Joining a software team as a contractor/consultant/developer

Whilst this topic might not seem to be directly applicable for a bootstrapping forum I’m developing a product in this space (which I’ll share once its a bit further along the road). Are there any other forums that you think would be useful for me to ask this question in?

I’m interested in people’s experience as a contractor/consultant/developer joining a team for the first time:

  1. What information do you gather to help you get up to speed as quickly as possible?
  2. If you could easily obtain information about the team, the code base, the environment etc. what would it be and what would you use it for?


The most value if provided by the contractors who hit the ground running. Hence my first concern when I join a new project is to setup my dev environment the same way other folks in the project do so that at the end of the day I could commit code. I wouldn’t understand the project yet, but as long as I can do some cosmetic fixes, I already can provide value.

Next step is to figure out how the branching/commit/builds/tasks assignment processes work – who’s responsible for what, what are the main steps. That’s another half-day or day, depending on the size of the project.

And then I dig into the project documentation from the top - purpose, goals, KPIs, conceptual solution, overall structure, main subsystems and teams responsible. Then dig into more details into my own layer/subsystem.