She will reach out with more information soon and help get your accounts provisioned so you can log in to everything on your first day. I’ll also set up an onboarding document that you’ll have in advance — you’ll likely be online before me so we’ll ensure you have everything for whenever you start your day.”

My Buffer onboarding

Onboarding at a fully remote company is tricky. There’s no one to greet you when you walk in the door, hand over your equipment, give you a tour, and introduce you to everyone. To make things even more complicated, Buffer is fully distributed. We have teammates in 53 cities in 20 different countries. Timezone overlap is a challenge, to say the least.

But Buffer has been fully remote since 2012, so they’ve put a lot of work into helping new teammates from Toronto to Thailand feel welcome and productive.

Here’s a look at how it works.

Gearing up

I heard from Jenna a few days later, about a week ahead of my start date. She shared everything I could expect over the course of the next few weeks and asked me to fill out some forms with additional information they needed to get me set up. Her email included a well-chosen GIF, which summed up my feelings pretty well:

She also shared more about the home office stipend, which I was really excited about. I’ve been working remotely since 2021, so I already had the essentials in the home office I share with my husband. Still, I’d long been looking to upgrade my space for productivity.

“If you’re interested in starting to set up (or update) your home office, we provide a $1,000 allowance to reimburse you for any costs to create a cozy work-from-home space,” Jenna wrote. “We also have an additional, yearly $250 personal equipment stipend for ongoing work needs! These stipends do not expire so you’re welcome to use them in the future as well.”

I’m one of those folks who need multiple screens to be at my most efficient, so I bought an extra monitor for my desk, some new earbuds (mine had given up the ghost), plus a really fun RGB mouse.

First 30 days at Buffer
My newly upgraded set-up (read: happy place).

The day before I was due to start, Jenna sent me another email that included everything I needed to know about the various tools and software I’d need to set up to get cracking on my first day (along with another excellent GIF).

As a bit of a geek, I couldn’t resist getting everything sorted the night before so I’d be able to jump straight into onboarding on my day one. Jenna had sent an invite to Google Workspace over to my personal account, so I could get my buffer.com email sorted. (Seeing my name followed by ‘@buffer.com’ nearly had me tearing up again.)

Once I had logged into my Buffer email account, I found invites to all the other essential tools I’d be using waiting for me in my inbox. “Be on the lookout for a lengthier email from me with more details regarding which tools to use for what and which ones we’d recommend getting set up first!” she added.

Per her instructions, I dutifully created accounts on Okta, a workforce management tool, Slack, Threads (not the Meta version — this one is a Slack alternative, but more on this below), and crucially, Dropbox, where my onboarding documents lived.

“Hailley will be reaching out to you to chat and ensure you have everything you need,” Jenna added. “We’ve also paired you with a culture and role buddy who will guide you through your first 90 days at Buffer. Please take a break anytime your brain and/or eyes hurt from all the screen time!”

With that, I was all set for my first day at Buffer.

Week 1

My Cape Town timezone is many hours ahead of Hailley and most of the rest of the Marketing team. My fellow content writer, Tami Oladipo, who is based in Nigeria, is only an hour behind me, but thanks to Buffer’s fully flexible way of working, she comes online later in the day and works into the evening. So when I logged on at 9 am on my first day, I was on my own for the first few hours.

But thanks to the two meaty onboarding documents waiting for me — along with some lovely comments from my new team and a welcome video that gave me the warm fuzzies — I was all set.

There were two documents I lived by in my first few weeks at Buffer: my Cultural Onboarding doc and 30/60/90-Day Plan. As time has worn on, I’ve been able to refer to them a bit less, but they still have pride of place on my bookmarks bar.

Much of my first week (which, since I started on a Tuesday and we have a four-day workweek at Buffer, was only three days) was spent pouring over these documents. This also involved working my way through the deep library of resources these docs linked to, and ticking off various onboarding tasks in my checklist.

Buffer’s Cultural Onboarding document

I wasn’t kidding about this document being a meaty one — 4,169 words and 30,790 characters long. (Yes, I checked.) It detailed exactly what I could expect over the coming four weeks and beyond: an introduction to my onboarding team, a high-level overview of Buffer’s various systems and processes, a host of additional resources to read through, and a checklist of tasks to complete.

It was a lot to take in, and more than a little intimidating. What helped is that the team really acknowledged this — this is one of the paragraphs that helped put my mind at ease:

“The first thing to keep in mind is that we hope you have fun! Onboarding and being part of a small business can be stressful at times. Try to enjoy it. One of the measures of success we’d like you to use to assess your onboarding will be whether you’re enjoying your work and your team on a daily basis. We don’t take this work lightly, but we do recognize that we are very lucky to be doing it together. Try to take a few minutes every day to celebrate the ways in which this work brings you joy.”

First 30 days at Buffer
My onboarding doc, feat. a video welcome message from other Bufferoos.

My Onboarding Team

When I think back on this phase of my onboarding, I like to picture Hailley, Tami, Julia, and Jenna doing some kind of superhero slow-motion walk, Guardians of the Galaxy-style. They were really the heroes of helping me settle in so quickly at Buffer, and made me feel safe and welcome from the get-go.

Here’s an outline of their roles in my onboarding, straight from my doc.

Manager: Hailley Griffis: You’ve likely already met with your manager a handful of times during the interview process, they are excited to begin working with you!

Role Buddy: Tami Oladipo: Your role buddy will guide you through the specifics of your role at Buffer. They will be your go-to for all role-related questions.

Culture Buddy: Julia Cummings: Your culture buddy will guide you through learning Buffer’s culture (values, transparency, communication, and more). They should be your go-to for all culture-related questions.

Jenna Meindertsma: Jenna will be assisting with the logistics of your onboarding, and is your go-to for any questions on tools or accounts.

I’ve been meeting with Hailley, Tami, and Julia weekly since I first started at Buffer, and chatting to Jenna regularly on Slack. I loved the compartmentalization of this — I knew exactly who I could speak to about what. It also meant I wasn’t pinging Hailley constantly for the first few weeks (though I did that a fair bit anyway…).

30/60/90-Day Plan

My inner Hermione Granger loves a bit of structure and thrives when what is expected of me is clearly laid out — so she is a huge fan of this doc. My 30/60/90-day plan went deeper on exactly what I’d need to accomplish in my first four weeks and what success in my role would look like beyond the 30-day mark.

It offered more insight into how the Marketing and Content teams worked and linked out to a whole bunch of project and archive documents that painted a full picture of everything we were working on and why.

My personal favorite here was Hailley’s ‘A History of Our Blog’s Performance and Content Team (2023)’ — as rich and varied as you’d expect from a blog that started way back in 2011. She included a video of herself walking through the document as well, which I absorbed like a podcast as I poured over the history of our analytics.

Documents like this have been incredibly valuable to me as I get settled in.

First 30 days at Buffer
My 30/60/90-Day plan was more focused on my role.

A Buffer history lesson

Getting to understand the ‘why’ of a business is a luxury most employees don’t have — but Buffer’s default to transparency — and a deep library of documentation — means major moments in the company’s history are all available for perusal.

Buffer’s history has shaped so much of the way we work now that I found myself scouring the various articles in our Open Blog and documentation on Notion (more on that Notion space later) for a huge chunk of my first week.

A really interesting example of this is how the Buffer values evolved over time — they’re similar, but not exactly the same as those the company started out with. Another fascinating look behind the curtain is Joel’s post, Reflecting on 10 Years of Building Buffer, which uncovers everything from the birth of the product, why he and the other company leaders at the time decided not to sell, buying out investors, and more.

A very Buffery welcome

The highlight of my first week was, without a doubt, my welcome thread.

As is standard practice for new Bufferoos, Hailley took to Threads to share that I had just joined the team, along with a bit more about me (some fun stuff Jenna had asked for in those early emails).

I expected a couple of emojis and maybe a handful of messages, but the kind comments I received on that thread were the gift that kept on giving — and my first look at how Buffer’s values (particularly ‘show gratitude’ and ‘choose optimism’) were put into practice.

The thread spawned conversations about cozy games, parenting, and fantasy books that lasted weeks, and it was amazing to find common ground with my new teammates on things that meant so much to me. Thousands of miles apart though we were, it made me feel connected to them.

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