So you're a developer now! Here's how to survive.
(This blog post is in progress)
- Lean on your community. You may end up working with a team you love and can commiserate with. Good for you! Or, you may end up working with a team you love but you can’t commiserate with - maybe you’re the newest. Or, you may end up working on a project or feature by yourself. DO NOT TRY TO GO THIS ALONE. Failing repeatedly is TOUGH when you’re alone and it can make your dev experience feel much more difficult than it actually is. So find a community you can lean on.
- Network! (but maybe networking isn’t what you think) If you haven’t heard it yet, you will hear over and over how important networking is in this field. I remember feeling terrified after being told I’d need to network. I’m not good at making small talk with strangers and then asking them for a job. So I didn’t do that. But I did become active in the community. When I started out, I didn’t feel like I could contribute much in the way of code expertise, so I just started volunteering my time wherever I could. I volunteered to help organize the UtahJS conference. I reviewed scholarship applications for React Rally last year. I went to meetups and I thanked the speakers after. I chimed in on the UtahJS slack and asked for help from those I admired. I helped people I met make connections they needed to do their job. I even started playing video games with people I’d only met on Slack. And before I knew it, I had people privately inviting me to apply for jobs they had open. And I’m pretty sure it’s because they had enough exposure to me to realize I wasn’t some psycho, and I’d actually be an okay person to work with. And that’s really all networking is. You’re just putting yourself out there and trying to make genuine connections with people. And eventually it will pay off.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s a losing battle and won’t do you any good. Instead, compare yourself to…yourself. We’ve all heard this but it’s VERY HARD. Think of how far you’ve come since you started learning this stuff. Think about the notes you took a month ago, or at the beginning of a new project, or when you first started learning to code. Do you need those notes anymore? Or have you learned those things that seemed so out of reach at the start? Have you grown as a developer, are you doing the best you can? That’s all that matters. Your circumstances are completely different from everyone else’s so it’s never a fair comparison anyway. And another reason to not compare yourself to what you think others know? …
- People often bluff. (especially developers?) They say no one knows what they’re doing in this field, that’s not entirely true - but often people are bluffing on what they do know. Go to any conference/class and watch how many people proclaim they’re very familiar with what’s being taught, but then they stick around. Happens constantly. Or after proclaiming their expertise they can’t answer questions from the speaker. Have you seen people in this field politely keep quiet so others can answer questions? No. It’s because they don’t know the answer either. Or they’re just as unsure as everyone else what the answer is. But they didn’t mind bluffing, did they? So don’t let what others seem to know affect your confidence. But if it does, remember…
- Hormones can affect your confidence. I feel like we all objectively know this but when you’re in the middle of code failure after failure, it can be hard to recognize. One week you’re queen of the world and the next you’re wondering if you’re ever going to really make it in this field. Part of it is just the nature of working in development right? - we vacillate between feeling like gods and feeling like children. But hormones contribute too. I encourage you to track your ups and downs and see if they occur cyclically at all. I did this for three months before realizing it was always the same 4 days in the same week of the month that I felt really down on myself. Now I pay no attention to the voice inside my head during that week.
- Your self is important. Care for it. If you have the choice, don’t work overtime. Don’t spend your precious weekends learning even more code. During your first year especially, you are learning enough during the workday. I know, we feel like we need to be learning even more, or keeping up to date on whatever the latest thing is, or learning the new thing that’s going to get us that great next job. But hold off if you can. After the learning curve of the first year, you will have more brain energy to tackle learning outside of work. In the meantime, if you’ve had a day of no wins as a developer, this is really tough and you need to take care of yourself. PJs by 6pm and movies on the couch? DO IT. A hike when you think you should be doing laundry? DO IT. You’re kind of in a war zone every day at work, so give yourself some peace the rest of the time.
- Give your brain playtime. Don’t limit your brain rest to the weekends, give your brain breaks at work too! How often have you thought of a coding solution while showering, brushing teeth, running? Mindless activities let our brain process tough things. Think of how you can create those mindless moments during the day. There is a reason your workplace has a ping-pong table, or lunchtime video games, or whatever it may be. Take advantage of it! Don’t work in a place with those types of perks? At least get up and take a walk around your building every hour. I promise it will make you a better developer!
- Pick a thing - then RUN WITH IT! There is a lot of pressure in this field to do many things so you can be successful. Blog. Livestream your coding. Make Youtube videos. Go to meetups. Speak at conferences. Have a strong social media presence. On and on. You do not have to do all those things. Pick a thing you like and run with it. I have friends who avoid social media at all costs, who never go to meetups, who don’t blog or have any kind of community presence at all. They all have wonderful, well-paying jobs. It’s going to be fine. Whatever the thing is that you enjoy, do that thing.
- Do what works for YOU.
Written on October 7, 2018