When a new president’s staff moves into the White House, there’s a lot to do. Not only do aides need to find their offices, learn where the pens are kept and meet the other members of their team, but they also have to be ready to help govern the most powerful country in the world.
TIME asked staffers from President Barack Obama’s administration to recall their introduction to the White House, and to give advice to Team Trump. From learning the phone system to meeting the longtime White House staff, here are some of Team Obama’s best nuggets from the early days of his presidency:
Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to the President: Most people don’t understand how the actual handover of power works. We all sit in the freezing cold. We watch the final culmination of years of effort to see our friend and boss become President of the United States. Then for the senior team, you get on a bus and they take you to the White House. They drop you off, and someone shows you your office. You walk in and there’s a computer there with a Post-it note with your password, and you’re in charge of the government. Full stop.
Josh Earnest, Press Secretary: You literally don’t know how anything works. At the night after the second full day, the President and First Lady hosted a staff party for people who had worked on the transition, the campaign and the Inaugural Committee. I missed almost the entire party because I was still in the lower press office figuring out how the next day we were going to send a video link to the weekly address.
Yohannes Abraham, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs: You’re literally frantically looking at the guy next to you, like “Hey Gary, how the heck does the printer work? Does anyone have any idea how to order food? Does anyone have any idea?”
Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: In terms of figuring out who would be in what office, we had looked at the floor plan, and we had a plan to put both of National Economic Council director Larry Summers’ domestic deputies in the West Wing. Then we actually got to the West Wing, looked around and discovered that one of the two rooms we had thought was an office was actually a foyer to the women’s bathroom. That particular seating arrangement ended up not surviving.
Brian Deese, Senior Adviser to the President: For the first couple of days, I was literally squatting in a hallway in the second floor of the West Wing.
Furman: We also saw people’s names were taped to the doors. There was a brief moment when the offices right across the hall from ours looked a lot better than ours, and we thought maybe we would just move the taped names and see if we could get away with it. We decided that probably wouldn’t be the best way to ingratiate ourselves with our new colleagues.
Jen Psaki, Communications Director: None of us knew where the bathroom was. I still didn’t know there was one on the first floor until probably the second year I was here. It may have been the first day, when the President came out of the Oval and walked over into the upper press area to see Robert Gibbs in the press secretary’s office, and a number of reporters were streaming out. He said, “Oh wait, they can come over here?” He wasn’t aware of how everything was set up.
Lisa Brown, former Staff Secretary: I remember the President, by accident, walking into my office on Day Two, because he didn’t even know his way around yet.
Abraham: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed. It was going to be the first bill that the President signed, and my boss at the time told us at our staff meeting that we were going to do a signing ceremony. Everyone was excited. After a couple seconds, my buddy and I looked at each other and our expressions slowly changed from excitement to the realization that no one yet knew how to do the little stuff. How do you clear guests into the building? How do you reserve the right room? Where do you get the pens? Who stands where?
Katie McCormick Lelyveld, former Press Secretary for First Lady Michelle Obama: We got to White House, and the First Lady called us all into the East Room. There in a big circle was the resident staff, ushers, chefs and pastry chefs, and many other team members. She said, “This is the team I came in with,” referring to us. “This is the team that’s in place here, and they’re in charge now. They know the ins and outs. They know the history. It’s our responsibility to defer to them and ask them questions and follow their leadership.”
To read more advice from Obama’s White House team to Donald Trump’s incoming advisers, see the full story here, or pick up a copy of the latest issue of TIME magazine.