My first week in Pune was spent at an expensive resort in the outskirts of town with ~50 other new ZSers. It was orientation week, and for people straight out of college, this just seemed like a flashback to lectures from a few months ago, not an enjoyable experience.
Every cloud has a silver lining, ours came in the form of Matt Woolsey, then Manager of Learning & Development at ZS. I am yet to meet anyone better suited to teach communication and team work. He took only 2 or 3 sessions during that week, but those are also the only lectures I remember not dozing off in. Soon enough, the week was up and we were headed to the office for the rest of our training (and some real project work).
As software developers, our first month was a mock project administered by experienced developers. It gave me a feel for the tools and technologies that would become my bread and butter for the next few years. It was also when I would meet with my teammates on the first product team of my career. The first few months we were shooting for a moving target, trying to finish up a v1.0 in time for an important summit. What followed was another rite of passage, Crunch time. Caffeine hurriedly eaten meals and crappily written bug free, high performance code, is what I remember about my first few months. It helped that the excitement of my first trip to the US kept me going. It didn't help that I hardly saw much of Chicago other than the view outside the office window.
I did manage to take a few evenings off and visit the sights in downtown Chicago and taste some awesome Cheesecake. Around Halloween, I took a day off and visited friends in Ann-Arbor. My first independent trip in the US was quite eventful (in a good way) and a nice break from work. It was just what I needed to get me through to our deadline and a well deserved 5 day vacation at my Uncle's house in Fargo, ND. The next few months at work were quite uneventful.
In early 2008, I was offered my first mentoring role. While I did OK at the technical stuff, I had to call in reinforcements to help me with the people management stuff. We got through it and I was done with my first mentoring assignment.
In June I was pulled onto a high-profile, albeit short-lived project with a senior manager and our head of software development. It got me some pretty good exposure and a chance to work with a few very brilliant developers. Shortly after that, another project got kicked off that teamed me up with my first project manager and two new developers. This takes us into my second year of work and a whole new set of experiences.