Things I learnt from my first developer role

My key takeaways from my experiences in my first role as a web developer

By Daniel Bate

10 Jan, 2021

As I embark on my second role, I wanted to share some of my key, non-technical takeaways from what has been an incredibly beneficial experience at my first developer role. My technical and professional development has come so far, and these are some thoughts that I will take with me throughout my career.

You are your own biggest critic

When I first started I was really worried about making mistakes and was eager to prove myself. Submitting pull requests and having my code reviewed was mentally one of the toughest aspects of the job. I love to code and it’s a big part of my life, and this was the first time that anyone had analysed my work so closely and it felt like I was being judged more on a personal level, than on the work I was delivering. I've come to love and really appreciate these opportunities. In practice, as a junior developer, this was an opportunity to get some really beneficial advice on how I should be working from people that have far more experience than myself and that I look up to and one day aspire to be at their level. I quickly came to realise that the reason I was so fearful of these situations was because I was being highly critical of my work, and not satisfied that it would be up to their standards. This was never the case, although my first pull request for a ticket is rarely perfect first time, that is literally why we have the code review process before it gets merged in. Furthermore no one has ever been hyper critical, just offering constructive criticisms that have helped me to develop and get too where I am today. In truth, I was the biggest critic of my own work, and no one cares about the work that I produce as much as I do.

Being around experienced developers is incredibly valuable

One of my first memories of being in an office environment with experienced developers was pretty daunting. We were all in the kitchen just getting a coffee and the other devs were discussing projects that they were working on and debating certain aspects. I remember feeling completely out of depth and anxious that I couldn't contribute to the conversation. However soon I came to realise that even just by being a bystander to these conversations that I was unintentionally learning so much and absorbing a lot of information. Although coding as a full time job was definitely a catalyst to my technical progression, I really value just being able to work with great developers. And I think it is a significant factor in why I have progressed so much over the last 18 months since starting my first role. Consequently I relish the opportunities to work closely with great developers, they quickly become as much as a mentor as they are a coworker or teammate.

There is zero expectation for you to perform immediately

This was my greatest combatant for imposter syndrome. I remember building myself up massively that I needed to turn up and make an impact. As soon as I started going through the codebase I realised this was going to be a big ask, and I didn't know as much as I thought I did. However the developers around me knew and appreciated that before I did. Therefore there was zero pressure and expectation on myself as an entry level developer to perform immediately. If a company has hired an entry level developer and is expecting you to immediately deliver production ready features when you've just started and you obviously aren't ready, that's on them.

Everyone wants you to succeed

You feel like you’ve been under attack during the interview process, but now you’ve earned your place and are part of the team. From this point, everyone just wants you to learn and grow, so that you can be a contributing member of the team. And that means don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help or ask silly questions, because now it is directly in their interest for you to grow. It may feel awkward at first but from a business perspective, they will get a far quicker return on investment the faster that you learn, and you will progress so quickly in your first role if you speak up and absorb from the people around you, that ultimately they want you to progress as much as you do.

If you are starting your first role soon, I hope you find some comfort from this post as no one really knows what to expect no matter how prepared you are. There are so many variables regardless of your technical ability that will impact the experience. So just be ready to learn and enjoy the process, and good luck.