Happy dev-versary to me! Not only have we finally reached the weekend, today marks the 4th year anniversary of my career in tech!
I started my first job as a junior frontend developer on 19th October 2015 and looking back, I’ve grown and learnt so much over the last 4 years of being a developer.
I wanted to share what I’ve learnt here, for anyone who’s entering into this role, or at least thinking about it:
1. Every company has their own tech speak, and you pick it up quickly
The first few months at my first developer job, I felt like I was drowning in terminology. Every meeting had me rushing back to my computer to Google a new term I’d heard, or whispering to my colleagues to ask what things meant, but after a few more months in that role, it was all second nature and I was able to speak more confidently to people about the projects we were working on without that niggling self-doubt.
Fast forward to my current job (that I’m now 7 months into), and I suddenly felt out of my depth again. Discussing things I’d not touched before, without being confident that I fully understood what it was I was dealing with (despite my many questions and Googlings), was a real knock, and all these extra terms and phrases I’d never heard of before really threw me.
Specifically, learning how video players on different television devices such as Amazon Firestick and the PS4 were all alien to me. What is an MPEG-DASH file? Subtitles come in different formats, and not all devices support them? And what the frickety-frack does DRM mean?!
Understanding all these things have come with time, and it’s all thanks to my patient colleagues, my thankfully meticulous note-taking, and the fountains of knowledge that all developers bow down to (Stack Overflow and Google).
So if you’re in a similar boat, make sure you ask questions and take loads of notes! And remember that every company (in tech or not) has their own language, and you’ll pick it up quicker than you think.
2. There are no ‘wrong’ answers
I write this specifically with coding in mind, because sometimes there are answers that are “more correct” than others. But the beautiful thing about coding is that anything you write that fixes a problem, is a solution.
Just like with the languages we speak every day, where you can write a variation of sentences that can have the same meaning, programming languages can be used in so many creative ways for the same purpose.
Some developers prefer short and sweet one liners with one letter variable names; some prefer a more structured solution with descriptive function names that make them more readable and easy to understand; some like to bundle all their functionality together; others like to separate out each distinct action into a separate reusable function in their own right.
What I’m learning at my current job is that I can write a solution to something and when my colleagues review it, they can disagree and make suggestions; this doesn’t mean my solution is wrong in anyway.
Programming is an art in itself, and there is no right or wrong way to code, although it varies from developer to developer what exactly is the best way to go about solving a problem. And that in itself is completely subjective!
3. Information is everywhere!
One of the most wonderful things about working in tech is the vast array of resources you have access to.
My first ever job out of university was in an accounts department, and there it felt like no one was really willing to give you time to share their knowledge with you – I get it, it was a fast-paced environment and there wasn’t much in the way of time to spend on training a newbie. I thought that was how it was meant to be.
But what I’ve loved about the last 4 years in a developer role is how open and encouraging everyone is. My manager in my first dev role would spend hours with me every week giving me resources, talking me through various coding ideologies, discussing my own code with me: all because she wanted me to learn and improve myself. She was amazing, and thankfully I’ve worked with many other amazing people since.
There are free tech talks you can go to where people (new to tech or with years of experience) share their knowledge in presentations. No one claims to be the top in their field (because really, who is?), they just know they have some knowledge that would be useful to share with others.
I love it. The last tech talk I went to was a couple of weeks ago, and there were 3 talks in the space of an hour. I learnt how to create music with live coding, how to develop a desktop app with Electron, and how to write more scalable, readable database queries ActiveRecord.
The ability to grow your skills and your knowledge base so often and so easily in this field is endless. You can do it through resources like (and not limited to): Stackoverflow, Google, a multitude of e-books and physical books, email newsletters you can sign up to, various technology events and meet ups you can attend, signing up to online courses, working with colleagues from all kinds of backgrounds with any kind of experience…
4. Imposter syndrome is real… And everyone experiences it
If you’re not familiar with the term “Imposter Syndrome“, then check out this post I wrote a while ago on it here. Put briefly, imposter syndrome is the belief that you’re not good enough for the job you’ve been hired for.
Essentially, no matter if you’re just starting out in your career or if you’ve been working in the industry your whole life, you can experience this feeling. You might feel as though you’ve tricked your employers into hiring you, or that everyone you work with can. To put it simply: you don’t think you’re as good as you are. It’s pretty common and is something that most people might feel in their jobs from time to time.
The truth is, you can’t know everything so even if you have years of experience, you’re going to need to ask some questions every now and then. This is sometimes a difficult lesson to learn, because for some people asking questions implies a lack of understanding, which fuels the idea that you’re a fraud – which is where imposter syndrome comes in to ruin the day!
I think the most important lesson I learned in these 4 years is probably the fact that I’m capable of understanding so much more than I thought, if I make the time to work hard on it. While I’m still not the most confident person, I can still say my confidence in my skills and ability to learn has improved vastly, which probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but really is a far cry from where I thought I’d be confidence-wise when I first left school.
How long have you been working in your industry for? What have you learnt that you would pass on to someone else who’s just getting into it?