Whether you are about to finish university, just started coding or you are about to start a new development job, asking what it is like to be a web developer is a very natural question. I asked myself that very same question from the second I realized that I could get a job for writing code.
I was lucky enough to work at different types of companies and at different stages of my life. This helped me see what it is like to be a new hire, without a lot of experience.
So what is it like? Scary, challenging, full of doubts (hello there, imposter syndrome), rewarding, full of personal growth and more. In order to give you a better idea, I’ll split this up in to three phases: Doubt, Learning and Growth.
“oh sh*t, I have no idea what I’m doing here”. That’s the alternative name for this phase. It’s normal to get overwhelmed by the amount of things that you have to learn, the new workflow of the company that you have to adjust to and sometimes the types of technologies that the company uses.
At this initial stage, it’s common to start wondering if you’re at all good enough to be a professional web developer. There is a big chance that everything that is said during the standup meeting is complete gibberish to your ears. Think of the first few days, weeks at a new job as being dropped into a freezing body of water, it’s unpleasant right off the bat but you’re body will most likely adjust after some time.
When you are having all those feelings, I want you to remember that you should indeed be overwhelmed! You’ll be working on software that has been under development for months or years, probably multiple people with different skill levels worked on it, so there is no way that you will jump in and feel instantly comfortable with everything.
The workflow will also be new. The company might have been making changes to their workflow since its creation and you weren’t there when the decisions were made.
If you always keep in mind that this is a phase and that you will get through it with time and effort, then you should be fine and ready to start learning
At this stage you’ll actually start to learn. Prior to this stage, it was more about survival. You just had to figure out where everything fits in, where you fit in and what you should be doing. You read the docs, you did tutorial, you tried to understand the codebase and now you can actually process what the senior developer is telling you.
You’ll feel stupid and that’s a good thing. I really believe that if you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.
You’ll most likely have people with a lot of experience, people who think differently from the way you think and this will be a great way to get ahead by learning from the best.
I know that feeling like you don’t know anything isn’t great, but everyone has to go through this, even this awesome senior developer, business manager or fellow junior developer was not born knowing what they are telling you, they also had to learn it and now you can take advantage of that and learn it as well.
This stage will get you to a comfortable spot. You’ll understand the workflow of the company, you’ll get to know your colleagues better and you’ll get comfortable with the code base and now you’ll be ready to grow and move past that junior label.
Now you are ready to move to the middle. You can no longer be considered a junior developer but you are not yet a senior developer. At this point, you’ll still have challenges but you are more likely to draw a nice path to a solution for those challenges. You might even be as good as a senior developer, but you are missing some management skills that you’ll first have to learn in order to move onto the next phase.
The imposter syndrome can still be there, especially if you get added responsibility, such as having to mentor an intern or help out a junior web developer but the the process is the same as on the first stage, just keep at it, try to improve as time goes by. You might not have many people around you to teach you at this point, so you’ll have to search for knowledge at places meetups, books, articles and online communities.
Luckily you won’t be the first person to be in that situation so you’ll have a lot of people to get help from.
Thanks for reading,