Even though it was 12 years ago, I still remember what the most stressful part of being a junior developer was. I was reminded of it when I saw this meme in my Twitter timeline yesterday:
In my first developer job, I had no previous experience - just some basic front-end coding and design classes at Uni. I had been hired by an advertising agency to animate flash banners and code marketing emails. The work atmosphere was fast-paced but I enjoyed the challenge. There was a lot to learn but I was loving everything I was learning. A lot of the people who worked there - ‘ad people’ were intense personalities but I grew used to working with them.
I loved that job, and couldn’t believe I was being paid more to do it than in any hospitality role I had worked prior. There was just one part that stressed me out: knowing how long I should work on figuring out something by myself vs. asking for help. I had no context for how long anything should take. I didn’t want to be judged harshly for asking too many dumb questions, but I also didn’t want to appear to be slow. I had the added pressure of feeling like I was representing my entire gender with my performance.
My manager at the time must have noticed my anxiety around this, and he did a wonderful thing. He made the timing aspect of it super explicit for me. He would do things like give me my next task and then say “try and get this done, if at any point you have spent an hour without making any progress, come and ask for help”. Then I knew how long was too long to spin my wheels on something on my own. Most of the time, I could keep figuring things out on my own, but when I couldn’t I could approach my manager without worrying whether I was bothering him “too soon”.
By the time I moved on from that job, with the help of that manager, I had enough experience to be able to judge when it is time to ask for help on something and didn’t have to worry about it again.
As I’ve always worked on small teams, I haven’t had the opportunity to manage a green developer that needs a lot of direction. But I thought I would just share this in case it is useful to anyone who does. Try and be very specific when you share your expectations around timing, it might help them out. It certainly helped me.