Real Advice To New Devs

My 1 year anniversary as a Software Engineer is just around the corner. I wish I could say that I’ve been blogging about this journey the entire time, but I haven’t. So when people stumble upon my tech blog about my transition into this career, they are eventually met with an abrupt “end” as if I’ve “made it” and went off to live happily ever after.

While several stellar events have happened, such as speaking at RubyConf Australia in February and having the opportunity to be on Gregg Pollack’s podcast, the truth is that just because I landed a dev job doesn’t mean I’ve crossed the “finish line”; my story isn’t over yet. The “finish line” is actually just the beginning. This race isn’t a sprint; get ready for a marathon! While I appreciate the flattery, there’s absolutely no need to put me on a pedestal!

A year later, amongst the mini victories and supportive teammates/boss, I still struggle, often find myself frustrated, and realize that there’s SO much more to learn/improve upon. At times it feels overwhelming, like I can’t learn fast enough. At times it feels exciting, because I want to know all the things! At other times, it literally feels exhausting and I find myself wondering… is it just me, or are there other newbies out there who understand/feel the same?

To this day, I still get emails almost daily from aspiring developers looking for advice. So now that I’ve got some experience under my belt, here’s 5 of them:

  1. Never stop learning – I hope you love to learn because in this industry, the learning never stops. It’s actually pivotal to your success to take initiative, especially because the industry changes quickly. If you want to be/stay relevant, be in the know of tech trends (via blogs, twitter, etc.), build side projects, do some code katas over your morning cup of coffee, indulge in your fav learning tools even outside of your 9 to 5  (I personally like Upcase) and challenge yourself frequently. Stay curious. Have fun. Oh ya… data structures are important.
  2. Read the docs – Have you ever heard of RTFM? It stands for Read The F*cking Manual. Over this past year I’ve come to realize how valuable reading AND understanding documentation can be. I’ve frequently been too quick to google my questions and land upon a stack overflow answer without truly understanding WHY I’ve implemented a solution the way I did. That’s not acceptable and will slow down your progress. Take the time to RTFM. Trust me.
  3. Have compassion – Check out the Fixed vs Growth mindset work of Dr Carol Dweck and have compassion towards yourself (and all other living beings while we’re at it). Be kind to yourself.  Talk nicely to yourself. Force that internal dialog to stay positive. As much of an advocate I am for this, sometimes it’s hard to practice what I preach. I recently received a gentle reminder of this to change my statement of “I can’t figure this out” to “I haven’t figured this out…yet”. Practicing the alternative, negative thoughts/emotions/self-talk, will be detrimental to you in many different ways (spiritually, mentally, even physically). Be patient with yourself. You can do hard things.
  4. Community – Having a support system is SO important, but don’t forget to spread the love too. Even though I fall on the introverted side of the spectrum, I will always put myself out there to find and support a community of like-minded individuals or interests because when I do, it just feels right. In communities, regardless of its subject, you will make friends, find people of similar experiences, attend fun events, be able to lean on each other, ask each other questions/solve problems together, and encourage one another. Amazing opportunities have come too, as a result of my involvement in X, Y and Z. I’ve been able to extend opportunities to others as well. It’s beautiful, uplifting, and powerful. If you can’t find a community in person for whatever reason, seek them out online. It’s just as special.
  5. Exercise – I know, this tip may seem like it doesn’t belong, but exercising is how I cope. Especially on days where I feel stressed, exercising helps me to clear my mind, take off the edge, and do something good for myself at the same time. Find your own coping strategies. Know what they are and have them ready in your toolkit. Once I’ve cleared my mind I can usually come back to a problem with less frustration, and maybe even a new idea/approach. The other day I literally came to the solution of one of my tickets during a sweat session. It felt amazing.

That’s all for now. Wishing you the best luck (and hustle)!

xoxo, Shana.

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