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Discussion on: Can you become a developer on a team with no devs?

briankephart profile image
Brian Kephart

I learned to code because the music school I work at was losing productivity to ill-fitting off-the-shelf software. I took CS50 online, researched web frameworks, and just worked through one problem at a time.

The software I wrote now runs the school, and has kept us operational through a transition from in-person to remote lessons/classes due to the current pandemic. I'm still the only developer.

What you're asking about can be done.

I've noticed, though, that developers can be focused on titles and hierarchy (Am I a junior? A senior? What's the next step for me?). To be the only developer in a workplace, you have to be comfortable without that stuff. There is no hierarchy, milestones, nothing. You're either liberated from those things or deprived of them, depending on your outlook.

Since none of your co-workers code, there will be many decisions where you answer to no one but yourself. In that type of situation, it's normal to have self-doubt, but you have to have an ability to cope with it, especially since your coworkers will have limited insight into your struggles. How much support do you need, and can you get it?

If you find yourself struggling, what is at risk? Some informational web pages? Or the infrastructure your company operates on? These are dramatically different levels of stress, and require different levels of coping skills.

I've found my job to be rewarding. If these challenges excite you, you probably will too. If this all sounds terrible, then for you it probably would be.

heysarahpaz profile image
Sarah Paz Author

Thanks Brian! And wow, that's an amazing and inspiring story to hear and I'm sure incredibly fulfilling to build a tool that kept your company operating!

I was thinking that even if this role (or potential role) doesn't end up being what I expected, the title of Web Developer would help me when I do look for other roles. So, pretty much it either is great and works out, or can be helpful and doesn't work out. There's a positive in both outcomes.

And yes, I agree with self-doubt being normal, especially with this potentially being my first dev role in a team where no one else can weigh in and help me with decisions. I would have to work on being more confident, while being open about my capabilities because I would not want to take on more than I can handle. Don't get me wrong, I'm up for it - but I wouldn't want to struggle and put the company at risk.

I guess what I'm saying is, now that I've heard a few comments about this being a possible transition (hard, but possible!) I am up for the challenges that will be thrown my way! I'd rather try with a possibility of failing, than not try at all. Also, sometimes people thrive when put in difficult situations, and realize that they know more than they thought. That's happened with me a lot when dealing with code. Feeling like I know nothing, then realizing I actually do understand. So this may be a huge growth milestone in my career, where I really put my skills and knowledge to the test.