What I Did to Survive My First Years as a Developer

The list of rules that I applied to become a complete developer at the start of my career

A short backstory

Before starting my internship at my current company Craftworkz, I had no experience building real applications. But I wanted to be able to create applications. Not just one part of an application, but an actual frontend, with an API and a pipeline that took care of the deployment. Knowing all this I wanted to learn as much as possible during my internship (3 months).

So I searched for an interesting internship and found one right in my wheelhouse. My task was to create a competitive dashboard for the company where employees could challenge other employees to a workout competition. So I created an Angular Frontend, Ionic mobile app and a Nodejs backend. The Ionic app had an integration with Apple Health kit and the backend had a Fitbit integration to extract all workouts to our MongoDB.

I know what you are thinking: “Great story bro, changed my life…”. But
thinking back, this was the greatest technical challenge that I had ever faced.
Not knowing anything about Angular, Ionic, Nodejs or MongoDB gave me a challenge outside of my comfort zone. Not picking a simple internship where I learned how to create a frontend with 70 rules of best-practices or an API with 80% test-coverage ignited a fire in me continuing until this day.

This also introduces my first rule in my rulebook.

Find a challenge and don’t get comfortable

Stepping out of your comfort zone will be scary at first, so don’t underestimate the stress that you put on yourself.

It’s called a challenge for a reason.

Speak less, listen more

A senior developer has walked the path which you dream to walk
A senior developer has walked the path which you dream to walk

But now all jokes aside, listen to your seniors. Listening to them, will help you avoid making the mistakes that they already encountered. And not only that. They probably created large production applications, worked in dozens of teams or even companies.

You don’t have to be silent when they speak. That’s not the clue, try to listen to them, and challenge their ideas with questions, even if the questions might be stupid.

And this introduces the next rule.

Ask questions

What to do when there is no room for questions?

Don’t ask a question every 5 minutes

Ask for feedback and learn to accept it

Code reviews in particular can be very frustrating. Every pull-request can have countless comments like:

  • Why is this code here?
  • This function is named poorly.
  • When inserting A in this number-input, the submit still works.

Remind yourself that you are the new one. You’re learning and listening. Apply some of the rules:

  1. Speak less, listen more: Just listen, apply changes.
  2. Ask questions: Why is this better for performance?

Take ownership

I once deleted my current working directory on a production server instead of a simple directory that had some useless files. I didn’t know how to fix it, so I asked for help. I asked my senior developer to help me and he explained how to revert the delete.

I took ownership of my mistake, the environment was not broken and I learned something new. WIN WIN WIN.

Accumulate knowledge

There are countless blogs about all technology you want. There are thousands of programming books. Youtube has a tutorial on how to break glass with your voice, so it probably has a tutorial on how to configure your local database.

I personally like reading books or blogs and listening podcasts. And this expanded my knowledge by a lot!

Learn concepts, not frameworks

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get good in 1 framework. But it means that some basic concepts can improve your skills in all frameworks.

Write down your goals

  1. Read 10 pages in book X
  2. Read 2 blogposts.
  3. Eat 2 pieces of fruits.
  4. Run 3 miles.
  5. Finish project X.

Writing these things down will help you maintain focus and avoid stress about the topics on the list. Because you won’t forget doing it.

Find a side project

Exercise

Conclusion

The answer is no. No one will give you a guide on how to survive your first years as a developer. There is no step-by-step guide to follow. You can only apply the rules that work for you. Read a lot and create your own set of rules.

Defining the rules and applying your knowledge will give you the confidence you need to achieve the things you want and overcome your challenges.

TLDR;

  • Speak less, listen more.
  • Ask questions, but don’t ask a question every 5 minutes.
  • Ask for feedback and learn to accept it
  • Take ownership
  • Accumulate knowledge
  • Learn concepts, not frameworks
  • Write down your goals
  • Find a side project

Defining the rules and applying your knowledge will give you the confidence you need to achieve the things you want and overcome your challenges.

Passionate Javascript/Typescript developer | Clean code fanatic | Trying to become a productivity guru | Sharing knowledge is part of the process

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