A guide for programming newbies

A guide for programming newbies
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Almost every programmer is focusing on how to be the best, to do some ‘wow’ stuff, but very few are trying to help others evolve. But, as the world turns, there will always be “freshies”, “newbies”, “juniors”. Call them as you will, one thing is for certain: growing into the programming business is tough and we need all the help we can get. As one of many programming newbies, I’ve decided to share some survival tips.

Fast growing recipe for programmer newbies

This article is specially addressed to newcomers, as I am now at the promising start of my programming career. But my aim is to also help mentors and seniors. They usually want to avoid repetitive discussions about how to do something, how to do it better, what to stop doing and so on. This article should also help both parts reduce misunderstandings and to create empathy between them.
So, if you are new to the IT industry, or you are thinking about following this career path, maybe you should keep in mind the following:

Programming newbies should be themselves

You have to know yourself well enough to do what suits you best. Don’t get stuck on a specific position, if you have to lie to get there. You will have to live with that lie and, most probably, that will lead to stress or anxiety. Be honest when you are introducing yourself, your hobbies, qualities and weaknesses. It’s a manager or recruiter’s job to find what is well suited for you. If you are interested in interview tips, you can also check out our article on showcasing your knowledge in interviews.

Programming newbies should be constant learners

Many people are telling themselves, before getting a job: “I don’t have to know anything. They will teach me how to do it.”. Or, after getting the job, some will think “I got the job. I don’t have to learn anymore.”. The truth is that programming newbies have to be constant learners, having a solid knowledge base and always trying to adapt to new technologies and their concepts. Any aspect can be improved in time, as proven by our experience with Git or various micro-improvements.

Programming newbies should ask questions

Don’t be afraid of asking when you are in doubt or when you don’t understand something. Even a silly question can make you improve your vision about the problem. Instead of wasting a lot of time on looking for an answer, someone else’s professional opinion can help you by setting a researching path.

… but know when to stop asking

Even though it is a good tip to look constantly inquisitive, you have to know when to STOP asking. Mentors are usually experienced programmers, not teachers. They can do your tasks way faster than you do. If they assign you to do something, then you should learn how to do that thing, not bugging others to solve your problems. A better approach, in this case, is to ask for an opinion about the solution you found, instead of saying that you simply don’t know how to solve an issue.
Keep it simple

Programming newbies should keep it simple

A good way to solve a task is by simplifying it, or dividing into multiple sub-tasks. Solve the easiest ones and then put them together into something more complex. Repeat these steps until you finish your assignment. The same logic can be applied to coding itself: Build small and easy functionalities first, like functions and methods. Test them properly, then, group it all together, based on purpose, into something more complex, like modules. These baby-steps will lead to building big, but easily maintainable projects. This approach is intuitive, which is why even senior programmers practice test-driven development. They just gave “baby steps” a fancy name. Alas, we are all human and prone to the same mistakes. Which brings me to the fact that…

Nobody’s perfect

Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t turn mistakes into drama. Instead, you should consider learning from them, just as in life. On the other hand, if you consider yourself perfect, don’t show it to your more experienced colleagues. I’m pretty sure that they’ll find a way to prove you’re wrong.
Record everything happening around you: tips from your co-workers, online articles, podcasts, books, your own mistakes and accomplishments etc. Each new experience can help you grow.

Programming newbies should accept and give feedback

An immediate result may be hard to get sometimes. To know if you are doing well, you can collect feedback from the others. Consider your negative feedback as constructive and don’t be mad when you receive it. A positive feedback is not always the best option. In this case, it’s even harder to find a path to self-improvement.
Also, keep in mind that feedback is a two-way street. Tell your colleague if they are good at something. Be sure that they will feel more confident and help them keep a positive attitude. If you consider that someone’s work is wrong or misleading, don’t be afraid to say it (nicely!). This is another way to help improving the community.

Programming newbies should take breaks and make time for themselves

At first, you may feel dizzy trying to follow all the rules. Don’t worry! In time, you will get used to them. There will be moments when you will feel stuck on something almost impossible to finalise. Our advice? Take a break! Your brain works better if you give it time to rest.
You are a person, not a human resource. No one will applaud if you volunteer for some extra hours that were not demanded. A grave mistake programming newbies do is going into full workaholic mode. At the end of the day, you should go home and focus on the things you enjoy. Detach yourself from work. Be the person that you would like yourself to be. Finally, you have to be unique if want to be irreplaceable.

Food for thought

These are just some of the situations that I’ve encountered as Intern or Junior Developer. If you want to add something, feel free to add a comment below. Same if you are in doubt about anything that I already noted. Let’s help other newbies focus on their value, not on worrying about the road ahead!

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