Advice for Starting Your First Development Job

Advice for Starting Your First Development Job

Be prepared to learn more in the first couple months than ever before

Many people had separately expressed this idea to me before graduation and I think it really bears repeating: It’s easy to feel that now you’ve landed the job, your learning will relax a little. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll be exposed to a massive variety of challenges in the first couple months of the job, without realising it you’ll learn bucket loads.

There will be many, many times where you’re presented with a problem that you don’t know the first thing about. It’s very easy to panic. Don’t. You won’t be expected to know everything, and this is prime learning time. Breathe, and ask questions. People will be happy to get you up to speed and as a result you will become a better developer. It can be tempting to defer to someone more knowledgeable, but you’ll learn more if you instead ask someone to teach you how!

It’s also worth mentioning that it isn’t only coding specifically you’ll learn lots about.

You’ll also develop many other related skills; planning, research, collaboration, all skills essential to getting your work done. If you go in ready to learn, you stand to gain the most.

Having a solid understanding of version control is your best friend

I can’t overstate how useful it is to have a solid grasp of versioning under your belt when you start your first development job. Before I started my current job I’d used GIT a little bit in my own projects, but nothing quite to the same degree as you’ll encounter from day one. Branching, pushing to remote servers, deploying, You’ll be doing the lot. If you’re not entirely sure how to SSH (Secure Socket Shell) into a server and pull code from a remote Git repository then making an effort to learn this will save you a lot of stress and headaches. Every company will use a different code host like GitHub or BitBucket, but the essentials remain the same.

This also applies to using the command line. Whilst you can use GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) like GitKraken, being able to navigate comfortably around the CLI (Command Line Interface) will make your life easier. Running build tools, remotely accessing servers, there’s endless use cases for it. Even if you want to use a GUI, the knowledge will make you a better developer.

If you can start from day one comfortable with the basics then you’ll be miles ahead!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

You’ve got to be comfortable asking questions, because you’ll have heaps of them. This isn’t even necessarily specific to your first development job, seniors and everyone in between still need to ask questions. It’s how you grow and learn. There’s also going to be stuff specific to your company’s tools or projects that can’t be found online. Asking other people might be your only way to find out what you need: So don’t be shy, ask good questions.

Make sure you don’t silo yourself

It isn’t only programmers who can do this, but I feel we can be especially guilty of it sometimes. When working on a design problem, you might not think to ask someone outside of your discipline, but often this can be the best course of action. If you can’t quite figure out how much margin your element should have in CSS, ask a designer for their opinion. They designed it, and they want it to work just as much as you. A lot of the time you can come to happy compromises by collaborating, and even better solutions.

It might not be obvious at first when’s a good time to ask around and collaborate, but when in doubt just go for it. People are always happy to be asked their opinion, and even if they don’t have an answer, a fresh perspective is always helpful.

Enjoy yourself!

More than anything get stuck in and enjoy the pleasure of programming for a living! Since starting at Zeal, I’ve had countless opportunities to try technologies and have enjoyed much variety in my work: everything from WordPress and Magento, to React and Gatsby. Use the opportunities you’re given to become the developer you aspire to be!

If you want to work with us to make something awesome, then get in touch.

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