Aubrey Rhodes

The Five Struggles of a New Developer

November 09, 2018

Starting your job in a new field for you is never easy. Being a software developer can feel like pounding your head into a wall. So, starting off as a new developer can be really tough. You’ll face plenty of challenges. Questions like: “how do I do a join in SQL again?”, “what exactly is the difference between NPM and Yarn?”, and “oh good lord, why is git doing this?” will have you pulling your hair out from time to time. The harder things to figure out as a new developer will be how to work with your team and how to manage yourself. Here are five toughest challenges you’ll face as a new developer. If you figure out how to deal with these you will be well on your way to leveling up in a great career.

1. Not asking for help

When you start your new job it can feel like you need to have all of the answers. It is easy to believe that you don’t belong in this great new job. Just admitting you’re not sure about something can be painful. It can also feel like asking for help is just wasting your teammates time. Why should they stop what they are doing to help you with something that seems simple?

I’ve seen this happen time an time again, and I believe this is the leading situation for junior developers not making it farther in their career. You will end up pounding your head into a wall trying to come up with every answer yourself. You can also stunt your relationships with your team. Would you want to work with someone who always keeps to themselves?

2. Not forgiving yourself when you make a mistake

Every developer at some point in their career has either released a typo in a major feature, deleted something out of a database that they shouldn’t have, or taken the entire production environment down for hours on end. You are going to make mistakes. They will cause headaches to fix. They will annoy your users. They will cost your company money.

This is not what anyone wants. However, you and every single developer you will ever work with, are not perfect. You will try hard to avoid them, but they will happen. The important thing is how you come back from them, and to not become paralyzed by the fear of breaking something.

3. Being defensive about your work

It’s natural to be proud of the work you do. You’ll put in hours of work to write the code to turn a unit test green. Pushing up your code and getting a barrage of questions in a code review can feel like people are questioning your talent. How could Dave point out that a paren should be indented 2 more spaces? Doesn’t he know how hard you worked on that? The code works, why does it even matter?

Pushing back on questions about your work can send the signal to your team that you are not open to feedback. This can close off one of the biggest opportunities for you to learn on the job.

4. Measuring your worth by how much code you push

Participating in meetings, writing documentation, responding to email, and chatting with your coworkers from other departments can all feel like just distractions when you first start out. You feel like every moment of your working life needs to be pushing new features for your users to enjoy. Why are there so many potential time wasters in the office trying to keep you away from coding?

Keeping your head down at your desk and your mind in your IDE are important, but they are not the only way that developers add value to their organizations. If your not taking a breath from coding on a regular basis you’ll be missing out on countless opportunities to grow professionally.

5. Working too fast

Just like sitting through meetings can feel like you’re not working, testing your code and making sure you fully understand the requirements in a user story can feel like tasks that are holding you back. You’re going to want to move fast. This is doubly true when you need to fix something that is broken. You’ll want to push up a fix as soon as you find it.

Most of the time, working too fast will mean that you introduce more bugs than you fix. An important part of growing as a developer is learning to slow down so that you can get more done.

You don’t have to go it alone

Even though every new developer will face these struggles and more, you don’t have to face them alone. Many other people have walked this path before you, and many are willing to help. Ask your coworkers and friends if they faced issues like your seeing at work right now. I would bet that many of them will have great advice.

You can also find great resources online to help you on your way. I’ll be writing blog posts for handling each one of these issues as a new developer soon, so stay tuned!

Written by Aubrey Rhodes who builds software engineering teams in Atlanta.

© 2020 Aubrey Rhodes