When I stepped into my first role as a software developer, I remember being overwhelmed with questions and nerves. Until that point, I did most of my coding alone for either school or personal projects. Suddenly, I was part of a team and unsure what to expect or how to fit in. I was a bit worried that I might mess something up and be seen as the wrong choice for the position.
Looking back, I wish I had a guide to share helpful information on what to expect as I started my career in software development. So, I decided to create my own quick survival guide providing advice for junior developers.
1) Get to know your project.
When you dive into a new project, getting a firm grasp of its context is crucial. Every project has its own unique landscape – think target audience, operational rules, and use cases. This context influences your coding choices, from variable and function names to the features you’ll need to implement or update.
Whether it’s a grade-tracking system for teachers or a hospital database for patient information, understanding the specifics of the project is essential. You might need to know something as straightforward as a teacher only being allowed to modify their students’ grades or something more nuanced like the protocols for patient discharge.
You don’t have to grasp all this information on day one but make it a point to understand the project’s context. Sometimes that can be done by reviewing project documentation, but other times it will require asking questions to understand the why.
A comprehensive understanding of the project can make a significant difference in the quality and functionality of your code.
2) Write with intent.
Quality is everything when it comes to code. Every line we contribute to a project should reflect our best work because there’s often no going back once it’s deployed. Think of it this way: it’s much easier to tweak a blueprint than to remodel a recently finished house.
When writing your code, it’s essential to remember that other developers may need to review or work with it in the future. If you’re scratching your head over your own code, imagine someone else trying to decipher it without any context. Prioritizing code readability will prevent potential roadblocks in future development.
It’s good practice to seek feedback from your teammates to see if they can understand your code. If it’s not self-explanatory, consider revisiting it and adding comments to ensure that the code effectively communicates its purpose within the section. Never shy away from refining your work to maintain its readability and maintainability.
3) Seek guidance.
During my first few months on the job, I remember feeling this pressure to prove that hiring me was the right call. When I’d hit a roadblock, I would hesitate to ask for help, worried I’d seem like I didn’t know what I was doing. It is a valid concern, especially when you’re new to a firm. Your work is no longer for school or personal use – the stakes are higher, it’s normal to feel a little stressed.
However, in a company with a good culture and a supportive work environment, the more experienced developers will be more than happy to help. They are invested in making the project a success, and they more than likely understand how you feel because they were once in your shoes.
Naturally, everyone wants recognition for their contributions to a project, but here’s the thing: you can’t let that desire slow down the project. Initially, you might be able to handle things on your own, but as your workload increases, so do the questions.
Bottom line: asking for help doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for the job; it’s just part of growing and becoming a better developer. Every question is a step not just toward your improvement but the whole team’s success.
4) Know when to ask for help.
It might seem like we’re hitting the same note as above, but there’s a significant difference worth pointing out. Seeking guidance to improve yourself is a given, but realizing when it’s time to do so can sometimes be a challenge and skill of its own.
While the satisfaction of solving a problem can be all the fuel we need, it can sometimes hinder us in detecting when our work might be blocking the team. With certain projects, the timeline and budget are everything. When tasks drag on, they can strain both, sometimes significantly.
Don’t be the bottleneck of your team’s project. A question can make the difference in spending minutes vs. hours on something, and in extreme cases, implementing the right or wrong thing.
5) Don’t give in to impostor syndrome.
There will be a time when you might be assigned something that is complex in nature, and it makes you question your skills. Everyone hits that wall at some point, and it can feel worse when your colleagues seem to be breezing through their work with no problems.
In these moments, take a step back and ask yourself if the task is genuinely challenging or if there’s just a gap in your knowledge. If it’s the latter, the best thing you can do is understand you have a team willing to help.
These challenges present a unique opportunity to expand your skills and become the best developer you can be.
- Embrace the journey. Stepping into a career in software development can be nerve-wracking, but remember, every developer has to start somewhere.
- Context is Everything. Dive into the nuances of each project! Understanding the intended audience and specific use cases will make all the difference.
- Quality > Speed. Take time to write clean, understandable code. Remember, modifying “blueprints ” is easier before they become “structures.”
- Ask Questions. Never hesitate to seek answers. Every question is an opportunity to learn and improve.
- Timing Matters. Recognize when to push through independently and when to seek guidance. Balancing these two is an important skill to hone.
- Challenges = Opportunities to Grow. If something feels too challenging, shift your perspective, and view it as an opportunity to grow.
Reflecting on the beginning of my career, these are the small nuggets of wisdom I wish I had from day one. As you step into this role as a new developer, remember to be confident, rely on your colleagues, and value each achievement, no matter how small it may seem.