My First Six Months as a Junior Web Developer
The first six months as a Junior Developer has been a learning experience like no other that I have ever encountered in any previous place of work. This experience has been filled with times of trials, tribulations, and triumphs. All of which have all given me a solid foundation which I will carry through the rest of my career as a Web Developer. It is the amalgamation of these invaluable lessons learnt over the past six months that has instilled the confidence that I now have in my own capabilities as a coder and I will speak about these specific lessons I have learnt in further depth below.
The Importance of Mentorship and Collaboration:
For new developers, occasionally pairing or seeking out mentorship from a senior developer can quite literally turbo-charge your learning experience and has proven to be an essential aspect of my learning experience during my first six months as a Web Developer. Senior Developers for the most part will have a good idea of what technical wording they are able to use in order to most effectively convey the message that they are looking to teach you about. Quite often the more senior developers will present these lessons in layman’s terms. This will give you the opportunity to learn how to tackle certain tasks whilst minimizing being exposed to technical jargon that can invariably result in confusion for someone who is just starting out.
New Tools, Techniques, Processes and Languages:
Change can be a bit unsettling at first but in this industry, it is something that you need to grow accustomed to as you should always be picking up new tools, new processes and new ways of doing things that you may have never imagined using. Quite often new developers will shy away from learning about and using new tools or languages for that matter, simply because of the steep and arduous learning curve that they may be faced with. It is something every developer is faced with, however once you learn how to learn (as ridiculous as that sounds), you will be able to pick up new languages exponentially faster as you progress and hone in your development skills. The important thing is to take a chance and give it your best shot, because what do you have to lose?
Benefits of Being Exposed to New Frameworks:
Coming into this company, I had very basic understanding of a few select Frameworks but no real thorough comprehension of any in particular. The first project I had been assigned to was a CodeIgniter project which initially left me a with slight feeling of of worry as I had absolutely no knowledge or previous experience dealing with this particular Framework. Instead of panicking or giving in before the race had even begun, I put my learning cap back on and applied the basic skills that I had learnt from the Web Development program I had enrolled in. This project taught me the importance of referring to official Framework documentation. Whenever I was in doubt, this was my go-to and almost 95% of the time. It is in the official documentation that I was able to find an answer or at least some insight into what a potential solution could be.
You Need to Keep Learning in Order to Stay Ahead of the Curve:
A valuable lesson that the SAIT instructors drove into the students heads is to “Always be learning.” This is so true and it is absolutely essential to your success throughout your career, especially as a Web Developer. Unfortunately the educational system was geared around preparing a person for their first job. However, the roles and responsibilities associated to these opportunities are constantly changing with the adoption of new technologies. Therefore the candidates skillsets are having to adapt and adhere to these new guidelines in order to remain relevant and of valuable to the company. This is why I will jump at any opportunity to continue my learning and advance my skills as a Web Developer, whether it is a new Framework or new programming language. These newly acquired skills will ultimately help differentiate you as a developer and will serve as value added to the company as you take on more responsibilities.
Tolerance to Ambiguity and Taking on More Responsibilities:
There will be days as a Web Developer where you question your sanity and contemplate whether or not you made a grave mistake getting into such a ludicrous line of work. However, overtime your tolerance of ambiguity will increase as well, allowing you to keep focus on the tasks at hand and not be overwhelmed by the heaps of tasks that are to follow. A co-worker of mine said to me, “You know that if you finish these tasks on time or even early, there will just be more deadlines to follow immediately. So why worry?”. This resonated with me as I feel the need to get things done as soon as possible with the fear of deadlines looming over my head. Six months in, I am finally gaining the ability to do everything in my power and walk away from a hard day of work and not be consumed with worry about pending deadlines or outstanding tasks that have yet to be completed. The main thing to remember is that this is all apart of the learning experience and it will get easier with time. Everyone will have tough days and it is a best practice to have an go-to “distraction activity” for these particular moments. Whether it is foosball or just a walk around the block for you to take a break and come back with a fresh perspective, this will help mitigate the changes of mentally burning out.
The fear of gaining more responsibilities and not being able to perform at the level desired by management has been a concern for me since day one. But as time has gone by and I have been given larger more technical tasks, this fear has begun to dissipate. The feeling of worry and despair was soon replaced by a sense of excitement and wonderment, looking forward to the lessons that can be learnt as a result of these new responsibilities. I knew that no matter how hard the task was, I have the determination to go out and learn enough to get complete the task and worst case scenario was that I am surrounded by an extremely supportive group of developers that are more than willing to help walk through the process with me.
Have a Contingency Plan Just Incase Things go Wrong:
This seems to be a lesson that every developer has to learn the hard way before the severity sinks in. It isn’t until you have lost data that version control becomes a big deal, at least it wasn’t for me coming out of my school program. We learnt about GIT repositories in school but never really knew the detrimental effects that you could face if you chose to go without implementing some sort of version control on your projects. Fortunately, I haven’t had any major incidents with regards to data loss but there have been a few instances where I could have been saved time or headache by simply having used version control. This is simply because things can and will go wrong, we are only human and it is inevitable that we will make mistakes. If you have your source backed up to a repository, you will not only be able to see all of the changes made to your code within the source code but you can revert back to a particular commit seamlessly in case of a mix-up.
Believing in Yourself:
Last but definitely not least is what I feel the most important lesson that I have learnt in the past six months and it is to believe in yourself. There is no way that you are going to set out and accomplish a goal if you limit yourself with your beliefs, one of which is the belief in yourself and your own abilities. Additionally, if you don’t believe in yourself, then what makes you expect that others around you will? If you want to start building confidence, the best first step is to tell yourself, “Yes! I believe in myself and I can do this!”. This is simply because confidence is derived deep within from the belief in yourself and your abilities. Establishing a positive attitude towards yourself will help you realize and gain a better understanding that what separates you from accomplishing your goals is only time and some hard work. Mentally, this already has you inching towards your goal and can drastically increase the chances of reaching it. My father once told me that, “Each time you fail, you are one failure closer to succeeding!” and this is so true. So next time you are going through a rough patch in your code and ready to give up, take a walk, play some foosball, but more importantly – remind yourself that you have it within you to get the job done!