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Suzana Melo Moraes
Suzana Melo Moraes

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The challenge of “start” in Tech

Still buzzing about the fantastic discussion “Beyond the Code: Essential Skills for Success in Software Development”, I was invited to participate at the Dev Day Aotearoa 2023 conference a week ago.

Incidentally, the message delivered, mainly to graduates and junior developers, was not so different from my speech at the Migrants in Tech meetup event last month. Both talks focused on a central point that both audiences are handling at that moment of their lives: the challenge of the “start”.

The start phase is always challenging, especially as it is usually followed by uncertainty. It can be a new career, a new job, a new project, a new activity or a new relationship.
I moved to New Zealand in 2014, and since then, I had many significant “starts”. Start learning English. Start cleaning different houses with different products than in my hometown. Start driving a van and deliver food on the streets of a new city. Start operating a checkout in a supermarket. Start learning a programming language with no tech background.

Each time was as hard as any other start, but I also accumulated learnings to help me in the next one.
I learned that I will never be 100% prepared for a new start, but I also learned to be comfortable with that.

Here are some of the leanings that helped me to start a new career as a software developer:

  • Fundamentals are crucial - Build your foundations, prepare yourself and anticipate steps and knowledge as much as possible. It helps to handle uncertainty and build on top of what you already know.
  • However, it’s important to remember that no one knows everything, nor do you need to - Be comfortable with that.
  • Practice, practice, practice - Practice leads to perfection, but be kind to yourself. If you get only 1% better each day, you will be 365% better in one year.
  • Find your genius zone to shine and stand out of the crowd - Which skill, area or knowledge are you most comfortable with? There are many ways to show your work and value, as no “one size fits all” exists. You can build projects and link them to your profile, contribute to open-source projects, or mentor others (there is always someone who knows less than you and needs your insights). You can write articles about your projects, learnings or research or, if you can, discuss or give talks about them in meetups. Tell it to your network, and post it on LinkedIn and other channels.
  • Increase network - I already mentioned meetups, but I’m also including any other events you can make: conferences, workshops, webinars and job fairs. Use the opportunity provided by those events to connect with people, in person and online, and share what you are doing to them.
  • Improve your communication skills - Practise asking questions and clearly explaining your ideas, challenges, and points of view (Don’t forget that people don't read minds). A great way to achieve it is to write down what you want to say and read it to yourself first. Don’t forget to ask for feedback and suggestions on where to improve next time.
  • Have I said, "Ask questions"? - Curiosity and willingness to learn are crucial for growth. Be open-minded, and don’t hesitate to ask questions when necessary. It is likely that someone else already struggled in the past with the same problem you are struggling with now and already knows the answer that you spent hours looking for.
  • Don’t undervalue your previous experience - They matter and can help you excel in your next job. All kinds of knowledge are valuable and transferable, especially soft skills. I prefer to call them “Human Skills” as, at the end of the day, we all are humans relating with each other in teams, groups or families.
  • Compare yourself with you yesterday, not with others today - Take the time to look back and appreciate your growth because it is something to be proud of.

I'm an immigrant woman who moved countries, learned a new language, pursued a career in tech after my 40s and restarted many times. Learning software development is still hard, and I fight against impostor syndrome daily, but as I mentioned, there is always someone who knows less than you and needs your insights, and I'm sharing my learnings.

I can't wait to hear yours! ❤️

This article is also published on LinkedIn

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