a rubber duck

5 Pieces of Advice for Junior Developers


April 06, 2022

1. Impostor Syndrome never really goes away

There will be many times in your career, especially early on as a junior, that you feel stupid or like you’re not cut out for the job. That’s called Impostor Syndrome and every developer experiences it at some point, even senior devs!

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism) is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. - Wikipedia

It still happens to me sometimes after over a year of being a developer; I might not be able to grasp a certain concept and suddenly I’m full of doubt. However, I try to take a step back and think of all the things that I have learned and accomplished, and then I will be in a better mindset to tackle the problem again. Imposter Syndrome can make it’s appearance any time in your career, but it is nothing to be afraid of; try to recongnise it and learn from it.

2. Learn how to “Rubber Duck”

Rubber Ducking (aka Rubber Duck Debugging) is a method of explaining your problem in order to articulate and understand it. The term comes from a book, The Pragmatic Programmer, in which the programmer would carry around a little rubber duck with him and explains his problems to it! Sounds pretty cute if you ask me.

a rubber duck

I never really understood this term at first, but since working as a junior dev, I’ve realised how useful it can be! Sometimes when you’re learning, it’s easy to get stuck on something and feel like there’s just no way you’re going to figure it out. You know you can ask colleagues for help, but sometimes it’s difficult even to explain the problem you’re trying to solve! There’s also the fact that it would be so much more rewarding (and more likely to stick in your head) if you could figure it out yourself. I don’t own any rubber ducks (I feel like I should!), but I starting sitting a little teddy bear next to me and tried explaining my problems to it…and you know what, it really helped! I started becoming better at explaining myself and feeling more confident in my problem solving ability.

3. Take every opportunity you can get to pair program

I know some people actually aren’t that keen on pair programming because they’d much rather pop their headphones on and just get on with their work…but believe me, pair programming is extremely valuable!

If you’ve learned to code at a bootcamp then you’ll probably have had quite an introduction to pair programming. If not, then I really recommend you try it. In pair programming, often one dev is the driver (shares their screen and types the code) and the other person is the navigator (talks through the problem with their partner and helps to generate ideas).

man and woman looking at a computer screen together

Pair programming is good for many reasons:

  • You get to learn from the other person; like different ways of working and different approaches to problem solving that you might not have tried before.
  • It helps you to articulate problems better and get used to explaining them to another person. Vice versa, it can help you better understand something that someone else is explaining.
  • Its good for improving your soft skills and helps to build relationships with your colleagues if you understand their ways of working/thinking.
  • It’s a great way to learn something new together…and it can be fun!

4. Don’t give up on your side projects

So you’ve got a job as a junior developer and you’re working basically 9-5…it can be pretty tiring right? It’s very tempting to completely switch off and not think about code during your non-working hours…and believe me, you do deserve to take a break! However, although you will be learning a lot in your job, you might not be working on projects that you’re personally passionate about. Sometimes this can lead to you not enjoying coding as much as you used to.

Some jobs give you time every month to do some learning or work on practice projects; if are lucky enough to get that, then take it! If not, then try to set aside a little bit of time, even just an hour a week if that’s all you have, to work on something that you want to code just for fun. Keep the passsion alive!

5. You won’t be a junior developer forever

Everyone had to start somewhere and every developer was a junior at the beginning. Don’t worry about about how long it will be until you can be referred to as a “mid-level” or “senior-developer”. This will naturally come with your experience and the skills you are able to demonstrate. Make sure you can have conversations with your colleagues about your personal development and your aspirations, so you have the support to get to where you want to be.

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Written by Tia Eastwood, software developer, React enthusiast and cat lover.