Work through the first month of trepidation

Dear new developer,

I remember the first month of my first job. I wasn’t sure who was who, what was what or even why was why. It was hard to find tasks that I felt helped the team. I wasn’t sure what words people used off-handedly meant. I’d read and re-read instructions, fearful that I wasn’t “doing it right.”

Every day was a struggle.

Eventually, I learned my way around. Around the code base. Around the organization. Around my tools. Around the team.

And everything got better.

And then I switched jobs and it happened again. The trepidation, I mean.

Yes, it was a bit easier, because I had previous experience to look back on. But I still needed to learn a ton to be effective at job #2. Eventually things got better.

And then I switched jobs and it happened again. The trepidation, I mean.

See a pattern? For every job I ever took, the first month was tough. You just don’t know, and worse, you don’t know what you don’t know. And even worse, you’ll often be hired into a company that is moving fast, so you may have a hard time finding someone to teach you.

There’s no easy solution, but there is a solution. Recognize that this will happen. Put your head down and do the work. Take one day at a time and celebrate your successes each time you leave work.

  • “Today, I learned how to deploy to our QA environment.”
  • “Today, I fixed two bugs and characterized a third.”
  • “Today, we were in a meeting and I made a meaningful comment.”
  • “Today, I figured out who the Docker experts are.”

And, soon enough, you’ll break through and find your way. Promise.

Sincerely,

Dan

Job hunting tips for new developers

Dear new developer,

Joe Marshall has some interesting tips for new developers (he calls them “junior developers to be” but developer nomenclature is so broken that I prefer the term “new”). They are focused around finding a job (and Joe has a newsletter to help 🙂 ).

They range from the simple: “Read coding interview books.” to the arduous: “Github helps, but take it beyond toys. Real projects have stakeholders.” to the practical: “Take notes during interviews.”

I purposely focus on all that you need to know to succeed as a new developer apart from getting a job (though I have written a few things about interviews). I do this for two reasons:

  1. I’m no expert at getting a job as a junior developer. It’s been a long time since I did that, and the world has changed. I’m not sure I’m a good resource to help anyone get a development job, since I’ve only gotten hired for full time employment four times in my career.
  2. There are a lot of other great resources out there, and it’s a topic that many write about (because it matters a lot)

But this choice doesn’t mean I can’t point to helpful posts elsewhere. Suggest you read the whole thing.

Sincerely,

Dan

Get an external email address

Dear new developer,

When you are starting at any company, you’ll get a company address: dan@company.com. You’ll want to use that for all company communications.

You may have a personal email address: fuzzyguy@gmail.com (not my real personal email address 🙂 ).

But as soon as you can, you’ll want to get an external email address at a reputable provider like gmail or protonmail and have a professional looking email address, something like danmoore@gmail.com. If your fullname is taken, then add digits or variations: dannymoore@gmail.com, dan12@gmail.com, etc.

If you want to get fancy, register your own domain name and then set up an email address: dan@danmoore.com.

There are a number of nice things about having this external email address:

  • You can put it on your resume when you are applying for jobs and it will look professional. Though there are a lot of means of communication, email is still the major method of cross business communication.
  • You can have it for life, which means in ten years when you want to reach out to that one woman who was a linux kernel specialist, you can search for the message you sent to her. I have had my personal email address for almost twenty years. I don’t often search far back, but when I do it’s nice to have one place to go and look.
  • You can use it in your goodbye email to your company to keep in touch with people. (You will eventually leave the company, and while I suggest you connect to everyone on LinkedIn, some people don’t use it. Almost everyone has an email.)
  • You can use it as the email address of record for your “developer brand” accounts. These accounts will follow you for life and you don’t want them tied to any company email address. Things like Stackoverflow, github, or your online community accounts should all be tied to this professional, external email address.

Sincerely,

Dan