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At the start of your career, everything can seem overwhelming. You are missing a lot of experience that your colleagues have. There is a significant chance that you will make mistakes, but your career will go a lot smoother by learning from those who preceded you. But that is not all: Jelle De Vleminck, who has worked at Axxes for three years now, presented a talk at Haxx Digital Edition with tips and tricks for starters to move from Junior to Senior Developer more quickly.
According to Jelle, there are four important themes you must keep in mind: life-long learning, being made responsible for your project, productivity, and understanding the difference between Junior and Senior Engineers.
Anyone who has just left school does not know much yet. Nobody will blame you – especially in an industry in which things change by the day. You could focus completely on the coolest programming language, but it is important to first learn how you can prepare for dealing with change.
Just like in your study programmes, do not focus only on the input, but also on the output. There are three important steps when you learn something new. Reflect by determining what is the essence, implement what you learn in your daily work, and share the knowledge by explaining it to someone else.
But how do you know what to focus on? There are things you know, things of which you know that you do not know them, and things of which you do not even know that you know them. Depending on the phase of your life, the things you will focus on will differ. An Architect can spend more time on a technical portfolio than on technical expertise, for example. He or she will focus on learning more about tools and frameworks without actually learning how to use them.
This is not the case if you are a Junior Developer. You will deliberately choose a technology you want to study thoroughly, but must also be realistic. If you ask students what they are interested in, they often respond with IoT or Machine Learning, but there is a great chance that there is a much greater need for more classical matters. You will quickly learn that a developer must compromise often. Make sure that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each decision to make sure you can later decide what is, and what is not, a good choice.
Another tip to learn quickly: review code written by your colleagues. This not only teaches you technical knowledge about how others handle issues but also tells you a lot about the context of what is happening at the team or company.
When you think about life-long learning, you may think about the certificates offered by parties like Google or Amazon. These are perfect tools for acquiring knowledge. This is because the creator of a product indicates what is important in such a course, and frames it and prepares an exam. You make your goals tangible and maintain your focus by pursuing such a certificate. Perfect!
Being made responsible for your project
During the first few weeks at your new job, you will actually be paid to make your computer developer-ready and learn everything about the company and your team. Your colleagues and manager are not expecting a lot from you during this time, because you will focus on absorbing knowledge. Once you have become comfortable in your position, you can stand out by taking initiative.
There are various ways to do this, but mainly try to look for difficulties faced by your team. This may feel somewhat uncomfortable, but you expand your comfort zone and grow by moving out of it.
Also make sure to regularly ask your manager, colleagues, or Technical Lead for feedback. You are not aware of your own shortcomings, which is why others are better at pointing out what you may potentially improve in. When people give feedback, they invest time in you. Make sure you are willing to accept their remarks.
Each company wants more efficient processes and employees. You can definitely contribute to this, even as a starting developer. One of the most important things is to plan properly before starting to code. Are you uncertain about specific things? Ask a colleague or manager if they want to take a look at your design with you.
In his talk, Jelle offered five steps that helped him become more productive:
1. Determine your goal each day: what do you want to achieve today?
2. Use chunking and divide this goal into smaller tasks.
3. Subsequently work on one task at a time, because multitasking is a myth. Continuously switching between tasks demands a lot of time and energy. There are also numerous things that keep distracting you, like colleagues, noise, or social media.
4. Ask yourself better questions, because this is the only way to get better answers. These good questions often focus on your motivation. ‘How will I feel when I have achieved my goal?’, for example. ‘Which step can I take at this time to come closer to my goal?’ and ‘Where will I be in five years if I keep working on my goal?’
5. Reward yourself!
Whenever we talk about productivity, we have the tendency to only think about major adjustments. But a small action may sometimes have a major impact. This is why it is important to look for things you do every day and can save a lot of time. Examples are typing blind, CLI commands, better window management ... Jelle’s favourite? Fzf, a command-line fuzzy finder that shows you all commands you ever typed using a single keystroke.
Junior v Senior Engineers
There is no independent body that decides when you have a Junior or Senior profile. However, there are a number of criteria you can use to compare the profiles. Age is not a good criterion in any way. You can always start later, and younger people will be further along with their careers than you. Focusing on the number of years of experience is somewhat more useful. This mainly makes a significant difference at the start: anyone who has been working for 1 year is less efficient than somebody who has been developing for 4 years, but this difference will be smaller between 7 and 10 years of experience.
But what does make a distinction? The way you think and act. A Senior Developer can solve problems. He or she realises that code is not a goal in itself, but a method for solving a business issue using technology. Code is not something you should love, it is not art. You should be able to write code that can do the job as quickly, soundly, and efficiently as possible. When you are a Junior Developer, try to think like the business. Know what is important, and what is not. When you do so, you will take great leaps.
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Jelle De VleminckSoftware Engineer
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