What was the moment you realized you weren’t such a newbie anymore?

Ben Halpern on June 22, 2019

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When a fellow dev asked for my help. In their eyes at least, I wasn't a newbie.


This! When people started asking my help.

Your brain goes in this mode: "are you serious? me? are you sure you're asking the right person?" :D

The answer is always: yes, you can do it, even if you're not an expert or you don't feel like you are


For me it’s the surprise when you feel like you know exactly how to help.


When I successfully engineered an entire system. It took months but I went from being handed the concept, a single ticket with 10 bullet points. To designing and building a very complex system that integrated with multiple applications in our ecosystem. That gave me so much confidence.


When I started rebasing like it was no big deal


For me it was when I realized that learning new languages was easier than I thought it was.


Oh that's a good one! I need to invest more time in different languages. I agree that it is not intimidating anymore, it's just quicker to reach for what I know.

But hey timely topic for me because I just started playing with elixir.


I try to, once a year, take a language that seems interesting and run through the intro learning stages. Usually the tutorials on their website, or some other place. I don't have to learn everything, just enough to get me familiar with the syntax, setting up the environment, developing some small tool, and trying to understand how the language solves problems compared to other languages.

If I like it enough, I will consider using it, if not, I will take what I learned and see how to apply it in what I use day to day. That's how I learned and stuck with python. I learned Erlang a few years ago but didn't stick with it. My latest is playing with Go and Rust. But I am not sure yet. I love them, but I also love python.


I work at a fairly small company and at the beginning, it was just me and my boss. Looking up to him and having him as the only person around I could compare myself to, I felt like such a newbie for years.

Eventually, we started to hire more people and I was fortunate enough to mentor several of them. It's weird, but I think it was when I was able to answer most of their questions, most of the time, that I realized that maybe I weren’t such a newbie anymore.

... I still feel like one, though 🤷‍♂️


I think we all still feel like a newb. Even years in.

It's not just you 😁


And that's a good thing.
Feeling like a newbie can motivate you to keep learning🤓.

Exactly right! When you stop feeling overwhelmed with keeping up, then you should probably retire 🤣


I'm kinda in a similar situation right now. Small startup, just me and my boss as main developers with the occasional contractor. Been working for about a year and coding for about 2. Still feel extremely newbish.

You got any tips for being in this kind of situation? Particularly in regards to not having people to compare yourself to


Sure plenty of tips.

  • Absorb everything.
  • Read everything.
  • Don't be afraid to tackle things you might think are out of your league.
  • Learn the apps infra. (You dont have to be devops, but understanding the whole picture helps with the event/request lifecycle. This will help you debug outside of your normal in app context)
  • Realize that you know more than you think.
  • Give yourself more credit.
  • Don't ever let someone tell you that you are 'almost there'. You are there, and you are killing it.
  • Have the goal to leave the company in a better position than you found it.
  • Realize they would not be there without your contributions.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. You are you, and you freaking rock.

I think it's important to realize that you don't have to compare yourself to others to stop feeling like a newbie.

For me, what helped the most, was starting to build a sense of accomplishment.

I started to keep a journal of all the things I had done that made me proud. It could be little things, like helping a colleague or finally fixing an overwhelming bug I had struggled with. It could be bigger things like finishing a client project I had taken on or finally finishing that side project I had struggled to take time out of my schedule to do.

Writing it down was key to me. On days where I feel like I'm no good or that newbie sensation starts creeping up on me again, I look in my journal, and remind myself that I can do this — and so can you! 💪

That sounds like a good idea. I keep a general for general life stuff I enjoy, never thought of keeping one for dev accomplishments. Thanks for the tip!


When I decided "Wait, we don't need a library for this" and wrote vanilla JS code to solve a problem (date picker, pop-up menu, dropdowns) in a faster, more performant way for users.

I was genuinely happy when I realized I would not have been able to do that just several months prior.


At the beginning of my career I had pretty bad soft skills because I went from solo guy working alone to being a part of the team. I'm very fortunate I had very good people around me who guided me and helped me understand the importance of soft skills.

When I managed to understand the importance of sof skills and utilize them in my day-to-day work my career started rapidly changing and I never looked back.

What I wanted to say is that I realized I weren't a newbie anymore when I learned to utilise my soft skills.


I love this answer. :) Too many people dismiss "soft skills" (I wish there was a better name for them) as skills that are easy or innate. I've also had to put a lot of time and effort into building my soft skills. I wish more people understood their value, especially in the tech industry.


When I realised that Junior Developers were coming to me, regularly, for help. That, and when I would be able to go into a meeting and chime in with some real, solid insight into a problem or discussion.

It was gradual - so gradual that I barely feel like I'm past the newbie stage.

To be fair though - I tend to like immersing myself back into being a newbie by looking at some topic I have absolutely no knowledge of - reminds me of how little I really know. I like being hungry for knowledge, I guess.


It is such a nice feeling being able to point others in the right direction!

I really feel that rush in meetings too, especially being at a new company. I don't proclaim to know your experience, but for me, being able to bring my past experiences into something new, really opened my eyes to how much knowledge I gained.

I have noticed by talking to others, and through my own life, that we really underestimate how much knowledge we gain over a period of time.

I really appreciated you sharing this, thanks!


When I started asking the question "why" instead of "how" and "what"?

  • Why are we building this new feature? Does analytics suggest that people really need that feature anyway?

In shorter terms, making decisions that benefit the product holistically. And always never losing the bigger picture.


I was on a hard mental state after traumatic period, whereas during which I was in school in parallel to university as well. I couldn't concentrate and I don't know how I found my job, but at the end of it - this hard period, I felt like a superman after two years. I understood everything, any chunk of code that I read (and wrote) and from completely dumb (I'm sorry...) I turned into professional like literally instantly. Yes, I have 8 years experience but when you're bypassing a trauma or a hard period it is super hard and all you can do literally is just to breath. Coding and challanging myself with quesion let me know there are other, good topics in life during that hard period. But when it was over I was like kinda of maestro in my speciality and my domains area.


Maybe it was when I encountered a segmentation fault in some complicated C++ code, and for the first time, I wasn't afraid, confused, baffled, or dreading it, but rather excited. I had it fixed within minutes. I don't remember the circumstances, just the thought "Wow, I'm actually good at this."


This - thanks for the trigger Jason :) In my case it was while debugging a hardware driver for an ISA bus card, that I suddenly realised I was enjoying it, although the swearing has never stopped..!


I was mentored by the developers of Winamp.

One day, one of these mentors asked me for help on a particular system I had specialized knowledge in but he didn't.

That's when I realized they were no longer mentors, but we were all peers helping each other out in all directions.


started programming at 9 years old, selling games to friends at 11, arrested for hacking at 16 and I'm now 28 and I STILL feel like i'm a newbie, not in that I don't know how to program, although sometimes I'll look back on old - largely undocumented code from my teens and be like I could program that virus in pure NASM assembly, how? - but more that I am acutely aware that there is never a point you stop learning in our industry and if like I did, you leave a senior software engineer job to go and do ~1~ ended up as years of travelling the world firstly as a backpacker and then moving with my now wife to japan, and then after 3 years apparently ECMA has released their first update in 10 years and people are using javascript server side for their containerized micro-services - in docker (called docker toolbox before I went travelling i believe) and that facebook has gone and changed the License on what was your go to library, React making it now unusable if you want to ever be sucessful (I don't want to start a flame war with that, that's my view of the change, your welcome to disagree and I could well be wrong and they only added the right to take react out of your product if you became competition out of fear google might use their framework) and that angular had gone from 2 -> 6 but forgot to count a number in there somewhere and that small nice language you'd really liked, typescript, had matured. thats when I realised you will forever be a newbie at some area (its taken me almost a year of language hoppping,framework fliting - and fluttering 🙈- and now I feel like i am almost the container orchastrating devops sysadmin designer engineer manager that I need to be to go it alone in the world of businesss, just have to master advertising, financials, promotion and social media adverts allowing the best ROI - I created a bot when the API FIRST came out from facebook, all in python, which also had a CRM and took him from $10k a month to $25k+ in the first month of its launch and was given access to facebooks dev benifits program for bot creator as I was one of the first to build one - now everyone has one. oh not to mention the rise of the unikernel comming soon.

I'm not saying this is the same for everyone though, it was my own fault for taking time out of the fastest moving industry, its just even if I master brainf**k and can program WASM from octals while my virtual ipfs backed (working on it, if you have ipfs, made-by.ukjp.app will take you to the ipfs site, otherwise well, my cloud server takes a break for some weekends) I will always know theres more to learn and that there are people who know a whole lot more about those than me. my cups half full but i'm thirsty for knowledge i guess!

TLDR; probably best you didn't super boring.


I work in webdev for 20 years.
That moment when I think I am not a newbie anymore and can do complex stuff quick, something happens and I spend next 3 days figuring out wtf is wrong with this thing and it misbehaving

Serious talk: when I can share my knowledge about some topic with some other person it they think I know a lot - that's the point I think I am not a complete newbie at this topic.
Probably that's the only confirmation that satisfies me.
Doing actual job(build complex web app or something) is not what makes me think I am not newbie.


I graduated from a bootcamp and felt a huge amount of imposter sydrome (as I think a lot of bootcamp grads must). I got a job as a Rails dev and felt so intimidated by all the other devs who were self taught from a young age, or had degrees.

I moved on from that company after a year, and a few months down the line my dev team lead from that company reached out and asked me to interview at his new company.

More than not feeling like a newbie (which I still do), it made me realise that the pace I was learning at was OK if he still wanted to work with me!


The first time a senior dev looked at my PR and approved it without corrections or comments, mentioning later on about the nice quality of the solution. Paired along with that, once I stoped asking others what to do next and started to delegate the next TODOs to myself.


The moment I realized I wasn't a newbie was when I was able to take what I had learned and teach it to someone else. I was working as a webdev at Netscape and I was able to talk to a new hire about web development and help her out. It was a great experience and a sense of responsibility came over me to help new folks on the web. I've been living that now for years and continue to try to be both a student and teacher every day.


Interesting question.
I think it is that moment, when other people, other devs ask for your help and you can solve their problem.
It's a win-win situation: they get a solution and you feel awesome with your skills😊


For me it will be when I became an authority in a given subject. At the moment I prefer to feel it everyday, as it helps to keep me on my toes and not get to comfortable.

That said, I don't feel it when the buck stops with me and my domain knowledge is required. Lol


When I was the lead developer for the Gentoo/AMD64 architecture. I was instrumental in bringing one of the first stable x86_64 versions of Linux to the general public. I managed the AMD64 team (and squashed bugs, as well) and was the release engineer for the architecture.

Good times.


Two things:

  1. People come to me for advice and I was able to help.
  2. Most of the things that I get stuck usually get solved by browsing GitHub issues and finding a workaround. Earlier it was just stackoverflow.I'm working on bigger problems now.

The first startup I worked at while in uni, the business didn't ultimately work but we were only three devs and we were making something real and tangible (it was a product made both by hardware and software)


For me it will be when I became an authority in a given subject. At the moment I prefer to feel it everyday,it helps to keep me on my toes. And not get comfortable.

That said, I don't feel it when the buck stops with me and my domain knowledge is required. Lol


I was about 9. I'd been writing code for about a year, and it had mostly been CLI-only. I wanted to create a spaceship fort out of the bunk-beds and comforters in our room so my brother and I could sit on the bottom bunk with the blankets as walls and the top bunk as a ceiling and see the computer monitor at the end like it's the screen we're looking at traveling through space.

I was able to program a (simulated) hand scanner that "authenticated" me as the spaceship pilot, after which a star field simulator displayed to make it look like we were traveling through space. I wrote it in QBASIC, and remember the feeling that I actually achieved what I set out to do.

I felt like a newbie before that, because:

  • I didn't know what I could do
  • I didn't know how to do what I wanted to do
  • If I got stuck, I didn't know how to push through

I felt like I wasn't such a newbie anymore after that because:

  • I was able to imagine what I wanted to do, and then actually do it
  • I knew what was involved in the process, and could move the pieces around at will
  • If I got stuck, I could find my own bugs and fix them

Plot twist: I was still a newbie. That was the moment I realized I wasn't such a newbie anymore, though. :)


When I questioned a decision made by our UX team about where certain text should hyperlink to. I was given the opportunity to explain my rationale to the UX team and my dev team; I was able to convince them 😊 and improve the UX of our app.


When I successfully migrated our company's entire website from Joomla to WordPress all by myself. It took a year and a half of my life but the end result was the confidence to know that I can meet the challenges in front of me.


For me the answer is simple: the moment I became a Freelance and I successfully earn money with my own code.
To explain more: working as a employee in different companies for 10 years gave me a lot of experience in coding, but I was always feeling like a newbie for various reasons. The first one is hierarchy. For lot of people hierarchy is OK and even feel safe, you're not responsible for everything you're doing, your boss is. You go to work at 9am, leave at 6pm, you got your money and your life going. Well I never been happy in this life, it was feeling too much like school, and at the end I was always developing idea of others, with their methods learning new stuff, but never getting this confidence to actually developing with my vision, my ideas. And I knew I was perfectly capable of doing that, I have a background in Math and Physics, complex stuff don't scare me.
The moment I changed my career becoming a freelance, answering needs from clients (from simple sprints to developing full applications) with my "own" organization of doing stuff and see that clients were happy and money was landing on my account, I knew I was not a newbie anymore. Steal constantly learning of course, this is where the fun is in development, but not considering myself as a newbie. And it feels good!


Once I started getting into the architecture stuff-- I think once you're starting to think higher-level (basically systems thinking), you're definitely past the newbie level.


The day I coded something and it all worked as expected in the first go.


I think it is that moment, when other people, other devs ask for your help and you can solve their problem.
It's a win-win situation: they get a solution and you feel awesome with your skills😊


3 days ago, a second friend asked me how I became a web developer. This was the time I realized I'm up the beginner-intermediate stage already and that I'm doing things right(i guess).


I've had a few moments, but the big one was when I started getting frustrated by the slow pace of video tutorial learning and started to prefer docs as the main source of information.


When some people i admire at work started to include me in their discuss and ask my opinion about sources, concepts, logics etc...


When devs I admire started asking for my opinion and actually listened.


Aside from what others have said, the time I wrote a program and it did exactly what I wanted on the 2nd run


The moment JavaScript closures finally clicked.

I'm still a newbie, but I'm not such a newbie anymore.


The times when I thought, "Oh this will be complicated and could take a long time," but I end up finishing in a few hours. Those moments show me how much I've actually learned.


I have this feeling when I read other devs code and see many ways how it can be improved.


When I could understand and identify design patterns in a codebase!


When I grew from a psd-to-html dev --> React/NodeJs developer --> Leading a small team.


When I open my code editor, and I know what I'm doing

I know what I'm doing


When I started on a new project and everyone was looking to me for answers and guidance.


I Still feel like a newbie... Sometimes when i help people i feel like i know something, but There is also so Much i don't know ☹️


When I was hired as CTO? I never officially had a junior title.


When I was invited to teach fellow veterans how to code.


When I built an admin Dashboard with Vue.
I had many graphs displaying data.
And also a map that toggles between normal/heat.


When people started asking me for advice and I legitimately knew the answer.
That was my eureka moment, where I realized "holy cow I am able to mentor people".


When I had to constantly correct my university professor. He didn’t know how to write memory safe C code and it was incredibly stressful.

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