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Simon Barker
Simon Barker

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Expectations on Junior Developers are not what you think

Your first day as a junior developer is gong to be scary, not because being a junior dev is scary but because the first day of any job is scary. Meeting new people, seeing a new code base, expectations that you can and will write code and deliver is on time, all of these combine to be quite stressful.

I have a secret to tell you, the expectations on junior developers is pretty low and that's because the job of being a developer is different from simply "knowing how to code".

  • Communicating with none technical people
  • Estimated how long something will take
  • Learning the existing code base and data structures
  • Working with git in a team
  • Debugging live applications

All of these are core skills of being a developer that can really only be learned "on the job", with this being your first job no one expects you to know all these things.

So what do they expect from you?

  1. That you can code simple solutions to simple problems. Don't get fancy, your code will likely not be the best structured and so 3 levels of ternary on one line isn't going to impress anyone if they can't understand it. Use simpler constructs with good variable and function names and focus on expressing your codes intention as clearly as possible.
  2. That you will listen. You might come in with a few projects under your belt but in the grand scheme of things you just haven't been coding long enough to not be able to learn something from everyone on the team. Right now, the best thing you can do is learn about the code base, learn about the business needs and absorb as much as you can on all aspects of developer life. This also applies to feedback, don't be defensive about your code, accept code review comments and make changes as suggested.
  3. That you are keen no matter the technology. Companies that have existing code will have a lot of different technologies across their IT estate. If you know React and server-less but get asked to work on some crusty old PHP and JQuery app then just dive in. Take it as an opportunity to learn something and increase your future employability. If you want a long fruitful career in tech then you will be changing language and technology often, at this stage working on older stuff is just as valuable as new stuff.
  4. That you help. Don't just stick to your work and ignore what's going on around you. If a deployment has gone wrong, find out if you can help - it might just be monitoring a stream of logs but it's helping the team. If the database has gone down and customers are sending support requests faster than they can be closed, then see if you can help answer them. If someone is stuck, even if they are a senior, ask if they can explain it to you, often giving them someone to talk it though with leads to a solution due to the new perspective they gain.

Following these 4 tips will put you head and shoulders above many new developers and show you are in the career to develop both technically and as a professional.

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