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Julia 👩🏻‍💻 GDE
Julia 👩🏻‍💻 GDE

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Last day at my project: A reflection post

May 31 was my last day on my very first professional project at my company. The project is still going on, but I realized that I have already reached my limits in the project and can't learn anything new. That's when I decided to move on to another project that was more in line with my interests.

Table Of Contents

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed working with the team on this project and learned a lot in the process. I even feel that my knowledge (as a junior ❗) had quite an impact on this professional project - or at least I hope so 😅.

Getting started - onboarding process

I was part of the project since the end of December 2021 and it was my first professional project experience ever. The project itself was already in its final phase, or at least it should be. The official go live date was on February 23.
Our team consisted of a project manager (PM), a business analyst (BA), two testers, two backend developers, and two frontend developers, myself included.

During my onboarding process, which took about two weeks (setting up the environment, explaining the code and the project, reviewing the code), I wrote down as many things as I could because it seemed like there was no documentation at all. Good thing I like to create documentation and lists 🤓.

It wasn't that easy to get started on this project. Getting started working with a design system that you were told never to change or question, combined with a CMS that was flawed in many ways, and only bug tickets from the start.
At the same time I learned a lot about git, I became more confident in using it and learned some new and important commands that I now use regularly in my private life.

I had to resort to workarounds to get the styling I needed on so many levels, and I was ashamed of how my code looked 😰. What a strange project, I thought. And all of a sudden I was on my own because the other frontend developer had left the project overnight just before the big day.

Overwhelming moment

Usually a scrum team is cross-functional, which means that anyone can do anything. So it was quite difficult in our team because most of the leftover tickets had to do with the user interface. A lot of work for the frontend developers, less for the others. And as I mentioned, I was now completely on my own.

Suddenly I was responsible for answers to questions like, "How long do you think this ticket will take you?" or "What is the best approach to solve this ticket?" I was responsible for making sure the code is working and that I took the right approach and didn't screw it up with the design system and legacy code - no one there to review my code anymore.

I was getting more and more anxious because I didn't know any of these answers 🤯. Every time I scheduled, it took me at least 3x longer than I thought it would (reasons included issues with different code at various stages, CMS, server, production).

The code I wrote was getting worse and worse, lots of !important and lots of selectors within selectors within nested selectors to change just the one needed element (you have to imagine that on different stages the stylesheet from CMS suddenly grabbed, which complicated the whole thing, especially since the code was already written before I came, and now I had to fix the bugs). And I kept getting asked how much longer I needed for this particular ticket I was working on.

My heartbeat started to increase, I felt numb (a feeling I know all too well from my past and I never wanted to feel again), my mood got worse and worse, so my friend already suggested to quit 😵‍💫.

"This has to stop. Right now", I said to myself.
So I made a decision.

Game changing moment

Of course, I didn't want to give up, I wanted to express my thoughts and concerns and suggest changes regarding the front-end code of the project.
And that was my breakthrough 📈. The complete opposite of what I had believed until then occurred and the collaboration in the project improved significantly.

Let me tell you from the beginning.
The next time I sat with the PM in the refinement session from the backlog, I told him that clearly something needed to change. I told him about the code situation, about the strange decisions I have to make because I was told that I can't write the code differently, but I don't want to write the code that way anymore - that code would give me a bad reputation and it is just not good.

Unexpectedly, he was quite surprised. He didn't know anything about what I just told him, he always trusted the frontend developers before me that everything was good and working. And that I should just meet with our client and the developers there to discuss the situation.

That was all? That's all I had to do 😯? So I set up a meeting, talked to the developers, showed them the code and told them how I would refactor all the files, components and widgets in order to achieve clean code and ensure code quality.
And they were more than happy for me to make all these suggestions. They knew about the bad code all along, but the developers before me just didn't get it. But now there was hope for this code.

I spent another 3 months working 🐱‍💻 on this project, reworking everything, attending meetings with the CMS consultants to make suggestions for better widgets, taking full responsibility for reworking the UI backlog, and finally having another junior by my side, who I prepared perfectly for everything that was happening right now.

In the end, they wouldn't let me go. Until my last day, they couldn't believe that I was leaving the team and moving to another project, because my active behavior significantly increased the code quality and customer satisfaction. A nice feeling 🥰.

What I've learned - small (and big) wins

With the sole responsibility that I was suddenly given, my competence had increased within a very short period of time. The refinement meetings went well, my time estimates got better. The regular meetings with the client's devs and the CMS consultants largely strengthened my skills and knowledge of frontend development. I had developed a confident and professional appearance. Junior⁉️ Don't ever call me that again. That's not part of a junior's job description.

My mentoring skills have now improved in professional level, onboarding, regular code reviews, pair programming sessions, I really enjoyed being able to teach someone something or to finally talk about code with someone like-minded and try to find satisfactory solutions together.

In my last two days of work I started writing a document in Confluence (it had actually existed) about the onboarding process.
Furthermore I wrote a document with all my experience and knowledge regarding the code, the different behavior on the different git levels and much more so that upcoming developers don't have to invest so much time to find bugs 🪲.
This has also improved my documentation writing skills.

What I will be missing

At the end of the day, I will now miss that as a "junior" frontend developer, I was trusted and given so much responsibility, and my knowledge and recommendations were valued. You could almost think that I was considered a frontend team lead, as decisions were always made about me. That was a nice feeling that made me proud 😇.

Furthermore, I will especially miss my Senpai (the boss of the backend developers, which I mentioned in my article about git workflow). I could learn so much from him, about git, the project, he was always there when I needed help (if it wasn't about frontend, then he needed my help 😜).
We were a very good team and solved many components where frontend and backend had a bug at the same time, together and therefore faster. I thank him very much for his patience.

I've definitely grown in my role as a frontend developer, and more importantly, I've grown beyond myself.

Thank you

Thanks for your reading and time. I really appreciate it!

Top comments (3)

starswan profile image
Stephen Dicks

Wonderful how you observe that 'everybody needs to be able to do everything' but there were 2 'front-end' and 2 'back-end' developers on the project. Think we need to educate hiring managers and recruiters. And massive kudos for creating 'clean code' in CSS - otherwise (as you observe) its a nightmare (and actually the actual requirements are usually pretty simple - websites should have a consistent look and feel)

zangassis profile image
Assis Zang

Wow, I really understand what you went through, sometimes I feel like doing the same, saying how bad the project code is, but as I already know the answer would just be a waste of time. Glad it worked for you, it was really an amazing experience, and as for Junior, that's exactly what you said, you have senior potential, so be one.

yuridevat profile image
Julia 👩🏻‍💻 GDE

Thank you so much for reading my article and your insights on it. I hope, everything will work out for you as well, Assis.