• March 29, 2023
Successful Junior Developer

Have you ever wondered what a successful junior developer looks like?

In my working career, I have noticed four habits that separate successful junior developers from the rest. These habits build the foundation for success in the industry.

Master these habits as a junior and you will be unstoppable.

1. A successful junior developer is not afraid to look stupid

No matter a junior developer’s experience, the working world is completely different from a boot camp or college.

There are many aspects a junior developer has to tackle at work:

  • Domain knowledge (how the business works).
  • Tech stack
  • Stakeholder management
  • Delivering features within specific timelines and constraints.

No junior developer knows how to do this well.

So how do they tackle this?

By asking questions. They do not care if the question makes them look stupid or inexperienced because the only way they can learn is by asking the question.

In the working world, you do not get spoon-fed.

So asking questions to achieve clarity is the only way to seek out knowledge and an understanding of processes.

2. They don’t take things personal

No one in the working world cares about you that much.

Everyone is more concerned with themselves. Their next promotion, their next task, their next deadline, or meeting.

When a successful junior developer asks for help and does not receive a response straight away, they do not get disheartened. They understand that the colleague likely has a whole heap of shit they need to do themselves.

It’s nothing personal.

Any good colleague will be there to help you when they can. They just may not be able to drop everything for you right away.

When a good junior developer receives criticism in a code review, they know it’s about the code itself, not their ability.

Coding is hard. And in a good working environment, pull requests will be scrutinized like hell.

Most juniors will re-submit their pull requests five times before it gets approved.

A bad junior developer, will take code reviews personally and get upset by criticism.

It’s all a learning game and the more a developer drops their ego for the sake of improving, the better they will perform.

3. They embrace mistakes

“It is better to start as a fool and learn from your mistakes than to fake being a genius and ignore your errors.” — James Clear

Everyone makes mistakes. Especially junior developers.

But junior developers who fear mistakes, do not learn as fast as a junior who embraces them.

After all, mistakes are how we learn.

When we make a bad mistake, it burns into our brain so deeply that we know not to make them again.

An unsuccessful junior developer will:

  • Stay in their comfort zone to avoid making mistakes.
  • Think that mistakes will make them look bad at their job.

A successful junior developer will:

  • Embrace feeling uncomfortable to learn
  • Understand that making mistakes is part of learning
  • Knows that making mistakes is fine, as long as you do not repeat them.

Embrace mistakes and understand what caused you to make them in the first place so that they never happen again.

Don’t let mistakes rule you.

4. A successful junior developer active note-takers

Passive note-takers write notes and do not engage with the content ever again.

Active note-takers write notes with the intention to revisit the topic and learn it in depth.

Whether it is taking note of a technology that was mentioned in passing at lunch, or while shadowing a colleague.

A successful junior developer will revisit their notes, to build on their learning and ensure they understand the topic themselves.

Unsuccessful junior developers, take passive notes for the sake of appearance. But they never look at the notes again.

They end up forgetting everything their colleagues have shown them and learning at a slower rate.

Make an active effort to consolidate your notes and you will strive.

My advice to all junior developers

Embrace being a beginner.

This is the best time to ask stupid questions. To bug your colleagues for help, and to make mistakes.

Everyone on your team has been a junior before. They understand the feeling and the frustration you are going through.

But don’t hide in the corner and shy away. No one is going to hold your hand and babysit you at every moment of the day.

What your colleagues will give you is space and time.

The space and time to make mistakes, ask stupid questions, and deep dive into topics you have not heard about before.

So run with the baton and make some mistakes. Just don’t shy away.