10 Tips to survive being a junior developer… by Jorge Castaño

I was lost too. So begins his article Jorge Castaño, a Joppyter user who wanted to share with us some tips on the path of a developer when it starts: being junior.

Foto de Jorge Castaño, tech lead en Mercedes Benz

Jorge Castaño is a Senior FrontEnd Programmer, currently Tech Lead at Mercedes-Benz IT-Hub Madrid. He has worked on multiple JavaScript projects, such as fintech, banking, health, automotive and video games; in startups and large technology companies. Besides being passionate about technology, he does stand-up and improvisational comedy, which allows him to speak in public smoothly and communicate easily, being a very creative person.

Before I start, I want to clarify that for me someone junior is people with at least one year of experience. I know it’s wrong to talk about time when defining experience, but when we have been programming for only one year is when we have the basic notions of what it means to work in a team, in a project, in real life. Less than a year of experience would still be entry level, with your dreams, your ideals and probably no hobbies. People who have just finished their degree, a module, a bootcamp,… people who have no real professional experience yet.

You still have a lot to learn and my recommendation is that you flow through this first year, get through it and learn everything you can without judging yourself. Get over it and learn as much as you can without judging yourself. Hey! Don’t leave if you are in that group, don’t hate me yet, these tips are good for you too. But don’t follow them to the letter. And if you get to the end I leave you an audio gift 🎁 🎤.

Without further do’s, my 10 tips to survive being a junior developer.

  1. Go deep into the technology you use on a daily basis.
  2. Learn several frameworks
  3. Be curious
  4. Know every process down to the millimeter
  5. Know your strengths and weaknesses
  6. Know your environment
  7. Learn to work in a team
  8. Ask all the questions you have
  9. Motivate your creativity
  10. Be patient

1 – Go deep into the technology you use every day.  

You have to become an expert, know JavaScript, Java, Python, PHP… whatever language you use every day, but in detail. Frameworks come and go, but the programming languages they use will usually be the same. Learning the basics of a new framework will take you a week if you already know how to program.

2 – Learn various technologies and frameworks

Learn everything, don’t just focus on CSS (to say the least). Know several frameworks to be up to date and be able to move at the pace of technology. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but you do have to know how things are done with each tool, knowing how each one works will allow you to choose which one best solves your problem.

I am in favor of learning new technologies during working hours, because that way we spend as much time as possible and face real problems. Ask your boss to do a project, hackathon or workshop on Astro, Qwik or Svelte. If you get that experience in your workplace, the better, because after working 8 hours you will find it hard to log off and start programming parallel projects.

3 – Be curious about everything that surrounds a junior developer.

Investigate how what you do works. Inspect websites that you use often to see how they solve their problems. Do you have friends or LinkedIn contacts who do the same thing as you? Ask how they would do your tickets. One weekend a month learn a new library or framework and update your CV or website.

Don’t give up, technology advances too fast and you will be obsolete in less time than you expect.

4 – Know each daily process down to the last millimeter

Master every aspect of your day-to-day so you know what to expect from each of them.

  • Meetings: Daily, planning, retro, refinement, analysis,….
  • Programming workflow: GIT, thinking + programming, code reviews, pair programming,…

You will discover that life in software development is much more than programming.

5 – Know your strengths and weaknesses (at the level of a junior developer)

Ask your colleagues and bosses what you aregood and bad at. Don’t be afraid, you want to improve and that’s okay. Emphasize the part you are bad at. Balance your weaknesses. And above all, work hard at what you are good at, to stand out and be the number 1 in what you like the most.

Know yourself.

Don’t know what you’re missing or where to go? In this web you have defined and very complete roadmaps for most of the careers in the software world: https://roadmap.sh/roadmaps

6 – Know your environment

To grow, you will need to know how your part fits into the rest of the system. Learn about what’s outside your area. For example, if you are Frontend (like me), learn how a database works, a REST API and browser performance. We are part of a whole and by knowing that whole we will make better decisions.

7 – Learn to work as a team

Practice your communication skills. You will realize that defining problems, requirements, functionalities and giving feedback is an important part of software development. It is rare that we have to work individually (although there are exceptions). Learn how to deal with people and how to ask for help. Share information with your colleagues so that there are no knowledge silos.

Have questions? Ask a question.

Want to tell a colleague something? Tell them.

In the tech world, there’s an assumption that we’re introverted geeks. You may not be, but practice your communication.

8 – Ask all the questions you have

You’ll probably have some very experienced colleagues. Ask all the time, as they will give you valuable answers. Technical stuff, career, office life help… ask what is expected of you and how to improve.

It is common to be lost the first few years and people with more experience can guide us and make us focus on what we really need. Sometimes, it is faster to move when they help us than to wait to discover everything on our own.

9 – A junior developer also motivates your creativity

Think of several solutions for the tasks you have to develop. There are infinite solutions to solve any programming problem and probably 10 are viable. The more options you come up with, the closer you will be to the optimal solution.

Use your head, don’t fall into a rut or autopilot. Practice creativity to become more creative on a regular basis. Take a course in drawing, writing, theater,… Anything completely opposite to programming. This way you will have a new way of tackling problems.

10 – Be patient

Experience comes. I have worked with junior developers who seemed lost and a year and a half later you can see the change: they care, they are interested, they see mistakes before their time, we all want to grow and be important, but not everyone has the attitude of wanting to be better.

Give yourself time, work hard and cultivate your curiosity. And if you ever have doubts, look me up on LinkedIn and let’s chat. I trust you.

Bonus – Don’t work or study all the time

Go outside, play sports, get a good night’s sleep, have a hobby outside of your schedule. Rest is an important part of our life. Emptying our head and sleeping 8 hours helps us to regain strength and continue thinking in conditions. I know people who only talk about work, because they have no hobbies. Break that. Be interested in something outside your work and give it only the importance it has.

We work to live. Let your life not only be your work.

Go away for a weekend, go sightseeing, go to an escape room, go to the movies.

Again, you don’t have to follow these tips to the letter. If they work for you, ok. If not, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has their own path, this is the one I recommend and the one I try to follow.

Finally, the gift 🎁

¿Te sientes abrumado en el mundo del Software? Déjame acompañarte y sobrevivamos juntos al día a día del Desarrollo

Feeling overwhelmed in the world of Software? Let me join you and let’s survive together the day to day of Software Development. If you feel overwhelmed in the Software world and want to know how to go from Junior to Senior, you can listen to all my tips in The Developer Hour (https://go.ivoox.com/sq/1924655). Ten chapters with everything I tell the juniors that come to my team.

It’s not exactly an hour long, but the name deserves it.

And I will be closing, as the 1688380847532nd millisecond (since January 1, 1970) has just passed. Thank you for reading to the end.

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