Work Smart: Efficient Learning as a Junior Developer
Progressing professionally in software development requires that you figure out how you learn. This field changes quickly and dramatically, so it’s vital for developers to be lifelong learners.
There are many methods and approaches that can be taken to learn new frameworks, languages, and techniques.
Here are few ways to work efficiently and improve your skill set as a junior developer:
Find an open-source project that is related to something you are passionate about. Daunted by starting from scratch? This work/hobby can expose you to new programming methods and people who are similarly passionate. You never know—the relationships that you build while working on shared projects could develop into mentorships, friendships, and networking opportunities. It is also an efficient way to contribute to an established project as you continue your journey into development.
Try the Pomodoro Method. Usually, dev work is most productive in uninterrupted bouts, when a single thought train can flow without distractions. At other times, it’s important to just get started. Research shows that when you set a timer, sit down, and do a 25-minute burst of work, you get efficient work done. Taking breaks after bouts of work can also sometimes be helpful in getting creative juices flowing and inspire ideas that you hadn’t thought of.
Get your code read by others. Embrace the vulnerability that comes from having others read and pass judgment on your code. This can be a harrowing experience, but it will maximize your learning. Work with and have someone more experienced than you do a code review with you. Their direct exposure to your code and their direct feedback can be invaluable. If this can be done together in front of your code so you can ask specific questions and clarify points as they are raised, it can have the most direct impact on your learning. Engaging in a back-and-forth to clarify topics and methods used to solve individual aspects of a stack can have the greatest impact on your development.
Ask yourself “why?” As you’re building a new project or individual component, continually ask yourself why you are structuring it the way that you are. Approaching your work through the lens of someone critiquing it can be useful for pushing your own boundaries and can help you see new ways of considering different ways of structuring. Studies also show that self-explanation is a good way to solidify learned content.
Meet Fellow Engineers IRL Meetups are a great way to meet fellow engineers and expose yourself to the latest ideas/trends, as well as building skills for future career opportunities. Groups and topics can vary by programming language or particular roles within the engineering organization, such as Real World React. Making a habit early on of getting out of the building to meet other developers can have a greater impact on your professional growth.
Try Pair Programming There is a reason why the popularity of pair programming has taken off in recent years. There is no better way to speed up the learning curve than to have two people tackling a difficult challenge together. Having outside perspective will help you write your best code and playing the observer will better prepare you to work with different engineers and teams down the road.
It can be both exciting and overwhelming to move into the world of development. Just remember: all developers were novices in the beginning but with time were able to find what works for them. Use these tools to increase learning retention, improve the work that you produce, maximize work output, and find what works for you. Work smart.