Analysis: My First Year as a Developer
by Bennett Dungan
I officially hit my year anniversary as a web application developer back in September. It’s one of those years that felt like it flew by but also dragged on seemingly forever. The amount of things I’ve learned this year already out-paces my 2 other jobs in sales and marketing combined. Most jobs I’ve had in the past usually takes 2-3 months of training before you feel like you have a solid grasp of the skillset and business. I still feel like I'm in that training phase after 12 months as a dev.
The above may read like I'm being a bit cynical and a bit of me sort of is. It kind of sucks being stuck in this desert of despair phase for so long and not really knowing when you’ll see light at the end of the tunnel. On the other side of the coin, I’ve gained an immense amount of appreciation for the work developers at all levels do. Im grateful every day to have been given a chance to change my career trajectory in a field so full of insanely intelligent and motivated individuals. The amount of information I’ve gained in just a year’s time is pretty astounding when I think about it, even though I still feel inadequate in some capacity. I’ve never listed all the languages, libraries, tools and frameworks I’ve come to work with over the year so here’s everything that I can remember off the top of my head:
- Ruby on Rails
- Coffee Script
This is not to say I'm proficient at all the above, but I’ve had to touch and use all of the things you see at varying degrees in the past 12 months. Not to mention there’s all the business specific knowledge you also need to know in order to operate in the healthcare industry.
Reflecting back, if I could give myself one piece of advice it is to ask questions sooner. What I do, and still do occasionally, is force myself to make an attempt at figuring something out to the point where I hate looking or even thinking about said problem. If you’ve gotten here before, you’re way beyond the point where you’ve should have reached out for help. I think Jr. Devs are especially susceptible to this because you want to do your best to solve something on your own without the aid of a senior level developer. The best thing is to let go of your ego and accept the fact that you still have a lot to learn and its OK to get assistance. I still get those moments of doubt where I beat myself up mentally for not knowing the answer to things. Whenever you’ve figured something out all on your own though, its a level of satisfaction that I’ve never felt at any other job. Then your endorphin rush is smashed to pieces in the code review.
Even with the difficulties, it’s actually been the most gratifying years of my professional career so far. I finally feel like I’m learning and utilizing a valuable skill set that has wide-ranging impacts. The community is also insanely awesome. We have a local developer group who meet up monthly to do talks and are all generally pretty enthusiastic about programming. Even the online community of developers are super supportive of each other. Almost anytime I’ve had a super specific question, there was someone out there willing to help me out.
I still have to pinch myself every so often to remind myself that I'm working as a developer. Going to work every day to build things for people to use is so gratifying at the end of the day. Its not all flowers and sunshine though as I alluded to before. Most of the time its me bashing my head against a brick wall trying to figure out problems I’ve never encountered but its a necessary part of being a developer.
In conclusion, I can confidently say that I see myself doing this for years to come. Its a huge weight off my mind knowing I’ve found a career path that makes me happy.