Here’s a viewpoint that might encourage you if you’re an aspiring coder: “Hiring junior developers is an investment in their long-term potential rather than an immediate payoff.” So go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief, because the expectations of a junior developer do not include moving mountains – at least not in your first few months. The jump from bootcamp or short course into the working world is a big one, so buckle up for an exciting ride. Here’s what you can look forward to in your first year as a junior developer.
Different companies look for different skill-sets. You may be expected to be a “specialist generalist” and have broad knowledge and experience with using a number of languages and libraries. Alternatively, you may be expected to be a specialist in one language like Python or Ruby. Either way, as many experienced developers attest, you may be left feeling like you know absolutely nothing during your first few weeks. And quite frankly, if you don’t feel that way then something might be amiss at the company you’re working at. Your first weeks are meant to be a massive learning curve. Not only will you be faced with technical challenges but you’ll be bombarded by different personalities and processes. It’s a lot to take in. The first expectation? Be proactive.
If you need to know more, plug into the dev community and ask for help, contact your mentor or connect with a senior developer and ask questions. Read widely, set your Google alerts to flag the latest news on relevant topics, and stay in touch with what’s going on in the world of code. A proactive approach to learning the ropes, can make the difference between a dev who gets overwhelmed and goes back to the drawing board, and a developer who acknowledges their shortfalls and makes up for them by having an enquiring mind and a good mix of humility and confidence.
Your first three months
As a junior developer, you’ll be tasked with small and relatively simple bug fixes like typos or fixes that generally only involve a few lines of code. Depending on your level of skill and experience you may find these bug fixes quite easy to tackle, or more challenging. In every case though, remember to take your time.
During your first three months, your employer will be sussing out much more than your ability to code. It’s about your attitude. Do you put in minimal effort to get the job done or resort to quick fixes? Or are you conscientious about even the smallest tasks and make sure you double check your code? Hopefully you’ll adopt the latter approach because in the long run, developers who scrutinise their own work, ask for second opinions and draw on the experience of those around them, are the ones who advance to senior level and build viable careers.
According to Tom Kleingers, the owner of web architecture consultancy, Evanston Avenue: “The best [junior developers] find solutions to issues by using the tools at their disposal.” Resourcefulness and developing a sense of ownership over your work, especially when you don’t have the answers, goes a long way.
Your first year
As Ken Mazaika explains, during your first year, you’ll grow accustomed to something called “sprint planning.” This term describes a process whereby a traffic manager or dev team leader will receive build jobs, bug fixes and coding work as well as deadlines for when these tasks need to be completed. Once these tasks have been assigned, the team will meet to assign tasks to devs.
In the beginning, as a junior developer, you will be assigned the easier, quicker jobs with shorter lead times. Don’t underestimate your importance in the work cycle – your role is to solve problems quickly so that more senior developers can solve the longer term problems.
Give yourself a few months to settle in and get comfortable with the processes. Then, challenge yourself and ask to be assigned a task that’s a bit more complicated than what you’re used to. Be proactive about your growth as an employee and don’t be afraid to test your limits. Sometimes getting ahead is all about taking a few calculated risks.
Eventually every junior developer wants to know what they can do to level up their career and become a senior – and that’s another topic entirely. However, one key piece of advice that most successful coders have for juniors is, get a mentor and stick to them like glue. Stay curious, be open-minded and prepare to put in a few extra hours of learning.
Our mentors are standing by to show you the ropes, review your code and make sure you walk into your first junior developer role with confidence. Take the leap and enrol in a bootcamp or short course. Let’s make great things happen!