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My Scary First Day as a Developer.

sumukhesh profile image Sumukhesh ・4 min read

It all started with a mail that read, "your onboarding process starts tomorrow. You will have an orientation and an introduction to the team." Reading this mail gave me an adrenaline boost. Of course, I knew before this mail that I was hired, but I was very eager to start, ready to dive into the latest technologies, building stuff, and creating the next big things. This might sound like a cliche`, but I couldn't sleep that night. I was constantly imagining and recreating scenarios in my mind. It felt awesome and I thought, this is how success feels like.

The next morning, I was glued to my phone constantly waiting for the meeting link. Now mind you, I am also a daydreamer, so I was reliving yesterday's "successes". Finally, I got a notification. It was the meeting link and I froze like a deer in front of headlights. I was not sure of what was bound to happen after I click the link. I impulsively clicked the link anyway.

The meeting was over. It was a normal introductory session and it surely didn't match any of the scenarios I imagined last night. But the important thing about the session was that I was introduced to the technology stack they operated on. Finally, in the end, I was given a list of concepts to learn in Angular. Later that day I spent most of the time learning angular and was excited to implement it in real-world projects. At the end of the day, I got a phone call from our founder...

DISCLAIMER: What happened next was unique for me and might not be the same for everyone on their first day at work. Remember, I was working in a start-up, so I knew the challenges before and was ready to face them. This is by no means to scare any of you.

On the phone call, our founder had explained to me the immediate project that required attention. We were supposed to deliver an initial prototype of a working project to the client in a single day. It was an 'all hands at the deck ' moment where we had an internal hackathon to produce a stable working deliverable by the end.

The next day, our hackathon started at 8:00 AM. I was immediately pushed into a group. Later we discussed how we were going to approach the problem and solve it accurately. As it was my first day at work, I had no idea what they were talking about. That's when panic started to kick in. After the meeting, roles were assigned and I got my first task.
Immediately, I was given access to the codebase and was simply asked to add a widget to an HTML Page.

With a lot of anxiety and a dash of optimism, I decided to view the codebase and decide an approach to solve the task. The moment I opened the codebase, I was dumbfounded with the amount of code and logic in front of me(it was 10 times the amount of code I wrote for my projects). At this moment the panic and anxiousness started to turn into fear.
Fear of not completing the task, fear of inability, fear of FAILURE.

In this state of distress, I was not able to connect the dots. I wasn't thinking clearly. My brain was being shoved with tons and tons of lines of code which I didn't know. This resulted in me forgetting the basics of HTML.
As I go further into the codebase, the fear grew exponentially to a point where I forced myself to shut the system. After this, I went for a walk to calm myself. During this walk, I felt miserable as I was not able to complete even a small task.

After a while, I regained some clarity and went back to the system. I decided to search for some templates online. Although I thought, I'd never opt to do this in my professional career, I decided to do it anyway. This was not how I expected my first day to be. But I was not ready to give up easily.
later that day, I spent almost 7-8 hours on google, stack overflow, W3 Schools, and many more code websites. I also took a lot of help from my teammates. Finally, after going through tons of API documentation, blogs, and comments, I eventually managed to show the expected output to the team.

What started as an exciting day at 8:00 in the morning ended at midnight with a lot of exhaustion(Yeah you read it right, I worked up to 16 hours on my first day and I regret nothing about it.).

My takeaway from all this is that, it's okay to be overwhelmed with all the technical things you see on your first day. It's okay to forget the things you know. It's okay, not understanding anything on your first meet. It's okay to google even small concepts if you are not sure. It's okay to ask for help.
No one expects you to be a perfect developer right on your first day. The things that baffle you on your first day will become easier to grasp after a few weeks. Give yourself some time, and you'll perform better when you are in the right state of mind.
Now I completed 10 days at the company, and am able to process the information thrown at me, navigate my way through the treacherous codebase, and complete at least one small task per day. I am by no means comfortable doing what I am, but now I dare to face new challenges. I am glad of my first day at work and I believe it played a part in making me a better developer.

Right then, this was my scary first day as a developer. Though it is not a typical first day for a beginner, it surely is one to remember.
Share your first day experiences in the comments down below.

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Sumukhesh

@sumukhesh

A software newbie willing to learn, create and contribute to the ever growing dev community.

Discussion

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Well done, mate. Welcome to the club.

I agree that it's okay to feel overwhelmed at first (and occasionally later on as well) and yes, looking up even basic stuff is pretty much what we all do from time to time.

What isn't okay is that you appear to have been thrown into this situation without someone specifically assigned to be watching over you and helping out. It's good that the team helped out anyway and it's probably harsh to expect a startup to pay attention to detail like this, but when one day you get into a situation where you're hiring newbies, try to remember what it was like for you and make sure you make it as smooth for them as possible.

 

Thanks mate!!
Yeah even I felt it was unfair but the situation demanded it. Later that week our manager called and appreciated my effort on my first day, and quoted ''Only extreme pressures make Diamonds".
That will stick with me now forever. πŸ˜‡
Cheers!!

 

When i was reading this,sometimes i was almost sure that the story is about my firsts day at work. I started work as developer two weeks ago and i felt the same when i saw a codebase for the first time.

 

Exactly Right...I think the important thing to do when seeing the codebase for the first time is trying to break things down into fundamental concepts and try to relate it to what you already know. This kinda helped me alot.
Cheers!! πŸ˜‡

 

Developers who are fresh; aka first job, need a proper induction. Typically in my teams they are given small well defined tasks which are not on the critical path. You don't want to overload them, and especially with complex codebases you want to expose them to limited sections rather than everything all at once.
You need to give them a mentor, usually a senior developer, who will act both as a guide and reviewer of their work. After a few months of this they gain the trust of the team to be able to tackle more complex user stories independently.
I know someone fresh to the industry feels like they want to prove themselves, but software isn't about being a superhero. What matter at the end of the day is meeting the needs of users and delivering value to the business. The success factor here isn't in crazy hours or being a technical supergenius, but rather being able to work with users and clients to address their needs.
Welcome to the tar pit.

 

Yes I agree. A proper induction might help alot especially to have a guide helping you out with new things and reviewing your work. But a start-up with fewer members can't afford to particularly assign a senior dev to guide/mentor newbies as they already have a lot on their plate.
I knew before joining that ill have to learn alot of new things, some with guidance and some without.

 

Just be aware that often startups exploit the good will and enthusiasm of developers. Having the odd crunch day where you need to do long hours isn't nessasarily a bad thing, but when it becomes the norm it is most certainly not cool.
Throwing a fresh developer at a problem and expecting a solution in a single day is pathological. I've spent a career cleaning up the mess left behind from this kind of thing.
joeyoder.com/PDFs/mud.pdf

 

First of all.... Congratulations bro 🎊 πŸŽ‰

 

Thanks alot bro. πŸ˜‡

 

I am. Not sure if I misunderstood you. You were hired for a developer job although you never developed before? Or you have done something on your spare time and this was the first developer job? That was not clear to me :-)

 

I have done development in my spare time, building small projects and yeah, This is my first development job.
I can see where your question is coming from. Usually in my projects I have little or no particular architecture of the code. The main goal while Iam working on a project is only to learn the concepts.
When coming to the company, they had a particular implementation of an architecture of the code, which I didn't pick up. Even though I knew what they were doing I had trouble locating it in the codebase.

 

Actually tomorrow is my first day of work(am a fresh graduate,not yet due to pandemic). And it'll be completely virtual.. this article is my life Savior and paced down my heart beat

 

Thanks.
Even I am a unconfirmed graduate like you.
I hope you have a great first day πŸ˜‡
Cheers !!

 

Wait till you take down a production server and get called at 2am to fix it. That's when the real fun begins! 😏

Great read, thanks for sharing!

 

That is one of the things I am most afraid of πŸ˜….
So everytime I commit something I am putting it through a thorough code review.
Then and only then I commit.
Cheers!! πŸ˜‡

 

Awesome! Love your passion for quality!

Pro-Tip: Make sure your QA's drop screenshots and testing notes in your dev issues/tickets to leave a clean audit trail. Never MTP (Move to Production) code without that. If that process isn't in place at your enterprise, take steps to make it happen. Full disclosure, I'm a Software Test Engineer, and can personally speak to why this matters. 🀣

Cheers to you as well Sir!

πŸ’―

 

Great start bro😎
All the best

 

Thanks a lot bro😁.

 

it is an awsm experience of urs sumukhesh can't wait for my first day at job .... hope i will also overcome my fears as you did

 

Thanks rid. Iam sure you will do great at your first day.πŸ˜‡

 

That was an amazing read πŸ‘. I couldn't imagine how I could have thought of this situation in a positive manner😡. I appreciate your determination and taking things positivelyπŸ‘. But make sure that you can't be compromised on everything just because of these qualities. Handling pressure at times is ok though! But at times, it may be just redirected to you because of someone else's mistake! Be assertive!

 

Thanks alot.
It was a unique and unprecedented situation for me. I saw no other option but to adapt to the scenario. I knew the risks of working in a start-up before joining, but I was not expecting to work so soon.
Just because I adapted to the changes doesn't mean everyone can and should. It important to know your limits of capabilities and not be afraid to tell your team members.
Great point. Cheers!! πŸ˜‡

 

Well my heart was pacing at a faster beat the more i read. I am about to enter the newbie phase later this month and I dont want to be in such distress on the first day. So thanks for the heads up.

 

Dont worry. You most likely won't be facing any of the distress on your first day. Mine was just an exceptional case.
Hope you have a great first day πŸ˜‡

 
 

I'm waiting for the day...

 

I hope you'll get there soon πŸ˜‡