A day in the life of a junior developer at Redgate
I’m a Mum in my 30s who retrained as a Software Engineer. I don’t have a STEM degree, and the first time I ever wrote a line of code was just over a year ago.
I retrained in 2021 through the Makers Academy bootcamp and now that I’ve got my first job as a Developer (aka Software Engineer), I’m excited to share what a typical day holds in store for me each day when I log in.
Slacking o̶f̶f̶ ON!
I usually start my day by logging into Slack to check what’s been going on in the various channels at work. Since the pandemic, most of the company are working remotely and Slack is one of the ways we stay connected. I’m also in a Slack workspace with other graduates of the Makers bootcamp. It’s good to catch up the various conversations happening there too. Having a network of people who ‘get it’ is priceless support at this stage in my career. We share quandaries and celebrate successes. Once a Maker, always a Maker!
Every day’s a school day!
Next on my agenda most days is a slot for some focused learning. For example, today I spent 10mins watching a YouTube video on how create your own NuGet package (because I know that’s something I’ll be doing for the first time soon as part of my team’s work for an upcoming feature). Other days, I’ll maybe read a tech article from my ever-growing ‘To read’ list!
I learn best by trying things out, so I like to have my IDE open on the next screen to play around with the ideas I’m researching — It helps them stick in my brain better! I never aim to understand every detail on the first try, and my workmates are always open to me asking questions when we get together later in morning.
Tech moves fast: There’s always new stuff to learn and try out. I’m glad that learning will always be a part of my day in this career.
Two heads are better than one
Here comes the best part of my day… the gang get together! I work on a team with 5 software engineers, 2 product designers, a technical lead and product manager. For most of the day, the engineers are writing, testing, or deploying code. We do it together; either pair-programming or mobbing. Often the designers will help in the mob to clarify a UX decision we’re trying to implement. For me this is great because I thrive on interacting with others to get stuff done.
We have a simple Kanban board (the column headings are roughly, To Do, Doing, Done) with each card on the board being a bug that needs fixing or a new feature to create. Cards get added by anyone on the team and we use weekly planning sessions and daily stand-ups to decide what to work on next.
Our team of engineers take it in turns to run the daily stand-up session. We take time to ‘walk the board’ (discuss each of the open Pull Requests, and other work in progress). This gives us an opportunity to share what we’ve been working on and to get help if we’re blocked on a solution.
The designers, tech lead, and product manager also give updates on their work. It keeps us all on the same page and avoids duplication of work or other nasty surprises.
Most of my afternoons are spent mobbing or pairing. This is the bread-and-butter of how we move all those features and bug-fixes from the ‘To do’ column to the ‘Done’ side! I love it when you get to see something you’ve worked on get released in a new version of the product. But even between releases, every session with the team moves me on a step in my technical knowledge and I never feel like I’ve come away empty-handed.
It can be frustrating getting up to speed when you’ve switched careers. Finding the right solution to the job in hand is not always plain sailing and that’s OK. My journey at Makers taught me to embrace the un-comfort zone. We were constantly reminding ourselves during the course: “It’s not hard, it’s new”.
I’m a strong believer that being too spoon-fed doesn’t help in the long run because that info just doesn’t stay accessible to future-you. To me it feels that when you have to figure something out first-hand… your brain kinda says “let’s remember that one for next time — I don’t want to have to go through all that again”!
Communities of Practice
Once a week at Redgate, software engineers are encouraged to put their team’s current work to one side, so we can all head off to explore a chosen specialism in Communities of Practice. These groups are a chance to work with engineers from outside your team (more valuable exposure to different coding styles for me!) and develop our code-craft. There are various specialist groups to choose from, but I opted to join the Test Automation Group because I got really into Test Driven Development during the Makers course.
So, every Tuesday afternoon, I wave goodbye to my day-to-day team and head off to geek-out with my community of practice. We get to spend all afternoon talking about and trying out ideas around what good test automation looks like.
10% time and Lightning Talks
Friday afternoons at Redgate are dedicated ‘10% time’, ring-fenced for us to spend 10% of our working week on personal development activities. Its taboo to set work meetings during this time. Instead, we do something of our choice that moves us up a notch.
Sometimes we share what we’ve learned in a Lightning Talk format. Planning and delivering just 5 mins of content on a new concept or demo-ing a new tool does wonders for consolidating your own learning. Plus, it’s a low-effort way to propagate new info across the organization.
Turn up the good
This is our 15-minute team ritual to reflect on the day together. By the end of the workday, I’m pretty tired, and these sessions help highlight the positives and focus our attention on what we want to do better tomorrow. If we have a bone to pick about how something went down, we sort it by recording a suggested solution to try tomorrow. We usually wrap-up the session with a few rounds of a video game, Pictionary or some other way to bond and have fun.
I love the problem-solving, collaboration and sense of satisfaction I get from working with code. It’s a little addictive. I can easily see how the old stereotype of nocturnal coders, hacking away at their keyboards until the early hours came about! However, I know my limits… To get the best re-charge after a hard day’s grokkin’ and lockin’, I make a strict habit to turn off my work machine and spend well-earned time away, doing non-work hobbies at evenings and weekends.