Monday, July 22, 2024

Notes to a Young Software Developer

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I don’t know that five years ago I would have anticipated quite how far my career as a developer would come in such a short time. Like anything in life we appreciate both hills and valleys along the way.

While most of the time it’s been a lot of fun, there were certainly some embarrassments I could have lived without. Such as the time I forgot to kick off the weekend data warehouse imports that kick data up to the president Monday mornings, only to return and learn he was furious.

Like the time I had to be told that, no, Terry Tate was never an actual NFL linebacker, or the time I got so upset about a conflict with a coworker that I cried at work in front of everyone. (Contrary to popular belief, when you’re a girl crying at work does not gain you respect.)

It would have been nice to have learned these lessons the easy way. However, if that had been the case I wouldn’t be able to pass this wisdom on to you, budding programmer. So, stop coding for just a moment: here are some truths you’ll want to remember:

Love it (Or Leave It)

The most valuable thing I’ve learned applies not just to developers but to every profession: When you love what you do your job is no longer work.

Part of this is enjoying the people you work with. I didn’t think this was possible – I love nerds, but they can be anti-social at times. A lot of the ones I met in school weren’t exactly people I would choose to work beside. At the time I accepted it as part of the gig, I would love the work but not the people. That was until I was introduced to the modern nerd: we are a fun, knowledgeable bunch. I would highly recommend that you work very hard and learn all you can so you can cherry pick the company you work for and join us.

Big or Small Shop?

First, what kind of company do you want to code for? You may love big corporate structures, or you may like small dev shops. The sooner you figure this out the happier you’ll be. Personally, I have found that I’m a small company type of girl. I like forward-thinking people, and I like having the ability to contribute ideas that drive the business. You spend most of your waking time at work – it makes your whole life easier if you truly enjoy it.

Find a Mentor

The second most important thing to do is to find your programming mentor. Someone you look up to, whose work you admire, who knows their stuff.

You can walk up to this person and say, “Will you be my mentor?” I’m sure they’ll be flattered, but there’s a better way to do it. Show them what promise you have and how dedicated you are by constantly learning on your own, never asking the same question twice, and putting to practice the things they teach you. If you do these things you’ll show them you’re worth teaching and they’ll be happy to help you grow your knowledge and career.

Keep Learning

Always remember that you and you alone are responsible for expanding your knowledge. You can’t depend on the people around you to teach you everything you need to know. This is an extremely dynamic field. You can’t afford to fall behind.

Blogging and getting involved in online communities is a great way to keep aware. There are also many free events you can attend if you look online. In your free time make sure to research the technologies you’re not working with, either to come up with solutions for your current project(s) or to just keep up with where the field is trending. You don’t want to turn into one of those developers that code in the same language for 10 years only to wake up one day and realize that it is extinct and you aren’t marketable.

Admit You Fell Flat on Your Face

The last piece of advice I can leave you with is: don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes or that you were wrong. Don’t fear going up to someone you trust and admitting you don’t know something.

Hiding these things will only stunt your growth, as you can learn from these mistakes and more experienced developers can teach you the correct way to fix them and avoid them from the future. We’ve all been there, and can relate to how you’re feeling. One you learn, however, do everything you can to avoid doing it again.

Winston Churchhill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. “ While a bit pessimistic it’s a great phrase to remember.

The biggest mistake you can make as a developer is saying “I can’t” or “I give up.” The secret is never giving up and constantly learning. As long as you are consistently improving nothing can stop you. View every setback for its growth and learning potential and you wont be able to help being a success. Most importantly have fun and enjoy yourself.

(Oh, and Don’t Use this Line)

One final thing before I go: take it from someone who knows, the last thing you want to say is “It worked on my machine.” That’s a classic that never flies with anyone. Would you believe it?

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