Recap: After graduating from Software Craftsmanship Guild’s java bootcamp apprenticeship, I started working as a junior developer for a major educational publisher last April. It’s now eight months later and I am getting ready to look for another job.
Naturally, hindsight is 20-20. If I could do this over again I would not have accepted the position where I did. This company was not set up to mentor juniors and completely lacks a teaching/learning culture. It’s a great place to go if you are a senior dev. But this is a company with lots of seniors who don’t want any juniors hanging around.
I thought when I started it would be great to get paid to learn. I did get paid well for a junior dev, but I got about 30 minutes a week of help on my tasks. It would take 1-2 days of waiting to get 15 or 20 minutes of a senior dev’s help. I actually started asking for help before I needed it because I knew it would be at least a day before anyone had time to look at my code. Liz the developer describes the ideal situation where a senior spends 8 hours a week with a new junior in the first month of employment and 5-6 hours per week for the next couple months.
Since I had no mentor, I don’t feel I have progressed as quickly as I would have if I were in a corporate culture that valued mentoring. I constantly felt like the pesky little sister always asking for help, for direction, for someone to look at my code or tell me if my approach was right. I later found out that I was the only junior developer hired by the company. Everyone else was a mid- to senior-level developer. No wonder I felt like the village idiot.
So I stopped asking so many questions. Gradually, my tasks went from actual java coding to html and css fixes because others could do the more complex jobs more quickly. I haven’t written a line of java in at least 6 weeks. Before that, it was probably another month since I’d last touched java. In order to continue growing as a developer, it’s time to move on.
For my next job position, I have two goals: find a company that is a little closer to home so I don’t have to drive 90 miles round trip, and find a company that values learning and grooming new developers. I’ve got a company in mind; I’ll let you know if I get the job.
My advice to new developers looking for the right company fit:
- Don’t undervalue yourself. If you are a woman, you are especially vulnerable to imposter syndrome. If you made it through bootcamp you have what it takes to be a world-class beginner, provided you maintain a learner’s mindset. Please don’t allow a bad interview experience or a misinformed recruiter to steal your sense of self worth.
- Ask questions about a company’s culture and attitude toward junior developers. Some good questions:
- Why are you interested in hiring a junior-level developer?
- How many senior developers will be available if I need guidance?
- What is your attitude toward mentoring?
- What types of tasks will I be expected to do in the first month? The next six months?
- Above all else, if a job is a poor fit you will know within the first week. Trust your instincts, assess the corporate culture, and move on if the company doesn’t want to grow you. There are plenty of great companies out there who love to groom new developers.
- If you get the feeling the company just wants to hire a cheap developer and has no plans to grow you, that’s another reason to move on.