The junior developer survival guide is a series of multiple posts where I document and share some of my most valuable experiences, advice, learnings, lessons, answers to questions my past self had, mistakes I made (so that you don’t have to make them), and much more in an attempt to simplify and improve your life as a junior developer as much as I can.
This guide will touch upon topics that they don’t teach you in tutorials; I will be talking about non-technical matters that you learn on the job. The articles will be relatively short and concise so you spend less time reading and more time executing. 🙌🏻
Welcome to the ultimate junior web developer survival guide, we’ve made it to part 4! The theme of this week is working relationships and support systems. Because even if you complete all tutorials on the web at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels with the most incredible discipline, motivation, and ambition, becoming a skilled developer ultimately also involves the people around us who bring out the best in us all.
Prior to starting my very first software engineering internship, I reached out to the community and asked for advice. I received helpful replies that included asking a lot of questions and getting to know the people, to be visible, and so on. It was a single piece of advice given to me by a friend who already had a few internships under his belt that stood out the most because I had never heard it before: “never skip a 1 on 1 meeting with your manager”.
At the time, I wasn’t sure why this would be someone's key piece of advice. Or why I had to do it, why was it so incredibly important? But I decided not to question it any further and just followed up with it. Oftentimes when I checked my calendar and saw that I had a 1 on 1 meeting coming up with my manager, I used to think “Oh, but everything is going perfectly fine on my end. I don’t have anything to say, so there might not be a need to have this meeting”. However, by never skipping a meeting, I’ve learned that there is always something to talk about. It never hurts to double check whether your sense of accomplishment is shared with your manager or not. And just because you feel like everything is going well, it doesn’t mean that you can’t improve even more. This brings me to my next point..
Acknowledge that there is always room to grow and improve yourself. Feedback opportunities do not present themselves all that often and if they do, they are likely to be in very formal settings. Don’t wait for other people to give you feedback, and instead proactively seek it. Approach colleagues that you work with a lot, but also those that you do not share many interactions with.
Make sure you’re ready for honesty. Remember that you’re seeking feedback and constructive criticism, not praise. Some questions you could ask others as guidelines are:
- What is something you really appreciate about me? (continue doing)
- What would you encourage me to do differently? (stop doing)
- What would you love to see me do more of (and why)?
- What is something I could develop to add more value to the company or team?
In this post about advice for developers in the early stage of their careers, Molly Struve shares: “Having a good mentor and a solid support system is going to set you up for career success.”, and I couldn’t agree more. I have found it to be very helpful and valuable to talk to as many developers as you can and start building connections with them, even if you do not work together. Show interest in what they're working on and ask questions, even if it's completely out of your skillset or job description. Be open and honest with your manager or team lead, and share your milestones but also your struggles. Keep in mind that your support system does not have to consist of developers only. Support can come in many ways — ranging from help with problem-solving or a listening ear when you’re going through a bit of a rough time — and it’s wonderful to have people by your side through both good times and bad times.
Thanks for reading! What are some of your approaches to surrounding yourself with the right people?