It’s your big day: You survived college and finally have a diploma in your hands to prove it. You are officially a computer engineer! Ready to dive headfirst into your first job and change the world? I know exactly how you feel.
Just two years ago, I was in the same position as you. Now that I’ve experienced my first job as a programmer, I’m here to share a few tips and tricks and guide you to programming stardom.
In the real world, it is not enough simply to master technology and programming - you also must interact with people on the job. In most programming positions, you will work as part of a team solving all kinds of problems, which is why people skills are equally as important as tech skills. That’s why I’m going to offer advice on how to improve your people skills as well as your tech skills in this two-part article. These tips will help prepare you for your career adventures to come. Hold on tight, because we are taking off!
Part 1: people skills
When you are working on software projects, you will most certainly work as part of a team. This is why you need to know how to get along with people on the job. When you are starting your first job, you will find yourself in situations not necessarily connected to coding that will require patience, emotional intelligence and social skills. Here are some of the situations you may face and tips on how to deal with them.
There will be days when you feel overwhelmed
I know I was, especially on my very first day. As soon as I walked into the office, I went through the standard procedure of meeting the team and acquiring all the equipment and supplies I would need for the job. And then, BAM! After that, requests started pouring in. Install this, understand that, call New York... Call New York?! What? And so it continued, into the next day and the next and the next. This is when your excitement tumbles into the depths of despair, and you start wondering if you’re in the right place. Imposter syndrome kicks in, and you question your every move and decision.
But hold on! The good thing is that this feeling is perfectly normal. Did you know everything when you started uni? No. But you worked your way up, learned the ins and outs, and got that degree.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, ask lots of questions and write down everything. In addition to my laptop, I always carry around a notebook so I can jot down even the silliest, seemingly insignificant facts and remarks. At the end of the day, I take time to read through my notes and then Google the things I’m unsure about or ask someone in the office. Don’t underestimate the power of pen and paper. It has been scientifically proven that people who actually write things down tend to learn more effectively and quickly than those who just type notes on a laptop. Be a geek: Start writing down everything you hear, and soon enough you’ll be a pro.
Express yourself and value your own ideas
The IT industry is so incredibly diverse. So many technologies, so many fields, so many topics and countless opinions. When I first started my job, I was deeply overwhelmed by, well, everything. This feeling can quickly send your professional self esteem into a nosedive. In my case, I started to think everyone was more qualified than me.
Soon enough, I realised this simply was not true. I have valid opinions and good ideas. So do you! Just because your opinions and perspectives might differ from someone else's doesn’t mean you are wrong or not good enough. Express your ideas, and raise concerns when something is not right. Do not be afraid. Sometimes you’ll be wrong, of course. But that’s okay! As they say, failure leads to success. So, just learn from your mistakes, apologise if necessary and move on. If you don’t value your own ideas, everyone around you will begin to influence your work and-even worse-your thinking. This will lead you straight into a dead end. Changes don’t happen to wallflowers who sit silently and keep their opinions to themselves. So, speak up!
Find your mentors
While there are some people you shouldn’t listen to, there are others who can offer you worthwhile advice and guidance. I learned this the hard way - but if you don’t find a mentor who can help and guide you, your work will be significantly harder and your overall progress will be much slower. Take opinions and advice from the veterans who have been there and done that. Look at their experience, where they’ve worked and what they accomplished. Look for people who have a passion not just for technology, but also for quality solutions, code and products. Keep an eye out for people who can back up their opinion with legit experience and noteworthy evidence. When you work with an experienced mentor, not only will you learn more quickly, but you’ll also know you are getting the right advice. This is will shape you into a great engineer one day.
If you’re like many new graduates, your first job may not be exactly what you expected. In a world where everything is available in an instant at your fingertips, many new programmers expect that success and the perfect job will come overnight. In reality, there’s no shortcut to success.
Even after two years of working, I am not even close to the peak of my success. And my first job certainly was not my perfect job. I made a change after nine months and landed a job here at Infinum!
I’m still learning, sometimes in theory, sometimes with trial and error. This process takes a lot of patience, but it’s worth it.
Patience is a virtue. If you work hard, you will ultimately reach the destination you desire, so just enjoy the journey. Every year you’ll get better, so hold on and don’t give up. It takes time to write good software, and it takes even more time if you are a newbie.
As you dive into your first programming role, I hope these “people skills” tips will make your job easier. I sure wish someone had given me this advice when I started my first job two years ago.
Stay tuned for part two of this article, where I’ll cover the tech skills you need to survive your first programming job!
If you don't know where to start, and are really eager to work with technology, make sure to check out Infinum Academy. Infinum Academy is a free five-week course during which you'll learn the basics of modern software development. But hey, you'll also have a chance to learn some people skills.
Kudos to Dubravko Tuksar for designing the cover illustration.