What To Expect At Your First Software Development Job

Congratulations, you’ve made it!  You’re starting your very first job as a software developer.  Maybe it’s your first position in tech after a career change, or your first ‘real’ job after getting a computer science degree.  Maybe all that time teaching yourself from internet tutorials paid off.  Regardless of how you got here, it’s your first day, and you’re nervous as all heck.  You have the skills, you have the knowledge, and you’re finally going to get to apply it and contribute to a software development team!  It’s very exciting, but can be completely overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect.  This article aims to provide some insight into what you can expect in your first job as a junior software developer.

The First Few Weeks

The first few weeks of your job will probably involve a lot of training and orientation-type meetings.  On your first day, you’ll meet your team, get to know your way around the office (if you’re not a remote employee), and learn about your company’s mission and values.  From there, you’ll learn the processes and tools used by your team, including any project management methodologies (like Scrum) and development or productivity tools (IDEs, command-line tools, build pipelines, version control, etc).  If you need to learn a new programming language or framework for your job, you’ll likely start on that right away, too. 

You’ll also get to know the specific project your team is working on.  An orientation meeting or one-on-one with a more senior developer will give you an overview of the project and walk you through the system architecture and/or the codebase itself.

You’ll Work With A Team

As a junior developer, you’ll be working closely with other members of a software development team.  Your team may be all developers, or a mix of developers and other roles, such as quality assurance analysts, project managers, product owners, Scrum leads, and others.  Collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to software development–you’ll need to learn to communicate early and often with your teammates, share your ideas (even if you think they might be dumb ideas!), and be willing to ask for help when needed.

You’ll Write (And Read) A Lot of Code

You were hired to write code… so you’ll do a lot of that.  As a junior developer, you’ll be expected to write clean, understandable code that adheres to your team or company’s code style standards.  You will most likely be required to have your code reviewed by your team before any of it is merged into the codebase, and you can expect a lot of feedback from more senior developers.  It’s important to remember that “you are not your code”–your teammates are not critiquing you, they’re helping you become a better developer!  

You’ll also be asked to participate in code reviews for other members of your team (even the senior developers).  Don’t be afraid to leave comments and ask questions on their code, just like they will do on yours!  If you can’t tell what the code is doing from reading it, ask them to walk you through it and explain what you don’t understand–you might learn something new, and they may find a way to make their code cleaner and more understandable. 

You’ll Have To Be Responsible 

In a professional job, you’ll be responsible for managing your own time and priorities.  Yes, your team will have priorities for the project, and there will be meetings scheduled for you… but you will also need to maintain a high level of self-direction.  This means no procrastinating on work, getting distracted during meetings, or hiding away when you’re stuck on a task.  Your team will have a set amount of work that they expect to have done in a designated time period, and you will need to manage yourself and your time wisely in order to contribute. 

You will have to remember to check your email, look at your calendar, and move the task cards on the tracking board yourself, without prompting from your teammates or manager.  You’re a professional software developer now! 

You’ll Never Stop Learning 

You may need to learn how to use a new framework or even learn how to code in a new programming language for your first job.  Your team will likely have resources available to help you learn the material quickly, and you can reach out to other members of your team and more senior developers for help as you learn. 

After that… software development is constantly evolving, and in a few months, you may need to learn even more frameworks, languages, and other technologies!  Your company may even pay for you to attend conferences or workshops, buy programming books, or take online courses.  (If you have the opportunity to attend a software conference–go!  They’re my favorite way to learn what’s new in the industry.) 

You’ll Check Your Ego At The Door (Or Have It Checked For You)

Ask any experienced software developer if they know what they’re doing, and they will cheerfully reply, “no way”–because they have been beaten by computer logic so many times that they have no ego left at all.  (That’s a joke; senior developers have tons of ego… when we’re not actually writing code.)  Humility is particularly important, though, for junior developers who are just starting their careers.  As a junior developer, it’s important to approach the job with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

No matter how much you’ve studied, or how many projects you’ve worked on, there’s still a lot you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or admit when you don’t understand something. Your more experienced colleagues will be happy to help you, and you’ll learn much faster if you’re willing to acknowledge that you’re not an expert (even experienced developers hesitate to call themselves experts). 

If you’ve made a mistake–say so!  When you’re willing to admit your mistakes and learn from them, your colleagues will respect you for your honesty.  Every senior developer has made a major mess at least once, and they often share those stories with some amount of pride (As a junior, I took away my team’s ability to make database transactions for a week!).  The important thing is that you don’t make the same mistake twice. 

Starting your first job as a junior software developer can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you’ll be working with a team, and they’re there to help you out.  Every challenge in your first job will be an opportunity for you to learn and grow, and if you remain open to feedback and embrace the process, you’ll be able to thrive in your new role.  Your senior developers will have tons of knowledge and experience to share with you, and by approaching your first job with a willingness to learn, you’ll be on your way to a successful software development career!

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