Five Things I Learned in my First Year as a Software Engineer

Five Things I Learned in my First Year as a Software Engineer

At Bevy, we see the power and strength of communities every day. When people come together and work on a common goal, amazing things will happen. The tech startup world is fast-paced, super exciting, and always changing, and the Bevy team is up for the challenge. One of the heroes who works behind the scenes of our team is Chris Aikman. Chris is a software engineer, and joined the Bevy team when he was pretty fresh out of college, and after his first few years in the startup tech world, he’s learned a few things...

...here are five things Chris learned in his first year as a software engineer.

Ask Questions

During your first days, weeks, and maybe even months, it’s a very likely possibility you’ll have no idea what you’re doing. You’ll be introduced to an unfamiliar codebase that’s using unfamiliar technology and be working on unfamiliar tasks. While you may be determined to figure it out on your own - and that’s awesome - there are many cases where it’s easier and more efficient to just ask for help.

No one benefits from extended periods of fruitless research when a short conversation with the experts on the topic can often provide better results. Set yourself a reasonable maximum time to try figuring it out on your own. If you feel you aren’t making progress or are getting frustrated after that time, ask away. The same logic applies to any third party libraries or programming languages being used as well. There are many useful communities online with plenty of software developers willing to lend a helping hand. Overall, remember that your team and your workplace wants you to succeed as much as you do, and they will be willing to help.

Show Initiative

The fog that loomed over the codebase in your beginning days will gradually begin to lift. You may even become comfortable with some areas of the code. Once that happens and you’re able to start and complete projects with minimum intervention, it’s time to start showing initiative. Take on extra code reviews, especially in areas of the code you need - or want - to get more familiar with. Go above and beyond while researching your next project. Ask if you can help with future hiring and onboarding processes. If you have useful ideas or procedures from previous experiences, discuss with the team whether or not it would be beneficial to implement them here. If you see something that could be improved, bring up ideas for solutions.

Help Others

One day on your new journey, something very interesting will happen. A team member will ask you about something. Not so long ago, you may have thought to yourself that you’d never be in the same position as your coding mentors, but the day will eventually come. This is the time to start returning all of the help and favors your teammates gave you during your onboarding: Request to take over an overloaded engineer’s side project, ask if you can help cover extra code reviews, contribute to an open source project. The best way to truly understand something is to teach it and helping others will give you a deeper understanding of the source material. And remember, give someone an answer, it will solve one problem. Teach someone how to find the answer, and all the problems will be solved.

Leave Your Comfort Zone

Eventually, everything will start to fall into place and you’ll find that your work life is becoming easier and easier. It’ll be very tempting to relax and fall into that comfort zone. Don’t! This crossroad is a very important part in your career and the decisions you make here is what I feel distinguishes the truly great software engineers from the rest. Not only will the comfort zone quickly become dull, you’ll rapidly fall behind in this fast-moving field. Instead, complacency should be an indicator that it’s time to expand your reach.

Keep Learning

Once you finally feel comfortable and at home with the team and the codebase, there’s one more thing to keep in mind, and it’s probably the most important item on this list: keep learning. Learning truly is the foundation that ties everything together in the computer science domain. There are new technologies, new libraries, and even new languages being introduced all the time. Computer science requires you to constantly keep up, to be curious, to want to learn more and that’s what makes it so exciting!

There you have it! Five things I learned in my first year as a software engineer. It’s an exciting time to be in this field. You must be inspired to learn and try new things, be comfortable leaving your comfort zone, be willing to help out your team, be looking for opportunities to show initiative, and never be afraid to ask questions. Always remember, it’s ok not knowing what you’re doing as long as you put in the effort to figure it out.

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