Are you ready to hear about my wild ride as a software engineer? I mean, who would have thought that an international educator and translator in their thirties would pivot their career and become a software engineer? Not me, that’s for sure. But here I am, a year into my apprenticeship at Voxel and ready to spill the tea on all the things I’ve learned and experienced.
Let me tell you, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. I’ve had my fair share of frustration, but I’ve also had moments of pure elation. And that’s what software engineering is all about: navigating conflict and being comfortable with the unknown. But I need to confess that I’m someone who needs order and organization in my life, so why would I choose a career path like this? Because I wanted to push myself, do something different, and be in a field of constant change. And it is true that, if you have a curious mind, it’s impossible to get bored.
So, what have I learned in my first year as a software engineer? It’s difficult to encapsulate a years’ worth of learnings in one blog post, so I have decided to present what I consider to be my top five biggest takeaways from the past year:
1. Be prepared for both frustrating and rewarding moments. As I’ve progressed through my first year, I’ve noticed that there is still a lot to learn, and I often feel unsure when I start something new. But the fear that I initially felt has decreased significantly, it has almost disappeared. What’s my secret? One of the strategies that has helped me is creating order and structure before even touching any line of code. I locate the code I need to alter and while I’m navigating it, I create a visual representation in the form of a class diagram. This way, I have a map of some sort and a global vision of where I am. This approach has allowed me to have a better understanding of the code and to feel more in control, which has helped to decrease the fear of the unknown.
2. “Everything, everywhere, all at once.” Like in the movie, my first couple of months in the apprenticeship, I felt I was trapped in some sort of multiverse nightmare. They were challenging, and I felt I didn’t have enough time to assimilate all the concepts, and that I wasn’t grasping them fast enough. But my mentor reminded me that balance is key. Sleep, healthy eating, learning, and having some fun time away from the computer are all important. And if you’re feeling like you’re burning out, learn to ask for a mental health day. It may feel awkward at first, but it’s a win-win situation in the end, since you will be capable of performing better after having some rest.
3. Attend tech conferences and surround yourself with people on the same journey as you. This past year I had the pleasure of attending the infamous BilboStack with several of my Voxel peers, and it was a great experience. I remember being worried I wouldn’t understand the conference topics, that they would be too technical for me, but I realized that the best software engineers can explain elevated concepts in a simple way. I met a ton of cool people and got to hear some extremely relevant talks. If you have not attended one yet for similar reasons, I highly encourage you to shake your fears off and attend one!
4. Be selective with your side projects. I was so excited at the beginning of my apprenticeship that I started saying yes to all side projects within the company. But it backfired because I wasn’t focusing enough on what really mattered, my tech skills. Joining a new company means you need to learn its business model while you’re also upscaling your software engineering skills. Believe me, it’s wise to focus only on that for the first year. If you end up saying yes to one, make sure it will help you become a better programmer.
5. Working remotely changes everything! When my partner got a job in the US, the whole family moved from Barcelona to Seattle. This meant having a nine-hour time difference from the rest of the team. Nine! And let me tell you, it was a big change but thanks to the flexibility of my company, I was able to continue working remotely and it forced me to push myself and become more independent. It also required me to be very efficient with the time that overlapped with my team and communicate effectively with them. I would have never imagined that this would impact so greatly on my journey as a developer. Now I am developing features on my own and with more confidence than ever.
So, there you have it, my first year as a software engineer in a nutshell. It’s been intense, emotional, and full of learning. But would I do it all over again? Absolutely.
To the junior software engineers out there, don’t be discouraged by the struggles you may be facing. Remember that frustration and uncertainty are just part of the journey. Embrace the challenge and push yourself to learn and grow. And don’t forget to take care of yourself too, balance is key.
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/vilamarta