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Title: How to be a Better Junior Developer

Status

  • Abril Pro Ruby 2014 - submitted 1/31/14
  • Ruby on Ales 2014 - submitted 1/31/14
  • RailsConf 2014 - submitted 2/4/14, accepted!!

Abstract

Are you from a non-C.S. background? What about someone you mentor? Many junior devs’ top focus is building technical knowledge. However, they already have other skills that can help them in their roles immediately! Some of these include helping their team focus on the right tasks and working well with stakeholders like PM and support. This talk will discuss the non-technical contributions junior devs can make now and how their senior dev mentors can help them ramp up more quickly as a result.

Details

The goal for this talk is to prompt junior devs to consider all the ways in which they can contribute to the success of their team despite being new to programming. Many of the skills people have developed in other careers do still transfer into software development and can be incredibly beneficial to their team precisely because they are different from those developed in a more “traditional” path into tech. Some of the points I’d like to make:

  • building good relationships with your own team and cross-functionally (especially with your tech support folks) will make everyone more inclined to help you learn
  • good questions are the junior dev’s superpower--they can help your team move faster by highlighting assumptions they’re making and not waste time on tangents
  • providing constructive feedback, to the right person in the right venue at the right time is hard for a lot of people, this is a skill that you probably have already practiced
  • if you can articulate clearly what you don’t understand and when you need help, it will be easier for people to help you
  • there is too much for a junior dev to learn, I think you’re better served by focusing on company-specific stuff, like the process for using Git or product knowledge, as opposed to an area like keyboard shortcuts, for now (keyboard shortcuts are probably not the limiting factor on job productivity here)
  • you can give a more favorable impression to your manager by doing things like writing good project status updates (and submitting them on time) and giving great demos of your teams’ work to stakeholders

Pitch

The tech industry has been unable to find enough experienced, traditionally- qualified candidates for all the jobs that are available, so there are more and more developers learning the craft on-the-job. The natural tendency is to solely focus on the core competency, i.e. coding. However, those new to the industry already possess other useful skills and can adapt them for software development quickly. This will help them gain confidence that they belong and deal with imposter syndrome, but of course also benefits their teams and employers and speeds up their career development.

It was only a little over a year ago that I began to consider this career a viable option for me, and I was very much concerned about having to entirely start over in a new field. Fortunately, I’ve instead found that my past experience was not wasted time at all, but instead something I can still draw upon to help compensate for my lack of technical experience. Others can do the same!

Bio

I studied Biology in college and was all set to attend medical school and fulfill my mother’s dream of my becoming a doctor. Instead, I got a job at Google in tech support. After five years at Google, I took a sabbatical to attend Hackbright Academy. Now I’m a junior developer at New Relic.