What are the expectations of a junior developer?

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So you’ve just landed your first job as a Junior Developer. You’re likely feeling excited, nervous and maybe slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of being an actual developer. The first thing to remember is that companies offer Junior Developer jobs because they see it as an investment for long-term growth as opposed to an immediate payoff. 

The promise that lies in building you into a formidable developer is where the demand for Junior Software Developers forms. That means you can relax (a bit!) and anticipate an exciting immersion into real-world experience. This leap from a bootcamp or short course is sure to massively fast track your progress. We’re going to take you through the timeframes that you’ll encounter as a Junior Developer and precisely how to approach these periods.

Starting out 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. 

The best idea is to throw yourself in the deep end, and let go of the notion that you have to know everything and get everything right. After all, if you got everything right, the experienced developers that guide you wouldn’t have a job to do. 

Your best hacks are to be transparent – being vulnerable enough to indicate where you’re getting stuck or where you’re not understanding something. That will be both sincere and appreciated. People will be eager to help because everyone knows what it was like to start out. Be proactive and do your level best. Coworkers notice that passion and will always be happy to offer a helping hand.

If you need to know more, plug into the dev community and ask for help, contact your lecturers 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 Junior Developer who gets overwhelmed and goes back to the drawing board, and the type who acknowledges their shortcomings and makes up for them by having a deep curiosity and a good mix of humility and confidence.

Your first three months as a junior developer

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. You may also be expected to attend and contribute to company development meetings and assist the development manager with many aspects of software design and coding. The hack here comes down to an attitude of willingness. Stay open-minded and it will fill up with all you need to know.

During your first three months, your employer will be sussing out much more than your ability to code. 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.” Being resourceful is key. Even when you don’t have all the answers, it’s important to develop a sense of ownership over your work and make use of the tools and knowledge available to you.

Your first year as a junior developer

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 hack is to get a mentor and stick to them like glue. The final piece of advice is to simply put in a few extra hours of learning and you’ll remain one step ahead.

Are you wanting to make a move into the world of tech? Our expert-guided approach helps people develop job-ready, practical coding skills and start their career in tech in as little as 3 months. Our focus on practical experience and human-led learning means that you’ll make fast progress and learn to write code at the level that real developers do. 

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Editors note: this article was originally published in January 2019.