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Josefine Schfr
Josefine Schfr

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What I have learned in my first 6 months as a developer

You know these images you had in head as a kid (teenager / college student / in my case still)? Of what you will be, when you grow up? I wasn’t exactly shy to dream big, yet I never would have imagined calling myself a programmer. Regardless, I just very recently got over the fact that I was hired to be a frontend developer - and am currently coming to terms with the fact that I am still around to actually do the job. The world is full of surprises.

Time flies, when you are having fun. Also, when you are terrified.

Don’t get me wrong, I like pretty much everything about being a developer and my new work environment. But for me, going into a new field I knew nothing about was like entering a new school after moving across the country when you are 8 - I was very curious, but also terrified the other kids wouldn’t like me and were very far ahead in the curriculum. Now that I am starting to shake that off, I wanted to share some of the things, I learned in the past 6 months.

It’s not as scary as it seems

Say it out loud - it really isn’t. Generally, people want you to succeed. Your colleagues know what it’s like to start out, they’ve all done it at some point, and they have no intention to make it harder on you. No one expects you to know it all on the first day or will humiliate you if you don’t. Programmers are lucky enough to be in high demand and even with little experience most companies will welcome you with open arms as long as you are motivated to learn.

There are no stupid questions

To me, part of the beauty of technology is how quickly it develops. It seems as if there are new updates, programming languages, devices, methods and skills every day. That’s a little intimidating at first, but it also means that nobody could possibly know it all. Even the smartest back end expert might be completely clueless about what to do with CSS grids, and vice versa. When you stop pretending to know what everybody is talking about and start asking seemingly basic questions, you will learn so more than you could ever have imagined.

It will make sense eventually

From the first day at my current job, I kept a list of ‘things to find out’. What exactly does Maven do? Why is the cute little whale called Docker and nothing seems to work out when it’s not running? Because I was completely new, many of these things didn’t just intuitive make sense. Funnily enough, my list doesn’t get shorter, even as I am slowly able to cross some items (Maven, Docker,...) off the list - there are so many interesting things out there to investigate. Whatever you learned during your education - it’s probably different out in the ‘real world’ and in every different job respectively.

A teacher of mine said during our programming bootcamp: “Being a good developer is not about knowing everything - it’s about knowing how to look it up.” Whatever you’re dealing with, there is probably a stackoverflow discussion, blog post or simply documentation about it.

Get ready to keep learning

The past months have been a real rollercoaster for me: some days, everything just works out and I feel like I can move mountains - other days I am wondering when my colleagues will find out that I have no clue what I am doing. From what I have heard, this is part of the package and happens to the best of them - it seems there will always be an update, a new language or method that mixes up everything you thought you knew. I guess (and hope) that with experience comes the kind of resilience, optimism and stubbornness you need to deal with this on a regular basis.

You get what you give

Like with everything, the more mistakes you make - the faster you get feedback and are able to improve. Even if it’s tempting to hide and be passive: get out there, try stuff and make mistakes. Dare to ask for feedback - and return it. It’s terrifying to put oneself out there, especially when you are a newbie. But isn’t it even scarier to avoid progress altogether? If you avoid being criticized, you usually also don’t get much positive feedback, either. If you’re scared, just take small steps: ask a colleague for concrete feedback on a project, present a solution in a small team where you feel safe. The more you do it, the easier it will get.

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