I still remember my first day like it was yesterday. I was setting up my machine with a colleague. I had no idea what was going on, I felt overwhelmed for a while and even questioned myself about my career choices.
“Why did I decide to become a developer again?”
It hasn’t been a calm journey. Changing mentors, changing teams, not focusing on the right things, and COVID-19 forcing me to work remotely since my second month.
But I learned so much from it! That’s the perk of being a junior developer. There will be days where you make mistakes, and that’s normal. Everyone does. There’s even a saying for it: all devs mess up on one day in production.
So, here’s what I’ve learned in the last six months (don’t worry, I’m not about to upload my codebase ;) )
The importance of keeping focused
Yes, it’s obvious, but you can easily get distracted if you don’t keep it as a top priority.
Here is my personal experience:
As a former tech recruiter in the same company where I am now, I completed numerous projects and continued to receive suggestions from other teams: “Can you do a presentation of our platform to bootcamp graduates?” “Can you share your transition into tech at online events?” “Can you be a remote speaker for our next webinar?”The requests seemed endless.
Why did I say yes to them?
Because I liked the idea, the aim, but also how easy it is, compared to programming.
At the moment, it takes about a week to work on a ticket from the start until its deployment. It takes only a couple of hours to get everything ready for a presentation on tech interviews for bootcamp students.
When I was filling other requests outside of my programming work, I grew in confidence, and they were more efficient and faster to complete. And, let’s be honest, it was part of my comfort zone. But at this time, I had no idea I was getting side-tracked.
That’s why it’s important to:
Keep clear priorities and goals, even if you have to repeat it to yourself every day.
Be surrounded by a caring team/manager/mentor, who are not afraid to put you back on track.
The first point is easy to do. As a junior developer, you need to constantly learn. Easy, you might think. I thought I was learning, but it was clearly ineffective. We’ll get to that in a minute. What really helped me understand that I was doing too many non-tech projects were my team and my mentor. This wake-up call allowed me to take a step back and see that I was spending half days doing things that are not even part of a dev role.
I still remember it as the best feedback I ever received, and helped me reflect on my experience so far. So, here are a couple of takeaways.
1. Spend more time on learning.
Even if the learning is totally out of your comfort zone. Even if you have to say no to easier work. Otherwise, you won’t grow and will stay stuck in a role with very basic skills. Give yourself a few goals, define them as your priorities and recite them as your motto.
2. Focus on your priorities
You’ve set and defined your goals; now focus on them. You need to learn and learn well. We’re not geniuses. We need time to understand, remember and repeat our learnings (or remember our mistakes), and even more so in software development, where things can get abstract pretty fast.
3. Get a mentor, ASAP
Don’t be like me. Don’t go on a hunt for an online course that will explain everything to you about a framework. They don’t exist, and they can’t answer you when something is unclear.
And don’t get me started about books and courses being obsolete because the technologies grow super fast.
What really helped me is the support of a mentor. It can be someone at the office, from your school/university, a friend, or even someone you met at an event or workshop. I had the opportunity to have a mentor who is passionate about and has a great experience in the domain. Big thank you Ronnie if you read this article :)
Having a mentor is not only about someone being there to answer your questions. It’s also a great way to structure your way of learning, together, with a more experienced developer.
It might be overwhelming to keep all of these points in mind. But I’ll add one, which is probably the most important: Be patient with yourself. Learning can be at the top of your list, but also the most challenging.
At the end of the day, we’re just human beings, trying to do our best, from home, when the wifi allows it. There will be good days, there will be bad ones.
Give yourself time, and when you will reflect on what you’ve done, for the past 6 months, a year, you will see how much you learned!
If you are interested in becoming a mentee, there will be a following article about Mentorship & Learnings. In the meantime, feel free to check these resources to help you to find a mentor: