With an education under your belt, the next step is finding a job. You might feel invincible with all that coding knowledge rattling in your brain, but your first job in tech can make you feel dumb all over again.
When it comes to coding, where you came from doesn’t even matter all that much. Whether you just graduated from Stanford or some 10-week bootcamp, it’s all moot once you’ve got your name-badge and a desk: now you have to ship code. After you sit down at your new home away from home, here are a few things to keep in mind.
You Don’t Know Anything
Sorry, magna-cum-whatever-you-graduated-with… you’re a noob. You may know how to invert a binary tree (fun fact: you’ll probably never need to do that), but you don’t know a thing about being a developer or engineer.
Even worse than being the new kid is that nobody can give you a road-map forward. It’s not the Boy or Girl Scouts; you can’t get badges for learning things at work. Feeling dumb is just part and parcel with starting a new career.
Education can give you a great foundation, but it doesn’t teach you how to be a dev. That comes with experience, which is something you just don’t have yet. Staying humble will carry the day. Instead of trying to be the hotshot kid who graduated with honors, be affable and open to new methods, experiences and opportunities.
It’s Okay If the Job Is Scary
You’re not going to be ready for the job. Sitting down at an office computer, staring at an IDE – you’ll feel like it’s back to ‘hello world.’
And in a way, it is. The nerves are a good thing. Nervousness means you’re excited and want to do a good job. You want to nail your tasks and make your bosses happy.
It’s also more than coding. Meetings, sub-meetings, lunch chats about deliverables, designers driving you nuts with slight pixel-pushing updates to artboards – there are a lot of issues surrounding the code, which is what you went to school for.
Even when it’s just about coding, there are processes and chains of command you’re not familiar with. It can be exhausting. You’ll run into people who know different things, too. It’ll seem like they know more than you. They don’t. The knowledge is just different from yours.
Learn from your experiences and try not to repeat mistakes. That’s really the best you can hope for (and it’s enough).
Know Your Role
Are you writing unit tests all day? It’s probably really boring. Most jobs straight out of college or a bootcamp are. But it’s either that, or taking years off your life at some startup. (You chose wisely.)
The best thing you can do is learn the “how” and “why” of unit testing for the product you’re working on. That may sound simplistic, but even something as ho-hum as unit tests serve a larger purpose. It also teaches you where points of failure are, which will help you when you eventually move on from testing and into proper product development.
When you’re not writing tests, research them! Why are they good or bad? The better you understand that facet of what the team is doing, the better it is for everyone.
If you mold yourself into the unit-test master, you’ll either rise up on that team, or show that you’ve outgrown unit testing and are prepared for something else. A promotion brings more money, and being knowledgeable will only make your job easier. If you choose to move to a new team, it’s a new challenge, and maybe one you’re more passionate about.
We may only be touching on unit testing, but it’s applicable to any role at every job. The better you get at it, the faster you rise (up or out). It also helps should you migrate to a new company down the line.
Your Journey Has Only Begun
Your journey in tech will be long. These are only the first steps.
Coding is a good foot-in-the-door opportunity, even if you’re not crazy about what you do. If nothing more, use this job to get used to the day-to-day work involved in being a developer. When you move up (or into a new company), you’ll be better off because of the work you’re doing now.