A career in tech: Five lessons from eight months in
Starting your career as a software engineer can be daunting. Getting the right support, and quickly, is crucial to settling in to a comfortable yet still challenging-in-the-right-way routine at work.
Hopefully you'll land in an organisation that strikes the balance and once you do, it should become a rewarding environment where you not only learn a lot, but learn a lot quickly. As I approach almost 8 months at Great State – here are 5 things I know now that I didn’t know before…
If someone had told me just how quickly I’d be ‘owning’ projects or tasks as a junior at Great State, I may have been inclined to run the other way. I very quickly became the only front-end developer on a particular client and being thrown in at the deep end meant I was constantly building (or fixing!) things I had never built before.
I hadn't accounted for the level of experience my colleagues had in just about every area or problem I was encountering. This may have been my first time coming up against these issues, but it definitely wasn’t theirs. The fact they were on hand to help me work through any obstacle, big or small, allowed me to have the pride and satisfaction of owning my own workflows, but with the added safety net of the support of my colleagues when I needed it. Whilst encountering a lot of issues in my early days was daunting, it was the quickest way to learn. On the face of it, I might have turned down the opportunity to be the only Front End Dev on a project, but actually it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
To enable a career change from data analysis to software engineering, I returned to uni to do a master’s degree in computer science. However, although it gave me a good theoretical foundation and overall knowledge base, I haven’t found it to be an ‘essential ingredient’ needed for my current role as much as perhaps I thought I would.
I’m not saying abandon all further study or qualifications – but it’s worth a second thought as to whether a skill or knowledge can be acquired by self-teaching or even learning on the job – where you are immersed in the real-world surrounded by people who practice and execute the skills you are trying to learn day-in-day-out.
When I first started in my current role, it was easy to feel like I was slightly drowning in the big pool of technology floating around. What the last 8 months has taught me more than anything is the importance of learning the basics really well.
It goes without saying that every agency works differently. At Great State, one of the things that surprised me is the way my time and schedule was organised. Looking at my schedule and seeing that someone else had already planned out my day took some getting used to.
The advantage of this way of working is I avoid jumping between various tasks, meaning I can focus on a client or particular task for a good block of time. But an important part of this process is learning how to accurately estimate how long something will take since this feeds directly back into your schedule. If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to myself at the very start of the role it would be: ‘however long you think something is going to take, double it.’
With the added pressure to prove yourself at the beginning of a new job, overpromising is an easy trap to fall into. Not being afraid to make accurate and lenient time estimations and becoming more confident in doing that has given me the space to learn and develop in my own time, and has empowered me to take back an element of control over my day. Like everything in life, finding a balance is always the right approach.
Everyone has imposter syndrome…
In a field where everything you do is marked and assessed via the PR process; imposter syndrome is rife. Knowing before I started that everyone suffers in some way, no matter how big or small – would have helped me fight off my own feelings of being an imposter.
I always knew we need more women in tech. I believe that having a diverse group of people in the tech industry helps to promote a culture of inclusivity where everyone feels valued – helping to fight feelings of inadequacy. For me, I know having more female role models in tech would have helped fight my feelings of imposter syndrome by showing it is possible for more women to succeed in this field. I know that a lot of women feel this way, so there’s a lot to be gained from prioritising women in recruitment strategies.
What I will say is, more than anything, this role has taught me that working as a software engineer has been a fantastic way to jumpstart an exciting and varied career in tech – one that can and will open many opportunities for personal growth and learning. Fancy meeting back here in another 6 months to uncover what the next upcoming half of this year has taught me? I’ll see you there.
Our Higher Education report revealed that more privileged students utilise digital services significantly more than less privileged students. This raises questions about whether universities should seek to use digital services to help boost inclusivity. Read on here.