Ember.js, mentorship, and the confidence gap

Julia Donaldson
Sep 7, 2017 · 3 min read
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A Q&A app I built using Ember

Less than a year ago, I graduated from bootcamp with a keen sense of accomplishment and unbridled optimism. I was excited to embark on a new career as a frontend developer and continue to grow as a coder. My decision to quit my previous job to pursue an interest in web development felt more like the right decision than ever.

What I had not anticipated was just how challenging the entry-level hurdle would be. Most “junior-level” job postings came with minimum requirements of years of experience, a degree in computer science, and a “deep proficiency” in full-stack development with multiple languages and frameworks. Suddenly, everything I had worked so hard to learn and build seemed inadequate.

As weeks passed, I found myself increasingly paralyzed by imposter-syndrome. My passion, skills, and willingness to work hard seemed completely overshadowed by my lack of professional experience as a developer. Most companies politely told me that they were only interested in much more experienced applicants. I felt more and more like an outsider in the tech world — as a woman, yes, but most of all because I was a beginner.

Much has been written on imposter-syndrome and its prevalence among even the most senior and accomplished developers in the industry. The trouble with imposter-syndrome as a new developer is that you don’t have as much evidence with which to argue against your insecurity. Sure, my Github account had plenty of small apps and projects built as learning exercises, but I was extremely self-critical and none of them felt like “real-world” projects to me. Mentorship with Ember changed that for me.

I was fortunate to find mentorship through This Dot and its co-founder, Taras Mankovski, who urged me to explore Ember as a framework. Ember provided a convention-based architecture that guided me as a new developer and reinforced best-practices in my code.

Learning Ember not only taught me how to build applications “the Ember way”, but how to better conceptualize the building of web applications in general. Ember’s test suite made test-driven development approachable and easy-to-adopt. And the extensive library of Ember CLI addons is not only a fantastic resource for easily implementing features, but also a valuable resource for learning from other developer’s code.

Ember increased my productivity and as a result I felt emboldened to add new features to my apps. The framework’s built-in conventions gave me the confidence to spend less time worrying about things like “did I configure this correctly?” and instead to push myself forward as a developer by trying new things. I spent less time feeling insecure and more time writing code. Simply put, the process of learning and building with Ember makes me feel like less of an imposter, and more like a developer.

Recently I spoke with an accomplished, senior developer who shared his own story of breaking into the industry years ago. He told me that a pivotal moment for him in his early career was the realization that he did not need anyone’s permission to write code and build web apps. He didn’t need to wait for a job title to be a web developer, he was a web developer because he was building web applications. For me, mentorship with Ember was the key to bridging that confidence gap.

Ember magnifies the skillset you bring to it, which makes it ideal as a framework for new developers like me. You can do a lot, fast. And yet it is equally as powerful for more advanced developers. You can be creative and focus on big ideas, instead of boilerplate configuration. It encourages me to be more ambitious with my projects, and helps me to build things I am proud of.

Mentorship has been game-changing for me as a new developer. What I did not expect was to find an additional mentor in Ember itself. The framework and its larger community of enthusiasts have embraced and guided me as I continue to learn and grow. Ember not only helps me to build ambitious web applications, but it also encourages me to be ambitious web developer.

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