Notes to a Young Software Developer

A professional five years in gives some career advice to those who are just getting started.


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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.

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Tags: developer, data, programming, IT, corporate

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