As a new developer

As a new developer, I feel inadequate. I see people publish their side projects all the time. I see my friends in good jobs. I see people submit pull requests to code I don’t understand, for things I don’t understand. I can stare at the code I’ve written and it all reads as gobbledegook. How many hours a day should I be programming? Do 10x programmers exist? If so, am I one? If not, why not?

As a new developer, I feel a constant pressure to prove that I am learning. I write blogs on what I am doing, I tweet that I am writing code. I post code-related jokes. All as a way of saying “hey everyone I can code too, I’m like you!”. If I can prove that I am learning then maybe I will be able to join the cool kid programmer club. It’s also a way to prove to the internship givers that I am worth hiring, because I am prepared to learn.

As a new developer, I don’t care what you are programming in, I just want to know what you’re building. A programming language is just a programming language to me. You’ve got your JavaScripts and your Rubies and Pythons and they all do cool things. I don’t care about semicolons, or tabs over spaces, or why you think npm is the best package manager of all time 2K14. I see these arguments all the time and am perplexed by them.

Maybe over time I will come to understand this, but right now I don’t get the pressure to be a devout follower of any one thing. I am able to encourage people to use Python as a first language  but I am also not going to kick up a fuss if they decide to use Ruby or Go or Rust or whatever damn fine language they’ve set their sights on.

As a new developer, I am easily swayed by the opinions of people I respect, or at least view as more experienced. This post was kicked off by a few back and forth tweets on open source contributions. One person stated that I don’t need to worry about making open source contributions and I went “Yay, cool, less pressure”, another seemed to state that I am of little worth if I don’t contribute “Fuck, okay, I guess I better get on that then”. I wish programmers were more aware of the things they are saying and the attitudes they express, and how that might effect a young padawan like me.

As a new developer, there is a lot of pressure to do well, lest my programmer costume be rescinded. I need to make money to live, but don’t feel I am worth hiring. I want to make contributions to open source to give back to the community, but everything seems way over my head. I get stuck and reach out to the community for help and can either receive encouragement and support, or be judged and told I am doing it wrong (“lol y are u doing that just use jquery”).

As a new developer, everything is new and exciting. I can have my own website up and running in minutes with just a little sprinkling of HTML and a free host. I can write code to help others, I can write code to help myself. I can be ecstatic an entire day because I wrote four lines and it didn’t break on execution. I can engage with my peers in ways that I could not do so before, I can understand them better and work with them. I can (and love) sharing my journey with others, I want people to be able to learn from my mistakes and also be encouraged by my progress.

I can code my own path in this world, but I need your help and your patience and your understanding to make that path easier. In return you have my patience and my encouragement and my understanding.

newdevheart

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18 thoughts on “As a new developer

  1. Ditto. Even after a few years on this industry I still feel inadequate. I feel like I should know more, do more, have done more by now.

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  2. I WISH someone had given me a straight answer to this when I was first getting started. I can totally empathise with the feeling of inadequacy, particularly during the first few years. The harsh reality of development is that (for me at least) this never gets better, the more I improve, the more everyone else improves so you constantly undervalue yourself.

    There will always be developers that seem to get 10x as much done in half the time.
    There will always be developers who build something that would take you a month in a weekend.
    There will always be developers who seem to only work with the latest and greatest framework to launch and scoff at those still using regular old PHP or Javascript.

    Finally there will always be the rest of us… we constantly strive to improve as we don’t feel as good as our peers and the more we learn the more we realise there is still to learn!

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  3. This is wonderful! And holds up a mirror to my career in computing.
    If the code excites you and you love what you’re doing, does it actually matter if you are as good as some programmers pretend to be on twitter? (because actually, you probably didn’t see them crying into their keyboard at 2am because of a missing semi-colon)

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  4. As a new programmer myself I am going through a similar thing. Mostly, I think the community is great. I feel like developers are a comparatively passionate group. I feel myself wanting to learn all the languages, post witty banter about debugging. It helps me beat the frustration about doing something my non-programmer friends can’t understand because I can see I’m not alone in my obsessions. I feel a little intimidated, but mostly I feel like I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the key is being honest about your experience level and continuing to demonstrate your passion (Assuming you are passionate about it). Time will go by and someday you’ll be that experienced programmer helping the young’ins :)

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  5. I think this is probably the same for most industries, but the double-edged sword that is thrust unto us developers is that of visibility – we are very visible to each other and the wider world. This means a greater knowledge of uber-coders and their near-android (notice the lower case A!) ability to interact with machines. It also means a greater chance of scrutiny of our own work, and the constant defence of our choice of x, y and z. Unfortunately this visibility is also what makes development so exciting – the communities that come together, the sharing of knowledge of ideas and ultimately the friendship and bonds forged, both personal and professional.

    Hold your head up – everyone has to learn to walk, but they only need to learn once. Your well-written and considered post demonstrates a string to your bow that other (supposedly superior) developers do not posses. Enjoy the ride!

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  6. Be scientific about the advice you receive, treat is as a theory, don’t be swayed by an opinion alone regardless of who it came from. People are giving you advice based on the limitations of their own experience, and it isn’t black and white. Prove the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches in your own time, really understand them and how they work. You will develop the ability to choose languages, libraries and methodologies and you will have your own opinion.

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  7. Interestingly, it matters very little how or what you do, compared to how much you do it, and that you manage to keep your curiosity and passion for learning, experimenting and *doing* alive.

    Getting good is almost entirely a result of caring about what you do, building something you want, enjoying yourself, and sticking with it until you eventually suddenly find that you have ten thousand hours under your belt and turn out to be pretty darned awesome at it, because you have made (or seen, or read about) all the mistakes there are to make, discovered why the various things some more senior people have been pissing and moaning about suck, what the better ways of doing things are, and why. Learned to see the more complex landscapes of choices, trade-offs, costs, and benefits, where sometimes an ugly short-sighted hack beats a scalable beautiful architectural marvel, and so on, given the constraints that apply to your own situation.

    It takes time to develop these perspectives, and exposing yourself to good ways, bad ways, and just ways that get the job done because that is really all you need. But while there might be a lot of judgment going around because people so often end up in pain on behalf of other people’s choices, and becry the spreading of what thus looks like plagues, try not to worry too much. Your own creations are awesome, even if they suck in somebody else’s book. Try to get a community of people around you going that offers constructive input, and that you give constructive input back to, and you will have a wonderful time, less focused on anxiety and more on being in the kick-ass creative zone.

    It’s not about battling people, but about building things you love, creating things of beauty or usefulness that make you and other people you care about happy. Whether it’s a blog, a game, or an iPhone app. As you say: it doesn’t matter. No pressure. Enjoy this lovely, rich age of creating things, for free, because you can, and for the heck of it. Have fun! The more, the better.

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  8. There are no rules in this industry do what ever you feel is right for you. If you’re are happy with what you are building, learning and sharing continue, it doesn’t matter what anybody else is or isn’t doing.

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and perspective as a new developer. I think this is incredibly valuable for someone like me, how has definitely been there, but lost the awareness of what new developers struggle with. So much we can learn from these insights to improve as a community. Pleas keep sharing, this is very much appreciated <3

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  10. Great post Charlotte, thanks for writing it.

    I’ve been a developer for about six years and I don’t think I’ve ever stopped oscillating between self-flagellation and self-congratulation, depending on whether I’ve recently learned an impressive new thing, or discovered that everyone else seems to know something important that I don’t. If anything, the feelings of inadequacy have probably intensified over time – especially since I moved to London and started attending meetups, meeting lots of impressive devs, and following them on twitter.
    I know it’s not rational of me, because I am a better developer than I have ever been, and there will always be people who are better and worse than me.

    I feel like we should try to learn from impressive devs without comparing ourselves to them. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

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