My first six months of working as a software developer have been both gratifying and challenging. I’ve had the opportunity to use skills I have gained during my time at OSU, as well as gain new skills that I’ve learned on the job. Working as a developer while still in school has turned out to be extremely helpful at times and difficult in others. I may learn a new skill at work that can immediately be applied to my school assignments, or vice versa. At the same time, it can be challenging to spend 8+ hours working on a difficult project at work, then switch my focus to working on a challenging assignment at school. That said, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to already be working as a developer. I’d like to take this time to share my top three lessons that I have learned during my first six months on the job.
- Imposter syndrome is normal, and many (maybe even most) have it. During my first month on the job, I got to a place where I was really feeling the imposter syndrome setting in. Even though I was completing all the tasks assigned to me, I still felt like it was taking me longer to complete the tasks than I would have liked, and that anyone else on the team could have finished them faster. One day, I was talking to one of the senior developers on my team. He has over 20 years of experience. I brought up the fact that I was feeling a little imposter syndrome and he said “Yeah, that’s normal. We all have it, myself included.” Hearing that from him really helped me realize that it was okay to feel the way I was feeling, and to not let it get in my way.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. At first, I was very nervous about asking questions if I got stuck on a problem. I thought, “If I ask questions, it might reveal that I don’t have some of the skills that are expected.” Eventually, I ran into a problem that I just couldn’t figure out no matter how hard I tried. Eventually, I had to ask one of the senior developers on my team. At that point, I found out that the problem I was running into was due to the way a certain piece of functionality had been implemented. It had been implemented this way do to certain business needs (not necessarily because it was the best way to do it). At the end of the day, the implementation was very specific to our organization and no amount of Googling would have helped me through it. I learned that if I had asked earlier, I would have been able to figure it out and complete my work earlier. One caveat that I will make though, is that I know I learn best when I try to work my way through something myself first. My approach when I get stuck is to try my hardest to find a solution, and if I’m unable to figure it out, I ask very specific questions to help resolve the issue I’m having. Once that specific issue is resolved, I’ll continue working through the rest of the task.
- Find ways you can help out your team that aren’t necessarily coding related. As a new developer, I’ve found that sometimes I feel that the work I’m doing is much smaller than the work being done by more senior developers. However, by the nature of this being a post-bacc program, many of us are coming into it with former careers. We have skills and experience that we can contribute that may not even involve coding. For example, I work on a Scrum team and on that team, we do daily standup meetings which are led by our Scrum Master. If our Scrum Master is not working on a given day, I’ve started getting into the habit of leading that meeting. Another thing I have done is volunteer to take on as many code reviews as I can. Our team has a requirement that every pull request must be reviewed by at least one other developer. Because my tasks usually aren’t as large as some of the tasks being performed by more senior developers, it is a little easier for me to stop what I’m doing to complete a code review. It is also a great opportunity to look through the code of other developers and learn from it.
While I have certainly learned more than these three lessons during my first six months as a new developer, these are the three that have been most impactful for me. My hope is that it can help others who are also going to be starting a job as a new developer soon.