If you’ve followed me for years (and you read the title), you’re probably thinking, “Erik, you hypocrite.”
But let’s not confuse everyone else with inside baseball just yet. There will be plenty of time to get into why I called them “junior developers” in spite of really disliking that term.
So give me the rope with which to hang myself, and stay tuned for my advice to those embarking on a programming career.
What This Post Is and Is Not
What I want to do here today is offer some tips. But if I just wrote a post called, “Tips for Junior Developers,” I’d be, by my non-scientific making up of a number, the 79,667th person to write a post with that title.
And those tips would include things like:
- Be humble.
- Keep a developer journal and write down your mistakes to learn from.
- Read well-regarded books by prominent developers.
- Learn communication skills
I’m sorry, I need to stop. No offense to people who have written these things (including probably me at times). But I’m boring myself to tears just typing out the strawman.
So I won’t write that post. I promise.
Instead, this post will have what readers of this blog and my book have come to think of as my personal spin on it, which generally ranges somewhere between hyper-cynical and coldly pragmatic, depending on your point of view.
If you’ve never read it, you might want to check out my definition of the corporate hierarchy, to understand what I mean when I describe people in organizations as pragmatists, idealists, and opportunists. That may prove helpful for perspective, since I’d characterize so-called “junior” developers (let’s say people with < 2 years industry experience) as idealists by definition.
Those formative 2 years will determine whether you remain an idealist, graduate to journeyman idealist, give up and become a pragmatist, or… well, let’s not worry about opportunists here. The intersection of budding corporate opportunists and people looking for junior dev tips is probably the empty set.
Career-Savvy Tips for Junior Developers
If you’re embarking on a programming career, first of all, good for you.
Seriously. You’ve selected a path that will pay you handsomely and is, in my opinion, anyway, a lot of fun. I always thought of professional programming as “people pay me to solve puzzles.”
As a so-called junior developer (or an aspiring one), you’ve come from one of two very broad paths:
- Recent grad with a CS or related degree, looking for that first corporate job.
- You have professional experience, but are making a career transition, perhaps with the aid of a bootcamp.
So you’re either standing outside the club, leaning against the velvet rope and peering eagerly at the movers and shakers within, or else the bouncer has just waved you in, and you’re telling yourself, “play it cool, play it cool!”
You’ve waited and worked for this moment. The club analogy trivializes it, because you don’t spend months or years waiting to get into the club. (I mean, I don’t think so anyway — my days of going to anything called a “club” are so far in my rearview that I’d have to pull over for them to catch up.)
You’re grateful to have that first job, and to be welcomed into the society of real software developers. I get it, I find your enthusiasm infectious, and I’m happy for you.
But don’t let this excitement take your perspective. Because it will, and it does for most.
To understand what I mean, let’s get into the tips.