Showing up as a junior developer
— Junior developer, Developer tips, Career growth — 3 min read
As a junior developer, it's easy to feel like you're not bringing a lot of value to your team and company. This is a completely normal feeling. But regardless of your skill level, there are ways you can show up that makes you a valuable member of the team.
Breaks? Really? Yes! You may be tempted to keep pushing and working on that task you've been struggling with, but in reality, a break might be what you really need. This was something that was highly encouraged when I was in bootcamp. 3:34 pm was known as "International Coffee Time", and the start of our afternoon break. Your brain can only take so much information, and breaks are super important to help your brain process that information, and make room for more!
I do have to admit that I'm guilty of not taking as many breaks as I should, but the number of times I've been able to find the answer after taking a break is embarrassingly high. There's nothing like struggling the previous day and finding the answer within the first 15 minutes of your day. Get some stretches in, go get that cup of coffee or tea, or even go for a walk. A clear head and fresh eyes make all the difference, and will make you more productive.
But what if you still haven't figured out the issue after taking a break? It's time to put yourself out there and reach out to someone.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. There's no use in spending a whole day on a problem, only to have another developer take a look at it and solve it in 10 minutes. That's not to say you shouldn't try your best to tackle the issue yourself, but know when to give up and reach out for help. This is something I'm still working on myself, but in my experience, another set of eyes is always beneficial, and regardless of how experienced you are, you're still human after all. Pick an amount of time you're comfortable with. If you're still staring at your screen with no solution in sight after 30-60 minutes, it's time to ask.
Won't that make you look stupid? No, not at all. In fact, your coworker might even be extremely happy you asked. It's not worth the struggle and the possibility of missing a project deadline, and it's an opportunity for collaboration and pair programming. However, how you approach your coworker with your question makes a huge difference.
As much as they want to help you, it can be frustrating to have to ask basic questions to figure out your issue. The key is to bring receipts. No one is a mind reader, and the more evidence and research you can bring to the table, the faster you'll both be able to reach a solution. Explain your problem, and talk about the strategies you've tried while attempting to solve this issue. Did you find a Stack Overflow article? Are there any files you can link or any code you can copy over? Are there any screenshots you can take, or screen recordings you can make? Not only does this give the person you're reaching out to an idea of what the issue is, it also shows them you've attempted to solve it, and gives them a starting point.
My team lead loves screen recordings. I used to be super self conscious about making a video to explain the issue I was facing, but it's so much easier than typing out your question and taking screenshots. Did you know Slack just released a built-in screen recording feature?
These tips have really helped me grow as a junior developer this past year. I feel more confident about my abilities, have fostered really great relationships with my coworkers even as a remote employee, and I've learned tons. If you do try them out, let me know how they work for you by sending me an email at email@example.com.