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How NOT to Suck as a New Developer

Understanding team expectations and setting healthy self-expectations


This content first appeared on KillAllDefects on September 6th, 2019

Everyone has to start somewhere and with how broad the field of software development is, it’s impossible to know everything you need to know at the start of your career — even in a very narrow area such as a single language or framework.

So how can you possibly perform well in this type of environment — either right out of college, boot camp, or even potentially self-taught?

Realistic Expectations

Well, the good news is that we do not expect you to know everything day one. Expectations on junior team levels are fairly narrow:

  • We expect you to know the basics of software development
  • We expect you to know common program flow and components (if statements, loops, functions, classes, etc)
  • We expect you to be able to build and run code using the editor of choice for the organization

That’s pretty simple, right? Most educations will prepare you for this level of competence. However, on top of that we also expect some things that may not be obvious:

  • We expect you to ask questions when you don’t understand something (technical or business-related)
  • We expect you to work hard
  • We expect you to continually learn and grow to the point where you can contribute more
  • We expect you to tell us how you want to grow and improve
  • We expect you to bring us problems after working through them yourself
  • We expect you to not spend hours on trying to work through a blocking issue someone could spend 10 minutes helping you with
  • We expect you to show up on time and be responsible
  • We expect you to be professional and respectful
  • We expect you to be honest when you mess up (and you will — we all do)
  • We expect you to be open to feedback

Final Thoughts

If an organization has hired a developer at the beginning of their career, the organization realizes that the dev is going to need some investment, mentoring, and time to become a solid contributor to the team. That’s okay, but we do expect that developer to work hard to continue to contribute.

And if you get that job and don’t feel like a developer? That’s okay, impostor syndrome is real, but the best antidote to it is just to keep working and learning.

Keep learning, keep growing, be reliable, honest, respectful, and a hard worker, and you’re going to get better and get more and more opportunities to shine. Read technical books, watch learning videos on YouTube, Pluralsight, LinkedIn Learning, or other platforms, ask questions, attend user groups and/or conferences, but just keep getting better.


  • Matt Eland
    Microsoft MVP in AI, Professional Programming Instructor

    After several decades as a software engineer and engineering manager, Matt now serves as a software engineering instructor and gets to raise up future developers and unleash them upon the world to build awesome things. Matt is a Microsoft MVP in Artificial Intelligence, runs several blogs and channels on data science and software engineering topics, is currently pursuing a master's degree in data analytics, and helps organize the Central Ohio .NET Developer Group while contributing to local and regional conferences. In his copious amounts of spare time, Matt continues to build nerdy things and looks for ways to share them with the larger community.

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