What I Learned In My First Year As A Junior Dev

Three key takeaways

Trapeze  / © bruno / Adobe Stock

Stacey Marks, Engineer

Mar. 19, 2020

This week marks my one-year anniversary working for Future Foundry! Last February, I would have never imagined everything I have accomplished in such a short amount of time. From learning and working with a variety of new technologies, to writing (and refactoring!) complicated, interactive features that I can’t show off enough. I love looking back to see how much I’ve grown. 

But getting to this point wasn’t easy at times. Imposter syndrome and a whole lot of self-doubt hindering me at the very beginning, as well as being afraid to speak up and ask for help. I was overwhelmed by the number of libraries available online, especially when being tasked with which ones to choose and which ones to lose. It felt as if everything I did was wrong and that I should never code again. 

After confiding in my fellow junior dev friends, I found we all had similarly overdramatic feelings. Although I can’t speak for what they’ve taken away from their companies, I can confidently relay some of the more important lessons I’ve learned here at Future Foundry.

Nobody Knows Everything

Accepting that there will always be gaps in my knowledge was difficult but necessary. Hearing that everyone has gaps in their knowledge was just outright confusing. “Even seniors?I thought. With tech stacks and tools constantly evolving, everyone needs to be flexible when it comes to learning not only the newest trends but what’s right for the job.

For example, the Future Foundry website was built with Gatsby, a site generator no one on the team had used before. This was my first exposure to no one having any experience with a certain technology, and it was fun watching how the familiarization process differed for different people. Between reading documentation, watching videos, and learning by trial and error, we were able to fill in the gaps in each others’ knowledge and create an awesome site in the end. 

Even as an individual, I was dreadfully unfamiliar with the following before my time at Future Foundry: Sketch, Zeplin, D3, React Hooks, Git Rebasing, Jira, Agile, Website Accessibility & Performance 

Now I have several friends that will consult me when they have questions regarding them!

Learning on the job happens in any position across all industries. As I inevitably face new challenges in the future, rather than doubting my abilities, I’ll know my good friends Google search, developer documentation, and online coding videos will always be there supporting me.

Don't Be Afraid To Speak Up And Ask Questions

But what happens when I Google and suddenly I’m on page 17 and I can’t find a working solution? Do I crumble under stress and hand in my resignation letter? No, I ask for help! Well, hopefully before page 17 of Google and too much time has been squandered. 

One of the first ‘rules’ I was given at Future Foundry was the ‘40-minute rule’. This rule urged people to try to solve a problem for up to 40 minutes on their own. If they still couldn't crack it, then that meant it was time to ask for outside help. 

Establishing this approach to work early on is important. It teaches that if one encounters an issue, don’t panic and ask for help immediately. Pulling other people away from their work for an issue that is easily solved with a quick google search isn’t a great look. But also if you’re toiling away for hours with no possible answer in sight, perhaps ask for help rather than wasting too much time on a single task. 

Even after being encouraged to ask questions, I was afraid at first because I thought my work wasn’t important or difficult enough to warrant asking for help. I quickly learned that when we’re all on the same team working towards the same goal, everyone is more than happy to help out.

Don’t Try To Reinvent The Wheel, But Do Your Research 

With so many popular libraries out there, it’s not necessary that all code is written from scratch. If something seems a bit extensive to write out, that’s because it probably is and a solution is most likely out there. 

However, it is important to do your research and vet each one. For instance, Lodash has 27 million downloads weekly and impressive numbers on Github, so it would be a safe bet that this is a well supported and well-maintained library. Others may not have such impressive numbers, but it's something one should examine when comparing which ones to use. 

Be aware though, that libraries are not magic little packages that don’t require any work. Sometimes integrating and styling libraries can require more effort than initially anticipated. While it may make some functionality easier, you may spend more time than it’s worth fighting to customize it. Assessing what is most important for the job is essential.

Starting out as a junior dev can be intimidating, but with a supportive team and the right mindset, you will succeed. It's important to remember that you’re not alone in learning new skills. Ask questions whenever you’re stuck. The people that have been there before will be glad to help. Using pre-existing resources is always an option, and should never feel like a cheap shortcut. Anybody who ever built a company started where you are now. It's because they knew the value of the knowledge around them that they were able to do it.