No One Killed The Junior Developer

Todd Palmer
TrainingPeaks Product Development
3 min readSep 8, 2018

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Becoming a developer has never been more accessible than it is today, with a staggering amount of resources available to someone getting started. Editors and IDEs, tutorials, online learning, videos, articles, and online communities are available free or at a very low cost. Code camps have sprung up to meet the demand with promises of high paying jobs, not all of which have been successful. This has resulted in a large population of junior developers who are now struggling to get jobs and lamenting that companies aren’t hiring.

While I agree that the hiring process has problems, the solution isn’t as simple as “just hire more junior people”. A company hiring a developer, at any level, is an investment. It takes at least three to six months for a new hire to become effective and independent. A new hire typically results in a short term decrease in output and it can be years before they become a highly valuable member of an organization. If an organization is not setup to mentor, adding a new hire can be disastrous for everyone involved.

Hiring a junior developer typically requires a bigger mentoring investment and is an even bigger risk than hiring someone with a few years of experience for a small cost difference. High initial salary and unrealistic career expectations of a lot of junior developers make this situation even worse.

But a good company wants to hire junior developers. On boarding and mentoring challenge our thinking, expose our long held and outdated beliefs, and allow our organization to grow while injecting passion, creativity, and diversity.

So as someone looking for that first job, what can you do?

What can I do to get hired?

If you are a developer looking to break into the industry or land your first job you’ve got your work cut out for you. Being a developer is not easy, and it takes a lifetime of dedicated learning to be successful. There a few things you can do that can help:

  • Teach yourself how to learn. You copied and pasted from Stack Overflow, great, but your potential employer wants to know what you learned from what you pasted. Don’t stop when it works, dive in and know why it works. In an interview we can’t ask you much about your previous work, but we can definitely tell when you took the time to learn something.
  • Broaden your knowledge. Get exposed to related techniques and technologies that are skipped in most tutorials. Skip the latest framework or cool new thing. If a tutorial or framework does something that looks like magic, dive in and figure out what makes it work. Know front end ReactJS? Great, do a tutorial on APIs that writes to a SQL database. Learn enough to begin to know what you don’t know.
  • Set realistic expectations. Your salary may be lower, raises may be slower, and you won’t be a senior engineer in a year and that’s OK.
  • Find a mentor in the industry. Meet ups are great for this and plenty of us are willing to help. They are also a great way to find new opportunities.

What to look for in a place to work?

  • A company that is realistic about hiring developers, and is setup to mentor. This is the best way to successfully bring on a new hire. Think of it as an apprenticeship, it takes time to learn a product, a code base, a craft. This is important for all levels, but even more so at the junior level.
  • A company that promotes diverse teams with different experience levels and diverse skills. A team of all senior developers is just as bad as a team of all junior developers.
  • A position that encourages involvement and exposure to all aspects of software from creation. Look for exposure to product, design, build and deployment to infrastructure and monitoring. There is so much to learn and you never know what you may be interested in down the road.
  • A position that stresses growth and learning of the craft of software engineering over promotion and titles. Software engineering is broad and progression is not always linear. Some of the best people I’ve worked with have taken steps back or to the side before taking leaps forward.

Conclusion

Keep at it. Being a developer can be overwhelming and discouraging, even for those of us who have been doing it for a while. Good employers know this and are looking for someone with grit they can invest in. There are plenty of good companies hiring, yes even junior developers.

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Todd Palmer
TrainingPeaks Product Development

Husband, Father, Software Developer, Cyclist, White Gold Wielder