Advice to a beginner developer
September 15, 2021
Getting into tech has been the best career move for me and my family. It is a flexible, lucrative field. I'm able to work remotely now. I feel more fulfilled by my work.
The other piece of it is everyone has a different path. People have come from various fields to join the tech industry. They have brought with them different experiences. That also means it was easier for some than others to make the transition.
I want to share some advice that I have for a developer just starting their journey. I transitioned into software from electrical engineering so I had some programming exposure, but was not trained as a software developer.
Have patience with yourself
Writing code and working with software is going to challenge you. There will be bugs that you can't seem to track down. You will struggle to understand how a library works.
A new concept might trip you up. You will struggle to debug code at first. Every developer who is proficient has been in your shoes.
Don't beat yourself up. Give yourself some grace. This is hard!
Don't neglect the soft skills
Coding is considered the key skill to programming and getting a software job, but don't forget to level up your soft skills.
Communication is important no matter what career you pursue. Learn to write clearly so emails and IMs are effective.
This can be especially difficult when communicating about software development.
Referencing files, code snippets, and other pieces pose a challenge.
The key is to be thorough AND brief while giving adequate context. Take the extra time to ensure the message is clear and the question makes sense for someone without context.
If you're writing a question about a feature and you're sending it to someone who isn't a developer, you'll likely have to change how you present your information. Take the time to understand your target audience's familiarity with the topic. Then you can fill in any gaps for them before you ask your question!
Ask for help
Let's say you've been working at understanding a concept, but it just isn't clicking. You've read the docs, searched on StackOverflow, and tried various approaches. Most folks would either give up, or keep pushing on their own.
There's no shame in asking for help though! If you've given it a considerable amount of effort, don't be afraid to ask for help.
The community on twitter and Indiehackers has been especially helpful for me! Sometimes asking someone to walk you through something is all it takes.
I still hesitate to ask for help. I want to be respectful of other's time. But I know I'd be happy to try helping someone out! I was a beginner once and understand the struggle. So maybe I shouldn't be so apprehensive about asking for help myself.
Know that anyone who has been a beginner is likely happy to help you if you reach out. And if they are trying to help by posting information voluntarily on their feed, you're even more likely to get help from them.
Take active breaks
Coding is a very sedentary job. This is the biggest downside of the profession in my opinion. You need to take breaks to combat this.
Don't just take a break to sit on your phone or read an article though. Get up and move! Do some jumping jacks, go for a quick walk, squat a few times.
The first benefit is you'll get the blood pumping. You'll be able to focus better.
The second benefit is you'll be keeping your body moving and stretching. Your range of motion decreases the longer you sit. Do some full range of motion movement.
The third benefit is you'll give your mind a break so you can jump back in refreshed. This could be all it takes to unlock that problem you were struggling with 👌
Learn to read documentation
This is going to be intimidating at first, but documentation will become the first place you look when you don't understand something.
Some documentation is easier to read and more thorough, but generally it's a good idea to check the docs first when you're working with a library.
Learning to navigate the docs is a skill. It will take time to get familiar with the structure and presentation.
The good news is that once you've learned how to navigate documentation, you will not shy away from doing it again in the future.
If you want to learn a new library, you'll read their docs first.
I have found that it is second nature to me now.
Only after you've scoured the docs should you look elsewhere for information on how a library or framework functions.
Often if you search for your question, the docs will pop up as the first result anyway 😉
Make friends with other devs
Find others who are going through the same obstacles. There are countless communities online where you can meet other beginner developers.
Twitter is a fantastic place to start. Search for #100DaysOfCode or #TechTwitter and you're bound to find others.
Follow them. Shoot them a DM. Make a connection. Maybe you can help each other out on this exciting, difficult journey 😃
These are my top pieces of advice for newbie programmers. I know there's more to be explored here though.
I was a beginner once. I still consider myself a beginner in some regard. That's the blessing and curse of tech. You'll always be learning something new. You'll perpetually be a beginner in some facet.
Don't be discouraged when you find bumps in the road. You'll overcome it and then maybe even help someone else understand it someday.
That's all for this morning, see you tomorrow at 5:30 💪