This is the story of how a fresh university graduate was able to survive his first year as a software engineer at the biggest online retailer in South Africa.
This piece includes the biggest lessons I learned as well as the biggest mistakes I made… and how I learnt from them.
My tertiary education experience started in 2015 at Stellenbosch University. Majoring in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, I was settling into a difficult yet extremely rewarding journey.
I finished my 3-year degree in 4 years (because why rush things?). Whilst studying I decided I wanted big things for myself and applied for a role at the reigning giant in the country’s online shopping market: takealot.com
The interview process at takealot.com is by no means a walk in the park. Coupled with my lack of formal interview experience made for an incredibly intimidating process.
However, after having some fantastic people on the other side of the table to calm me down, I was able to make it through the interview process. I quickly received my official offer to join the company’s graduate program. This was my first big lesson: Stay calm.
Every year takealot.com hires a group of graduates to join their graduate program. This is a massive 3-month, hands-on course that teaches you all the basics you need to know to join a team of professional software engineers.
This led me to my first mistake, believing it’s not as difficult as university courses. Although it is much shorter than your usual university course, it is a substantial amount of information to remember. With a limited amount of documentation available, I quickly learned my second lesson: ask questions!
At the end of the graduate program, your group is assigned a project, and once projects are finished and released, you get to join The Big Dogs.
Joining a Team
The learning does not stop here. At this point you learn about being a member of a team. This includes, but isn’t limited to, attending stand-ups, sitting in on design sessions and working with incredibly talented software engineers.
I then made my second mistake: letting Imposter Syndrome get to me.
In short, Imposter Syndrome is the fear of being exposed as a "fraud" and the sense of not deserving one's success.
There was nothing any of my colleagues did that led me to believe the above, but Imposter Syndrome hit hard and got in the way of my work. It made me doubt myself and the code I wrote, but with the help of an extremely supportive takealot.com environment and teammates, this was soon a problem of the past.
After the first year of this wild and crazy ride, I would say my third (and possibly the most important lesson) as a Junior Software Engineer is simply… dig.
Dig around in the code. Read more than just your assigned section of work. Educating yourself on as much code as possible makes a massive difference. This includes reading code reviews - even if you don’t feel comfortable approving it yet.
My biggest goal in sharing these stories would be for at least one person to read this, and regardless of their experience or role, make the Imposter Syndrome a tiny bit more manageable.
Top comments (1)
Imposter syndrome is one of those things that everyone faces yet no one talks about. Cool read!