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Sylwia Vargas
Sylwia Vargas

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Talk Notes: "'Junior' Devs are the Solution to Many of Your Problems" (RailsConf 2021)

What is this post about: As a part of my professional growth, I make time to watch conference talks on Ruby, Rails, JS, React, tech writing, and tech trivia. Previously, I'd just watch them but now I will take and publish notes for future reference. This talk was a part of RailsConf 2021 that I'm participating at the time of writing.

Talk: 'Hosting: "Junior" Devs are the Solution to Many of Your Problems' by Josh Thompson

One-sentence summary: Early-career Software Developers, or ECSDs, have incredible value if their team/company/manager doesn't "lock themselves out" of accessing this value. Whoever figures out how to embrace the value of ECSDs will outperform their cohort. 📈💰🤗

Impression: I'm so glad that Josh has shared the slides and papers on his website for us to peruse because, sadly, the talk was a bit chaotic and difficult to follow.

Table of contents:


  • myth: "Junior devs take too long to onboard" (3-6 months)
    • everyone takes a long time to onboard if you don't have a smooth onboarding process
    • 3-6 months sounds like a guess-game
  • New devs suffer from the impostor syndrome and want to feel that they are bringing meaningful contributions
  • Involve experienced devs working with Entry Career Software Devs:
    • increases the capacity of the entire team
    • upfront investment but a meaningful return
  • When planning the onboarding experience:
    • what needs to happen between them getting access to GitHub and setting up their env AND them getting a ticket?
    • maybe there are some talk suggestions?
    • maybe you can record an application demo + embed it in your wiki?
    • is there a feature that involves crucial parts of the application that the person can rebuild (using git log)?
  • Example of a roadmap to improving the Early Career Software Developer onboarding:
    1. Create a ticket to make the effort legible
    2. Experienced Eng does set-up from scratch "as soon as possible"
    3. Next hire, the same engineer sits with the new eng while working through that guide
    4. Update the doc
    5. Go hire ECSD, same eng repeats the process with the ECSD
  • Measure the process:
    • what's measured gets managed
    • you will be improving this process because you're attentive to that
    • report during the stand-ups
  • How to get the organization to hire more juniors:
    1. get folks to agree that there is a problem
    2. show that much of the tasks already performed anyway
    3. show the cost-benefit of the solution
    4. present metrics of success

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