Can you succeed as a junior developer in a fully remote role?

Scott Spence on April 16, 2019

There's nothing that can equal rolling a chair over to a colleague to slay an issue they're struggling with there and then.

How can that work on a full remote role?

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Peter wrote an excellent answer that is hard to disagree with. However... :)

Speaking as (hopefully former) junior dev (do we get a certificate or tray of cookies that let us know when we leave that state ;) who has spent the majority of my coding life in a 100% remote environment (we're all remote, not just me) - I would say it absolutely can work and you can succeed - provided the company and team culture is setup to foster frequent communication and therefore, success.

How it works for us:

Slack:

We all use it - it's always on. Slack is the general equivalent of popping over the top of the cubicle and saying "hey, quick question?"

GoToMeeting / Zoom :

A common room is almost always running. Many devs just leave it open, with their webcams on and work, some are more isolationist and will gladly come in when asked, but like to filter out the chatter by staying away. Coding talk happens but also lots of socialization and joking. This is our water cooler and bullpen

Code Reviews and screen sharing:

This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to getting good feedback, asking questions, and enhancing skills. Submit a PR, get good feedback, share the screen to talk through it if necessary, make changes, rinse repeat.

TLDR: with the right company / team culture, remote can absolutely work. I talk to and enjoy my coworkers more in my 100% full time remote work than I ever did in the office context.

 

Nathan,

I think you hit on a key point here, team and company culture supporting the setup. All my team members except for one is remote and we use the tools you mentioned, they have been very effective for us. Especially Slack and Zoom.

I think a key element is video conferencing bridging the physical gap, sure we all probably look terrible on those long days, but in a way, it makes us all more human rather than just a name on a chat.

 

I agree that if the company has a remote culture, a junior dev can absolutely succeed. I'm not a junior myself, but I have two juniors in remote projects where the team they're working with aren't co-located in their office.

I'm not on project with those reports, but I'm engaged enough with them to know when they're struggling and what they're struggling with. I advise them on how to get productive help as opposed to simply signaling that they're waffling or trying to brute force a solution.

There's very little of the 'shoulder tapping' culture that can't be emulated remotely if the effort's made to do so.

 

Scott, this is a great question to put out there for discussion.

I think when someone is a junior that is the most critical time to get as much advice as possible, despite all of the cool things we have at our disposal today, sitting with someone and asking in person is still the best way to soak up information in my opinion. Not to mention those sparks that come to you over the water cooler.

Being remote is a great way to give more time to reading technical things like languages, tools and all of the other static information. But the career advice and real World information are what you really need to get in person I think.

It is often the way someone presents something that tells you more than the content. Plus it is all too easy to forget that social interaction at a personal level is so important to set you on a path to future success, a face on a screen or phone just won't give you that.

 

This is pretty much my opinion too Peter, thanks for your reply 🙏

 

I just wanted to say, thank you for the question so I can see people's input. I am a junior developer in the sense that I haven't gotten my first full-time, salary, development job. As I am applying for jobs, the majority of backend jobs in my area are in C# or Java. I like working in Javascript. So I've been considering applying for a remote position.

 

Thanks for your reply Grant 🙏

It's pretty much the same reason I posted it 😅

I've been office based for the past 12 months as a dev but would like the flexibility of fully remote but not sure how I would do it if the opportunity came along.

 

Hey there Scott,

Firstly, this is an awesome question!

My current role is at a company that is remote. Although we don't have any engineers at the moment with the 'junior' title, I think a good learning environment is something that is important to developers of any level. With that in mind, I am always striving to help build better practices in promoting a learning environment. Here is some ideas that might help out:

Pair programming on Slack -

We often have pair programing sessions using Slack's video chat application. I really like their application because I can draw temporary lines on my partner's screen while digging into code.

Focus on clearer + concise written communication -

We don't always have the luxury in a remote environment to have a co-worker jump on a call. I'll also add that sometimes it "can" be distracting depending on what is going on at the time (heads down programming?). What I found to work is investing in practicing our written communication skills. There is a lot of tutorials and resources out there but some of them unfortunately aren't clear enough and often contain tech jargon that obfuscates more than clarifies. Another added benefit of written communication is that the reader has the opportunity to focus in a relaxed setting to digest information at their own pace.

I hope this helps someone :).

Best wishes to everyone!

 

I did it (sort of)!

Right out of college, I started working as a software engineer on site for an engineering company (mostly electrical/mechanical). As a result, I was a bit of a unicorn which had its pros and cons. For instance, no one could really gauge my abilities because I was essentially the expert despite my lack of experience. As a result, I found myself in situations where I would be told to complete something trivial. I'd get it done quickly, and they'd turn around and assign something impossible. There was really no middle ground, and I had to spend a lot of time defending myself.

One thing led to another, and I ended up working remote. I loved it. It gave me a lot of space to learn and grow on my own which is my personal preference. The only things I didn't love were the constant phone calls at all hours of the day and the pressure of feeling like I had to work harder than everyone else.

That said, I think I was pretty successful. Though, I guess that depends how you define success. I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. Every day was a battle of imposter syndrome which quickly disappeared as I realized I knew my stuff. And, I had a lot of opportunities to teach other engineers programming which led me to where I am today: an educator.

Ultimately, I think the answer to this question has to do with the individual's personality. I like to work alone, and I struggle a bit with authority, so I thrived in an environment where I was responsible for my own time and work. Others may want a little more guidance. There's nothing wrong with that!

 

Good question, I think that a new developer needs to have someone that can guide them and be there if they have questions. This can work remotely, but the junior developer needs to feel confident in asking questions and reaching out to their team to get help and have thinks explained to them in order for them to learn and grow.
In a non-remote role this communication is easier, but I think they can grow in a remote role but the work is on them to be more proactive.

 

I sure hope you can. It's definitely what I'm looking for. Mostly as a way to help me move out of my current location. I feel like it would allow me to get a higher salary here, work for a few months and then move out of state.

Not having much luck though so far, so I'm teaching myself React to try and catch up in the Javascript Frontend framework world.

 

As with everything, it depends.

My first development jobs were remote and the situations varied based on the company and team as much as it did on me.

I think if a junior dev knows the team is there for support and is willing to speak up when he/she needs it then it can totally work (as it has for me).

If neither of those things happens then it’s not going to work well for either the team or the individual.

I don’t subscribe to the thought that just because someone is “junior” (whatever that is) that hand-holding is a necessity. Open lines of communication, proper code review and pairing can go a long way toward providing the support structure a beginning dev needs. But it has to go both ways because if the team isn’t supportive or an individual isn’t honest and vocal about when and what they’re struggling with, no one benefits.

 

Depends.

If you are young and have generally no experience in working and learning, I'd say remote is a bad idea.

If you are only one of these, it can go well.

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