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What I Learned 4 Months Into My First Developer Role

Hi there, if this is the first you’ve seen of me, you may gain some insight into who I am here, where I discuss my neurodivergence! In brief, I have been diagnosed with adult ADHD, Depression and Anxiety, all things that I strive to manage on a day to day basis. And these facets of me help to define how I’ve managed to navigate and grow in the world of web development!

Being someone who graduated from a Bootcamp, there was a small learning curve when I realized that when I left Juno College of Technology, formerly known as Hacker You, we were given foundational knowledge. The building blocks so to speak, towards curating and crafting our own journeys. We received hands on guidance on how to work and navigate mark up languages, like HTML and CSS, and then taught about programmatic and logical thinking via JQuery and JavaScript, and then launched in the realm of frameworks and databases via ReactJS and Firebase. Throughout it all, we were given opportunities to learn how to work with Rest APIs, and manipulate data from external libraries and databases to work with our own projects. And the reason why I say this was/is foundational knowledge, is that, we aren’t supposed to stop here.

I started looking into what a potential job might require of me, what I’d need to learn, and how I could get a job. I hope to land something quickly, because my financial situation was one that needed an injection of cash ASAP in order to help alleviate some of the pressure from debts and creditors. I had made a few poor decisions in the last few years that I needed to pay off, and start fresh from. So I hit the ground running.

image of a metal sign that says 'for hire'

I found my first role, with an amazing team, and a super star lead within a month of looking seriously after graduating. Something I credit to the amount of daily networking and studying I was doing on a consistent basis. I talked to everyone in the tech twitter community, joined several online communities, Facebook groups and just went all out. While working on my portfolio, applying to jobs, and looking into the next set of languages I wanted to learn once I felt more comfortable with my foundational skills. When I landed my first role, the decision was made for me. I’d be working with Wordpress, PHP and React-Native.

animated gif of studio ghibli's soot creatures walking with coal on their heads

Some things I learned in my first 4 months:

  1. Every day was, and sometimes still is, a constant battle against feeling absolutely fraudulent, and wondering if I’d be found to be insufficiently skilled, and fired. A mistake. To this, I think we all feel this way starting out, for me, learning to figure out the answers to my challenges, and being positively received by my seniors and my lead/boss whenever I had a question helped to alleviate a lot of the self doubt I was feeling. To further combat this, I’ve picked up courses via udemy and a few others to help speed up my learning, and help gain more of the fundamentals of the core stack I’d be working with. You’ll be able to follow along with my progress on my twitter!
  2. Working from home means that the work follows you everywhere, it’s important to have boundaries with yourself, and carve out time where you’re not at the computer, beating your head against the keyboard, and/or frantically researching on stack overflow… or is that part just me? When I first started out, I spent every day in front of my computer, determined to just force as much time and knowledge into my brain as possible. I swore I’d defeat my impostor syndrome through just, learning more, and doing more! By the end of the first month, I found myself staring blankly at a very simple line of JQuery code and drawing blanks. I walked away, like they said to in Bootcamp, took 15 minutes, and came back, and cranked it out. Breaks are important. Especially now when the world around us is going through some radical changes. Now, I like to take Saturdays to get out of my condo, go spend some time somewhere where tech isn’t the predominant thing. I go for hikes, learn something different and new! I’m thinking about taking a pottery class! I’ve been in LOVE with hand made mugs lately! Sunday evenings, I’ll sit down to do my courses, and spend a few hours on each, before I go to bed for the night. Get my head on for the week!
  3. Don’t wait until you hit a roadblock to learn more. Take the time to learn a little everyday, even if it’s an hour and nothing more. I found that when I took the time to sit down and dedicate time to learning the fundamentals of the stack I was working with, when I returned to the projects I was working on, suddenly it didn’t feel like I was wading through quick sand, with each function creating uncertainty and more questions as I strove to figure out what was happening. The process of learning the fundamentals helped to reassure my understanding of the code, the language and the framework I was working with; and today I can recognize that alot of the frustration and anxiety I had been faced with, was with being unfamiliar with the fundamentals of the functions/code base I was working with. I drew blanks often, and didn’t trust in my own ability to read/understand the code I was working with. Which leads to my next point!
  4. Trust yourself, and believe in your ability to learn. I felt so small next to the great senior devs on my team. I looked up to them like gods of my tiny universe, who could do no wrong, and would never make mistakes. Thing is, they make mistakes too, the difference is that they know enough to undo, repair, or fix whatever went wrong, faster, smoother, and more efficiently than I do/did as a junior. MY fears, were absolutely rooted in doing something I could not repair or undo; or not knowing enough to make sense of what was happening enough to try and figure it out. And once I learned my way around the environments I would be working with, this too eased. I still panic, but it’s a manageable panic, where as before, I was sure I’d get kicked to the curb at the slightest ‘dumb mistake’.

image of a femme human at their laptop in a cafe

I’m not sure that the uncertainty and anxiety will ever fade for me completely, but I feel much more comfortable with my level of knowledge and skill. I have moments of panic, where I make a mad scramble and learn as much as I can within a 24 hour period. And in those moments I’ve often been reassured, comforted, and supported by my team, and the people around me who care and see me. I owe a lot to the people around me, for so much more than being a shoulder to lean on.

As for my job, thankfully I’m still here, and I hope to stay for many more years!

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