What’s the most important thing about your first couple of developer jobs?
Me: Speaking from experience…
Tech stack? Nope, although it’s great to have a good one.
Cool projects? Nope, truth is, code is code when you get down deep enough.
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Salary? Nope. You’d imagine I’d say different, but no. As much as I like to get the paper it’s not priority 1 at this stage.
The most important thing is the other developers you’ll be with or you are working with.
Don’t get me wrong, the points above are factors to consider. But in your first job, you’re a bit of a noob. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you worked hard to get the skills that allowed you to even be hired as a developer, but you’ve still probably got a lot to learn, especially when it comes to things like designing code on a larger scale and overall code quality.
These are the sort of skills that get you the better paying jobs later down the line, and to acquire them you need nurturing by more experienced developers. If your fellow developers of your specialization (Frontend or Backend) just don’t care, you’re in trouble on that front. Or if you are the only frontend or backend developer where you work, then you wouldn’t be impacting much towards your career as to no one of that your field will help review your code or contribute to your growth career-wise. So to make a great impact towards your career means you have a lot of work to do on yourself, joining a community of people of your specialization, ask lot of questions concerning it, etc.
This happened to me in my first job. I got a job as a dev after my internship from a coding bootcamp, which was 6 months but I added almost 2-4months extra working with them for a while, why applying for a job, so I got a job as a Software Developer (Frontend) at a tech focused firm.
I had my first dev job, which was great, but my fellow devs were… less than ideal.
So the company was large, and it was owned by a state in Nigeria and there were a little more than five other devs that were just same level as I am. The tech director, who did not know how to code or has anything to do with code.
The other devs didn’t major on one field, like they weren’t either strong on frontend or backend either. So that wasn’t a help career-wise in anyway, so I was a loner.
Things went wrong regularly. No best practices, no software engineering skills.
My next job was a small agency, only one developer at the start, whose focused was on backend, and I gained a minute knowledge of PHP but that was it.
I got some help with coding from others such as Moya Richards and Emmanuel but they were often busy. Nowhere near as bad as the people in my first job.
All in all, I spent 1.5 years at these two places. I think that’s not great for 1.5 years into my career.
My next job will definitely be a larger, known and recognised firm. More devs meant a higher quality of code, and no one has ever mentored or reviewed my codebase, so I know whether I’m making progress if not for Emmanuel who’s always busy. I’m open to harsh criticism, because that will show I’m on the right track. But for now, I’m ready for a mid level dev, because I’ve had an experience overtime. Essentially I’ve gotten some side gig projects which I utilized my learning curve very well, so that’s the reason I said I’m a mid level Frontend Developer because that was the best part of my career.
So the takeaway from this is obviously to make sure you get good technical guidance early in your career. But how do you ensure you get this?
In a first job it’s tough. In a first job you’re desperate to break into tech, so you’re unlikely to be turning many offers down. People say you should be picky, but how realistic is that when going for your first dev role? If you can be, great, but many can’t. I think the best thing to do is avoid small companies. If there’s only a few devs they could well all be cowboy coders. When there are a dozen plus devs at a company, it’s much more likely some will be good and will be aggressively pushing for quality code.
If you’ve been working there a while and aren’t getting the support you need, quitting is always an option. Truth is though, I wouldn’t recommend that in a first job before the 1 year mark. Could look suspicious, like you couldn’t handle it. You’d probably best just waiting it out till you have the magic one (1) year industry experience badge, then fly the coup. For your second job, I’d be much more inclined to quit early if you aren’t getting what you need to progress. It won’t look as bad as you have one (1) job under your belt. Life is too short to hang around.