You are a junior developer now. What's next?

You have worked hard and get your first job in an IT company as a junior developer? First of all congratulation from the bottom of my heart 💓, you deserve it!

But now you are probably wondering, what's next? How do the first days look for junior developers?

First day be like. Greetings with a team, onboarding meeting with a team leader (manager, HR), unpacking your laptop, installing all programs that you need, logging in to your company email, etc. But will you have an opportunity to code some new bright features? Probably not today. But very soon.

Second day. One of your team member sends you an email with the link to a repository. Cool! Clone the repository, install dependencies, run the application... or wait, you have to update to config file. Ok. Ask about it your teammate, she or he said "Let's take a look at this after standup". Standup. After standup you get this config file. Finally you could run the application. What's next? Coding? Not yet. Your team leader may say "Please, go through the code base, and if you have any questions, please ask".

Third day. You have read some code but the code base is huge. You ask some questions, but you want to write a code, right? Ok, you get the ticket in Jira created specially for you. I believe this is some bug. You fixed it. Send a pull request. Forget about the test. Update. And ...the pull request accepted. 💪🥳 Congratulations! Your first commit in the code base.

Next days look pretty much the same but you are getting more context about the application and getting more complex tickets.

But now you have to work on your soft skills as well to handle the situations like:

  • You have a ticket and deadline very next day but it depends on another team member's work, and she or he has not finished yet.
  • You estimate the ticket for 3 days but on the second day you can see a problem and it turned out that it may take one week.
  • In your pull request the reviewer adds a comment and you do not agree with it.
  • You sent a pull request one week ago and it is still not accepted.

I think you get the idea what situations I am talking about. As you can see, your first days will be not only about coding. It will be also about working on your soft skills.

I have asked product managers in my team two questions "What do you expect from a junior developer?" and "How she or he could help you with a project?":

Katarzyna Łukasiewicz:

"What do you expect from a junior developer?"

The qualities I appreciate the most in a junior developer is willingness to learn and openness. I think that as long as you are focused on understanding the new environment and you're genuinely curious about your new project and colleagues, it will be fine. :) And if you're starting as a junior, remember that the PM is aware of the fact that you are not a senior yet, so don't be afraid of asking for help. It's even better when you do - it means you can communicate and judge the situation in a mature way.

"What value can she or he add to the project?"

There's no reason why a junior dev wouldn't bring some important value, just as any other team member. What is more, sometimes asking the right questions, even without knowing the answers yet, can in the end lead to a solution. I think that by being open, non judgemental, and by feeling responsible for the product, a junior dev can quickly build her or his position in a team. I'd say - broaden your technological knowledge, learn from your more experienced colleagues and remember that your attitude and soft skills are just as important.

Katarzyna Gałka:

"What do you expect from a junior developer?"

Open mind, positive attitude and a LOT of questions. There is nothing worse than not telling “I need your help” and spending hours on the topic without any result. I always encourage developers to ask questions. Maybe they will not get the straight forward answer on how the issue should be solved but just the direction what they should search for. Basically - trust the team - we want to help you.

"What value can she or he add to the project?"

Each time new person joins the team the dynamic of the team changes. Team waits for your fresh angle on our project, your questions can give us some topics to think about. This is also a great opportunity for the team to identify some lacks in the documentation. There will be obviously also some small tasks that you are able to do which will bring the whole team closer to achieve the goal.

Mateusz Klimczak:

"What do you expect from a junior developer?"

From a junior developer I expect above all a desire for continuous development, a proactive approach to problem solving, and a bit of humility to the challenges that arise in projects. Technical skills will grow with time, but an open mind and the right attitude will pay off throughout the whole developer’s career.

"What value can she or he add to the project?"

Junior developers can relieve more experienced colleagues in time-consuming tasks that do not require very advanced knowledge. Thanks to this, they get acquainted with the project without any fear of getting stuck at the very beginning and can improve their programming skills based on valuable comments in the code review. Also, a fresh look at the documentation is invaluable. Junior developers will quickly notice gaps and unclear topics in the documentation, which they can fill in on their own as one of the first tasks in the project.

As you can see in the beginning of your software developer's career coding skills might be sometimes not as significant as willingness to learn and having an open mind. Your positive attitude and responsibility might be the biggest visible values appreciated by the whole team from the day 1. Your technical skills and knowledge are important, I am not saying they are not. But remember that it is not the only area we have to work on during our career. Good luck!

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