Is 2020 the worst year to start a career change? Maybe, but it doesn’t mean you’ll fail at it.
I started working at Honeypot in February 2020 as a Junior Developer – my first dev job ever. And since March 12th, the company decided that every employee would work remotely until further notice which was, of course, a sanitary and ethical decision which was accepted by all.
But the decision was not ideal for working. This situation is not ideal for a junior developer.
“Why? Devs can work alone and remote as they wish,” you might be thinking.
Well, not that much, especially when you are in a team and need to be aligned with each stakeholder, in addition to your teammates.
To put the cherry on the top, the 16th of March was my first week in a new engineering team. So try to guess how abstract things can be when you haven’t worked with them yet, and you’re not focused on the same topics during sprints.
A whole new woooorld… but remote.
Being remote is fun once or twice a week when you have a 'focus on learning' day to work on a personal project. But when you are used to meeting your team in person, being 100% remote becomes a challenge.
Your routine changes, or what started to be one. It can be upsetting because you need to adjust to something new on top of already adjusting to something new. Joining and attending meetings can also be difficult. Most of the time you’re listening, and sometimes you’re overthinking about how to interact with your new teammates.
What are they talking about?
Should I ask now?
No, I’ll interrupt them.
And I’m not even mentioning the distraction factor.
So, as a junior, it’s really important to keep up with everything. Otherwise, it will be hard to grow and be comfortable with the product you’re working on and the people you are working with.
“Ok, but how do I keep up with everything in this crazy situation?”
I’m really glad you asked. Here are some things I’ve learned over the last month.
Structure your day and keep social links
First, make sure to address your thoughts to your manager. It’s important to keep contact and video call them on a regular basis. Ideally, send them a short morning message with your TO DOs, blockers and questions, especially if you don’t have a sprint's daily meeting, or if you feel insecure about what to say in this meeting.
One focus at a time
Second, focus on one thing at a time. It should be your daily motto, with or without remote work. It’s even more important today since being at home is an easy trap for multitasking.
As a junior, you can’t learn ALL THE THINGS in one day. Be patient with yourself, especially when you think you can learn 24/7 because you can’t go out and you’ve already watched all the Youtube videos and browsed Instagram twice.
So, keeping these things in mind, take the time to structure your day so you can achieve your tasks, one at a time.
Create a board to prioritize your tasks (Trello, Notion, your notebook!), and do your own personal standup, to make sure you have everything you need to achieve during your day! Ask yourself:
What did you work on yesterday?
What are you working on today?
What are the blockers preventing you from achieving it? What action points can help you with that?
I can’t describe how amazing it feels to check all the boxes at the end of the day!
You have too many tasks for the day? Don’t worry! Keep realistic goals and communicate when things are getting out of hand. Your manager will most likely understand.
Also, doing things well, but slowly, is way better… ;)
Imagine having three tickets to work on in one day. Two are bugs and the last one seems to be an easy feature to implement. “Challenge accepted! I can do it quickly.” At 6 pm you indeed added, committed and pushed - opened all pull requests. But you will soon realise that you forgot to write an acceptance test, called your manager three times because you were stuck on three different tickets (and they weren't available each time), you burst into tears at 4 pm because you spent one hour on an unexpected bug, and you forgot to eat and take breaks.
It’s far from being a pleasant day. Do yourself a favor and avoid this behavior as much as possible. It will help you even more to focus on learning, as well as remembering all those new concepts for future practice!
Take it easy
Yes, you have a lot to learn. Yes, it’s overwhelming. Yes, it’s not ideal to be stuck at home and blocked on a ticket.
You are not alone. Make sure you have the support you need in your team. And no, you are not a burden, so don’t stay mute on Slack when you clearly need help. It’s part of the learning process!
Pair programming is the best way to learn (from my personal experience), and communication apps do wonders nowadays. Slack allows both users to write on the shared screen, which is very convenient to show a line of code, keeping everyone focused on the right thing. And also draw flowers, because why not.
Zoom has fun backgrounds to add to your video chat which can hide the mess you have in your flat (because sorting your clothes is never the most fun activity).
What you should keep in mind
On a personal level, create a healthy routine to structure your day, and communicate and share with your teammates. Do one thing at a time, while learning one thing at a time. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to learn so much (and have the time for it!), but spamming your brain with too much information will not help for recollection.
Finally, feeling stuck is a typical situation junior devs will face, and not only once in their lifetime. Asking for help remotely should not be seen as a problem, but as a great opportunity to learn from and bond with each teammate during this uncertain and isolated time.
What the team should keep in mind
On a team level, I highly recommend that you check the reports and articles below to embrace team dynamic and get the best of remote work! Being remote does not mean we do not care for each other, nor should it decrease productivity. Go remote teams!
If you are not a junior dev, but you have a new colleague in your team, make sure to check on them throughout the week. Inclusion is key, and they will thank you for that <3