The weeks leading up to my first Junior developer job were terrifying.
- I had no idea to expect
- What if I don't know what to do?
- What they hired me by accident 😱?
In the end, it turns out I was worried about nothing.
Teams are experienced at hiring people and they don't hire you unless they believe you will be successful in the role.
Still, an idea about what to expect would have allowed me to prepare best and put my mind at ease.
Now I have been on the job for ten months, I am drawing on my real-world experience to outline what you should expect from your first week on the job. Week 3 is a doozy.
Day 1: Finding your way around
When you start a new developer job, there is always much to learn. Fortunately, you don't have to learn it all at once. Your team will understand you're new and afford you the time you need to learn about the company, meet the team, and settle in.
If you work in an office, you will likely meet with your manager to discuss the day and week ahead of you. They will give you a key card, show you around the office, and point out where different teams sit. This way, if you need help, you know where to go. If you are inclined, they will be happy to show you how the coffee machine works!
If you work remotely, your manager will probably schedule a Zoom call. Every team has a unique approach to remote work, which you will learn in this call.
Whether you are working in person or remotely, there will be a lot of introductions, new faces to learn, and information about the company to digest.
Most companies have an internal documentation website, which your manager should give you access to right away. Typically you'll find information about the following:
- People directory which tells you who works at the company and what they do (see an example below!)
- Company values
- Company internal blog
- List of customers
- Legal information
- HR information like what day you are paid
While the information outlined above is relevant to everyone in the company, you will probably find subpages specifically for the engineering team. This subpage will go into the nitty gritty detail like:
- What tools to install
- How to gain access to the company source code and servers
- Who to go to for help
- Common troubleshooting steps
- Diagrams about how the services and apps connect and communicate with each other
Your first week will involve onboarding onto the company's system. This may involve downloading relevant software, setting up development environments or just simply customizing your passwords!
Maybe your company has access to some web development courses like on Scrimba (or an education budget you an spend)
Onboarding can be pretty challenging as while there will likely be instructions, it will be your first time using production-relevant software such as Nginx, Docker or SQL Server Management. Don't worry if you need to start again or if you mess up any installations. Anything you do will likely be able to be undone, and people are usually very understanding!
Sound exhausting? It was for me, but you'll get lots of 'downtime.' For instance, I was given over an hour to set up my emails, fill in my details on the company's HR page, and organize my calendar.
🗯️ Story time!
Oh boy, do I have a story for you… My onboarding experience was very smooth, apart from having an issue downloading a package that all my colleagues used! When I would pair with them, I was used to hearing, 'you really should get this package.' The issue was I had to chase up my manager's manager, who I knew was super busy (very approachable but busy nonetheless). After plucking up the courage after a month of waiting, he was surprised I had waited so long to follow up with him! Learn from my mistake! Time box a reasonable time to follow up with someone and have the courage to do so!
During this first day, try to take notes - for example, make your own notes about who is who and what they do.
While your manager will always be a helpful point of contact, noting the who's who in your company will save you time and make your onboarding experience easier:
- Who is best to contact if your laptop is faulty?
- Who is best to contact if you lose your keycard?
- Who is best to contact if you have questions about your employment contract
This information may exist in the internal documentation already! If it doesn't, you could suggest to your manager that you update the documentation. This will leave a good impression on your manager for sure! More importantly, you are making the onboarding a bit better than you found it for the next new joiner.
Day 2: Your first standup
The famous standup! If you've done some research about web development, you've probably come across this term, but assuming this is the first time you have heard this term, standup is where a team will meet daily to discuss individual tasks.
If your whole team comes in, you may all meet in a room, but it'll likely be online as so many people work from home now.
Here you will be given a chance to meet your team, be up to speed on current projects and learn about your team's objectives for that sprint or quarter.
Your team will likely have some 'board' (think of a virtual whiteboard) that is used as a hub to manage and see where everyone is at with their 'tickets' (a word often used to represent a task, a bug to fixed or an investigation to be conducted).
Don't worry if you feel like you would struggle to pick up one of these tickets straight away. It takes a long time for mid- and senior-level engineers to orient their way around production-level codebases, and it will take some time to understand how things are done at your company!
While you may not be able to tackle the most complex tickets, you will be able to contribute in due time, leading to my next point.
You'll have lots of questions during your first few standups.
Here's a tip, write down any question you have and note of any tickets that you find particularly interesting or want to learn about.
Maybe you've not used Modals before. Perhaps you're confused about how Redux works. Make notes and organize a catch-up with someone senior or the person who picks up the ticket. It will give you an opportunity to pair program and learn!
💡 Where do standups come from?
The idea of a standup comes from agile project management, which, simply put, is the industry standard for helping programmers and stakeholders achieve their goals fast and effectively.
A daily standup should:
- Ideally, be no longer than 15 minutes
- Be an opportunity to share and reveal any blockers or communicate how work may affect others
Day 3: Understand the company's mission
Mission may seem to be a dramatic word for the world but every company exsits for a reason. Understanding the problems your company is trying to solve or the improvements they are making to your industry is vital for you to understand.
Understanding why will help you see the role you play in fulfilling this mission. If someone asks you what's so special about your company's product or service on the Friday of your first week, if you can't give a good answer, you may not be in a job for long! Try in your first week to engage and understand your company's working culture as much as possible.
Do people prefer to send messages on Slack or via email? Do your colleagues use emoji's when communicating with you? Do your teammates turn their cameras on during standup or have them off?
Odds are, if they all turn their camera on, they'll expect you to as well! The closer you're tied into the company, its mission, its culture, its fabric, the better time you'll have long term!
Understand how your company achieves this mission is really important.
Day 4: One on one
You'll likely have 1-to-1 with your manager during your first week. The number of 1-to-1s you have in web development will probably be higher than in other industries. Most developers have monthly 1-to-1s with their direct reports.
Take advantage of this! Make sure to get an idea of the expectations your manager and the company will have of you and inform your manager of your goals. It's a two-way street! Try to get an idea of the working formalities of working at your company.
- How much notice do you need to give to get the holidays you like?
- What's the best way to contact your manager in the case of a family emergency?
These questions may seem like overkill, but it's best to get them out earlier rather than later.
Try and organize a few lunches and coffees with your team. A simple message such as 'Hey, I just joined the team this week and would love to introduce myself properly! When you get a few minutes free, I would love to have a quick chat' surprisingly will go a long way! Don't expect people to come to you! It's tempting in a new office to think people should welcome you, but they're busy, or maybe they don't think like that. Take responsibility for reaching out to people!
Day 5: Getting stuck in
Here's where my advice and experience will get less specific.
Different companies do things differently. Some will assign you tickets that aren't time-sensitive on day one. Some will put you on an online course to upskill you. Others will have you shadowing senior developers to understand by watching.
Things will be different across the board, but the important thing is that you start your first week keen to learn and read! A big part of web development is reading, and a smaller portion is writing code!
Be ready to learn and make mistakes!
- You'll commit your changes to the main branch by accident.
- You'll forget to make frequent commits and pay the price for it later!
- You'll face merge conflicts, lots of them, but it's all part of the process, and everyone has been through it, and you, too, will come out the other side!
When you face an issue, try and follow DGC, an acronym I made up and followed, but it works for me!
- D - Documentation! Always check your company's internal documentation. It may be a known issue. It's worth the check! With time you may swap this step with the Google step!
- G - Google! Make sure to Google any questions you have. Learning how to Google effectively will help you down the line as it will help you understand how to search for things succinctly and to get the best answers! Always timebox this according to the urgency of the task you are on. StackOverflow can be super time-consuming!
- C - Colleagues! Make sure to let a colleague or buddy know of your issue and mention to them things you have tried. Having taken some initiative to try things out for yourself, you will leave a good impression on them and save them from trying something that you now know will not work!
Try not to overthink your first week!
Will you forget someone's name? Yes! Will they hate you for it? No! People and your colleagues are likely to be much more forgiving than you think, and your first week will not make or break you!
The coming weeks and months will be your opportunity to affirm your company's decision to hire you for the skills and potential you showcased to them during your interview!