My Advice to Junior Developers About Their Careers

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My Advice to Junior Developers About Their Careers

A senior developer's best guidance to those just starting out in their software careers

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Damn good advice

We could all use a little advice, no matter where we are in our careers.

Over the last couple of months, I have met several young developers that are either looking for the first job or are still trying to get their bachelor's degree. Many of them asked me to give them my advice on how they can make their first steps in a software development career.

You may also like: 3 Pieces of Bad Advice on How to Keep Your IT Job

It’s really nice to see young people care so much about their career. I don’t remember that the guys of my age had the same mentality. Whatever the reason, I like it, and I'm happy to help.

In this post I will summarize my advice to all these “young” and ambitious developers. Don’t be fooled by the word young, though. Even if you have already 10 years of hands-on development behing you, you’re still young.  

The first thing they ask me is to tell them which language or framework they should learn.

I can of course give you a hundred different answers, but I will say that it's far more important how quickly you can learn any new language, not how well you already know one. Do you think that Google, or eBay, or Amazon care if you’re a Java or JEE or JavaScript expert? 

IT companies should hire characters and then train for the skills they need. OK, I know that this is not always how it works, but sooner or later, nobody will ask you to list all the programming languages or frameworks you know.

If you are a “Lucky Luke” character, no one will ever want you on the team. The age of super-hero programmers has passed, and I don’t see it will ever come back.

Teamwork is one of the keys to success and you should be prepared for that.

And what about skills? If you can’t learn a new tool, a new language, or a new framework, you still have enough time to pick up a different career. Companies will invest in you to teach you new skills, but you should be a fast learner and be able to adopt these new technical skills in your everyday work.

Think for a second about the definition of “investment." Companies are not offering this education as a gift. They expect from you to pay back this new knowledge by increasing your skills, your productivity, and eventually the company’s value.

Another great idea is to be open source friendly. Pick up an open-source tool you like, you know well, or you just find interesting, and join the community. Try to be active, to participate in forums, and if you can, contribute to the project. There’s nothing better than showing your future employers your real work in an open-source project.

Moreover, open a GitHub account, if you haven’t done so already. Push your personal projects.

Let others see that you’re passionate about software development and you’re not just considering it as a way of getting some money.

And since you have your GitHub account, read others' code. It’s a great way to open up your mind and learn new things about languages you’ve never seen.

Learn how to write clean code, no matter the language you’re writing in. Your code reflects your personality. A messy code will probably make your colleagues think that you’re the same in your personal life. You don’t want to hear from your co-workers “WTF is this?” when they read or review your last commit.

Learn design patterns and refactoring. You can apply them to almost all famous languages, and they surely make you write cleaner code.

Join local user groups and go to some conferences. It’s incredible how many things you can learn when you meet people from different cultures, backgrounds, and knowledge. You have nothing to lose. On the contrary, I can assure you that it’s a win-win situation, not to mention that you will increase your social circle and maybe improve the chances of getting a new job.

Finally build your brand. I may sound like a marketing guy, but I’m not. Advertise yourself with your achievements, even if you’re the millionth guy who did it. That doesn’t matter. Let others know your interests and that you’re active in software development. LinkedIn, Twitter, and other professional networks (like the one you're currently visiting!) can help a lot.

Start blogging and post little articles about your experience and knowledge, even if they’re for beginners. Again, it doesn’t matter!!! You’ll find yourself very soon posting more and more advanced stuff. 

And one last thing: Don’t ever stop learning new things. You decided to become a software engineer. This is your destiny. To continuously learn new things.

Originally published February 2014

Further reading

How to Become a Continuous Learner

Advice for Mid-Career Developers

agile, career advancement, career advice, continous improvement, continous learning, junior developers, success, teamwork

Published at DZone with permission of Patroklos Papapetrou , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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