Onboarding: First Steps at MS

First steps at mendesaltaren

Imagine landing at an airport where the runways change every day.

Many questions may arise when you are new to a design team. There are obstacles that we all face: the uncertainty, the unmet expectations, the pressure we place on ourselves, the lack of understanding of the success criteria within a new environment, and so on.

It’s easy to feel like prisoners of our own insecurities when starting a new project. As a team, it’s our mission to create a kind environment that allows you, as a new team member, to feel empowered to make mistakes and to explore, with enough space for your individuality to flourish in spite of the established company frameworks.

Because of our experience, we know the importance of winning small victories within a team. Said victories can come from very varied places: the first time you feel useful, a client’s congratulations, the first time an idea really gets through to the rest of the team, your first positive feedback…

Asking, Waiting

It’s not a matter of erasing those obstacles, but of being able to identify them. Then, one can learn the criteria to overcome them and grow from there.

In essence, we aim for the whole team to be able to know how to help people who are new and for these people to feel like they are not being judged but supported. We know it will be demanding, but with clear criteria that our team will share, both before people are hired and throughout the onboarding process, it will be easier to learn quickly, and we are willing to train and explain whenever necessary. Lastly, communication is the best tool. Giving and receiving feedback from the rest of the team is the best way to grow as a designer each day.


Before you begin, we will give you all you need for your first day. Two weeks before your starting date, we prepare the work team request and we choose your buddy. The week before you start, we will send you a welcome email with lots of handy information. We want you to feel as ready as possible for your first day.

First day

For your first day at mendesaltaren, we prepare this template that we use as a check-list for all the team members.

Template for your first day at MS

What we expect on your first day is that:

  • You sign up to all our systems.
  • You start reading our “Product Design Handbook”.
  • You have a look at projects that we have developed on our Figma.
  • You complete all the steps on your first day template.

Once you have done this, you will be ready for your first week.

First week

What we expect in your first week is that you get to know the team, you learn the basics about our organisation and about our understanding of design, and that you soak up our culture and methodology. We also want you to create and prepare all the tools and apps that you will use routinely at mendesaltaren.

One of the main points of the onboarding process at mendesaltaren is to familiarise yourself with Notion, our favourite work app where we focus and collate our daily tasks. We store all the information, learning and tools you will need in Notion.

“You work miracles with Notion, comparable with divine hands creating the salt of the earth, but it is a maze of information”

The author of this sentence is Adrián Mendez, a great product manager with whom we’ve had the opportunity to work. It’s as witty as it is real because there is some truth to it: accessing a company’s Notion when it is so full of information can be too big of a cognitive challenge. That’s why we’ve created this little personal template. It’s an easy way to access relevant and necessary information and have valuable resources to hand. A way to get familiar with Notion in small doses.

This is the reason why we have created this little personal template. It’s an easy way to access relevant and necessary information and have valuable resources to hand. A way to get familiar with Notion in small doses.

Personal template

One of the most important tasks that we ask all our new employees to put in their calendars is short calls with other team members. This can take some time, but it’s not necessary to do them all at once.  Ideally, you would schedule two or three per day for a couple of weeks, that way you will still have the energy to meet everybody. Putting a face to a name is crucial - we want to create a feeling of belonging and a unified team.

Another key step when you join mendesaltaren is to dive into our methodology by reading the documents in our Product Design Handbook. It’s a lot of information, so we don’t expect you to internalise it in one go, but we do expect you to read it all and have the index in your head so you can go back and consult it if and when you need to.

Lastly, we want you to feel useful in your first weeks at the company. Therefore, we encourage you to help your colleagues in any way that you can. Initially, we won’t ask you to lead a project even if you are a senior designer. We want you to embrace what mendesaltaren means and how we work, because that is the value proposition that our clients buy and, as capable as you may be, it’s almost impossible to adopt our formula from one day to the next.

Although there have been cases where someone has been fully absorbed in a project from the get-go, it’s not the norm. Problems, questions and doubts may arise and we must adapt, so we will not not encourage someone to dive into a project this way. This would only ever occur under exceptional circumstances.

First Month

During your first month we want you to gain confidence in your work. We want you to continue to soak in mendelastaren’s culture and methodology. You will initiate contact with some of our clients and begin, little by little, to gain autonomy and experience.

Communication will be ongoing, and we will be very attentive to your feelings and how you are adjusting. Even though we believe we are building an inclusive culture with all types of individuals, we are far from perfect and there might be occasions and circumstances beyond our control; that’s why we will ask you how things are going as many times as necessary, to understand how you are doing and to help you evolve.

Traditionally at mendesaltaren we have asked our designers to work according to a system. This may seem like a foolish idea, but the truth is that for us it’s very important that everyone who joins the team has the capacity to unpack [CSR2] and simplify, find patterns and have an overall vision, as well as taking part in the technical details of the documentation process of a project. Regardless of your level, we see this step as a key aspect of your onboarding process. We will try to make this happen during your first month in the studio.

As well as completing your catch-ups with the members of the team, we expect you to familiarise yourself with mendesaltare’s projects. Your teammates will be very happy to share different projects with you. Ideally, you will be able to see the work process for different approaches: systematising, product definition, visual design…

During this first month, you will be assigned a lead and you will have your first 1on1 with them to see how you are evolving. These 1on1s will help you detect ways in which you can improve and we will refocus your growth accordingly. You can learn more about leads further below.

After your first month, we hope that you have gained understanding about the internal organisation of the studio and the documentation of projects. We don’t need you to be an expert in these areas, but we do need you to understand their importance and their value, to be interested in improving, to ask questions, to make mistakes and to be willing to learn and improve.

First Trimester

At the end of your first three months in the studio, we aim for you to be all set when it comes to our procedures: to know our methodology and culture, to trust your colleagues completely and to feel confident in everything mendesaltaren.

Retrospective Meetings

It’s of great importance that all these conditions have been met in order for you to feel confident, achieve your first victory in the workplace, and contribute to the growth of the company. We want you to have more influence in the team and be able to enhance our documentation, methodology, culture and procedures. After your first few months, we plan to have another 1on1 with you to review how you’ve improved and continue to consolidate your professional development.

We will also ask you to fully adopt the way in which we communicate with our clients and understand and apply our policy for client management.

Once you have completed your first trimester, we hope you’ve reached these milestones and are a solid and motivated component of our team. The journey doesn’t end here though - it’s only the beginning! From now on, it’s up to you to keep on learning, experimenting and researching in order to contribute to our procedures, culture and projects. From our side, we also promise to stay committed and attentive, presenting you with new stimuli and challenges which ensure you grow as a professional.

Your Buddy

When a new team member is brought into the company, they are assigned a buddy as part of their on-boarding process. Your buddy will guide you through your first stages in the studio. They can help you resolve any doubts regarding our procedures, find useful tools, provide you with key nuggets of information, meet the rest of the team, and assist you with any other queries that might arise when joining a new company. Although everyone in the team is always here to help, the “buddy” system makes the newcomer feel more confident, stable and welcome.

Your Lead

During your first month in the studio, you will also be assigned a lead. Your lead will be your go-to person when it comes to your personal growth within the company. A lead is an experienced person who has successfully managed clients and colleagues who will help you establish and follow up on personal goals. They are also the person you can turn to if you want to discuss personal or professional issues or review your workload.

How do I find my lead?

Generally, they will be the person leading the project you’re working on.

Some of the meetings you will have with your lead:

  • Evaluations and analysis of the project.
  • Setting and keeping up with goals.
  • Catch-ups to see how you’re getting on.
  • 1to1s for professional development.
  • Reviews of your career plan.

Keeping In Contact While Working Remotely: Catch-ups

During your first month you will have a call with each member of the team. It may seem a bit awkward at first, but it’s the best way we’ve found that people can get to know their new colleagues. We also use tools to maintain informal conversations every now and then: for example, Donuts pairs us up to have a 15 minute catch-up with a random colleague each week. It’s not necessary to talk about work if you don’t want to, although you may find it the most comfortable topic.

Work Materials

It’s important to have optimum work conditions in order to feel like we are doing high-quality and rewarding work. To achieve this, it’s necessary to have good working tools and develop our tasks in an adequate environment, with an inviting working space: a big clear desk, free from distractions, a second screen and a good chair. Lighting is also important, it’s good to have natural light in our office or at home if possible.

Before you start at mendesaltaren, we will provide you with the following:

  • Macbook Pro
  • Magic mouse
  • Magic Keyboard.

In our Madrid office, you will also have the following available to you:

  • Office chair
  • 27” screen
  • HDMI adaptor

Software licences:

  • You will be able to access all the necessary licences for all the tools we use.

Other materials:

  • If you need any additional software or equipment, we have a form that you can fill out to request it. We will always take this into consideration so long as it is a reasonable and justified request. Please refer to Admin if necessary.

Authors and co-editors

Autores y colaboradores

Salvador Serrano

Chief Executive Officer / Partner

Fani Sánchez

Head of Product & Analytics

Patricia Pérez

Head of People
Team Organisation
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