Overcome insecurity as a junior programmer

The journey in programming is a marathon, not a sprint

Thanks to ITViec for posting another version of this post on their Facebook Fanpage in 2017.

I recount my journey as a professional Java developer after graduating from Can Tho University in 2013. I joined my first company, Axon Active Vietnam, and worked on an internal project with my team. All the members are either recent graduates or students who have not yet graduated. After working 6 months, I left the junior team and joined a real project team. The challenge was began.

Lack of essential skills

In the new team, all the members were at a senior level. They spoke English fluently and implemented the assigned tasks very quickly. But I was totally inexperienced. I felt quite insecure working with professionals who are much older than me. Back then, I had to spend a lot of effort to catch up with the team. I went to work early and came home late every day, working from 7 AM to 7 PM, sometimes even on weekends. I also spent much time self-learning English after work.

Getting support from members and managers

In my team, most of the members were very kind. Some members were a bit strict. They were patient and guided me in my work. For example, they taught me how to analyze and implement a User Story, how to send an email to clarify an issue with the Product Owner, and how to contact the Integration team for deployment support, among other things. We often had friendly lunches together and they allowed me to share my thoughts.

After several months working on the team, there was an event that truly marked a turning point in my career. My manager, the Head of Department, shared a book with me called Clean Code. He challenged me to read it and then apply what I learned to our current project. Specifically, he frequently checked my reading progress and how I understood the material. This was the first time I paid such close attention to a technical book. I took notes diligently while reading. After a month of reading and continuously applying what I learned from the book, I realized that I had improved significantly. I became more active in Code Review, wrote cleaner code, and consistently added unit tests. Most importantly, I felt confident in my job.

Reading as a Discipline

With over 10 years of experience in software development, I have made reading and applying wisdom to my work a habit. I recently started using Goodreads to track the books I read. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Clean Code
  • Effective Java
  • Grokking Algorithms
  • Soft Skills
  • System Design Interview
  • You Don’t Know JS Yet (Series)
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You
  • The Phoenix Project
  • Leaders Eat Last
  • Extreme Programming Explained
  • Software Engineering at Google
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • Staff Engineer

Wrap up

I have some shares with those who are in the same situation as me. When you first start, you will definitely be pressured to keep up with the team’s pace with many talented and older people. Therefore, you should make every effort possible by constantly learning with the most positive attitude. Thanks to that, other members will feel your enthusiasm and will be ready to help you right away.

Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and even the most experienced developers once faced the same challenges you’re facing now. Keep pushing, stay curious, and never stop learning. Your journey in programming is a marathon, not a sprint.

By Huong Nguyen

I am a full-stack software engineer. I have working experience with Java, Node.js, Angular, PostgreSQL, Jenkins, and OpenShift. I enjoy spending time with my son and wife on weekends. I am also a book lover. All posts and content I share solely represent my own views and do not represent the views of my employer.

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