Developer Tea

4 Points Of Advice For Brand New Developers

Episode Summary

At the youngest stage of your career you are most likely to quit. In today's episode, we're providing encouragement to those new developers for when the career decision gets tough.

Episode Notes


As someone who was a self-taught developer, I have an affinity for people eager to become a developer. 

In today's episode, we'll offer four different pain points that you're likely to experience in your career and give tips on how to use those moments to continue your growth and develop your skills. 


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Episode Transcription

Much of this podcast is focused on providing advice to mid-level or senior level engineers or engineering managers, people who are in some kind of mentorship or leadership role. But in today's episode, I want to focus specifically on people who are younger engineers. And of course, it has to be said, we're not talking about age here, we're talking about your exposure to engineering. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And this episode is motivated by a couple of different things. One, have a strong affinity to self-taught engineers and young engineers in their careers because it wasn't so long ago that I was in that same seat. And every engineer at some point starts on their path towards becoming a software engineer. The second reason that I feel so strongly about this is because at the youngest stage of your career, you are most likely, most likely out of any stage to stop, to quit, to leave engineering for one reason or another. And in today's episode, I want to provide some encouragement and hopefully encourage you if you are discouraged. A special shout out goes out to the people who are doing 100 days of code. This is a hashtag that was started back in 2016 by Alex Callaway on Twitter and I assume on other platforms as well. Alex Callaway, Alex's Twitter handle is K-A-1-1 away. That's K-A-1-1-A-W-A-Y on Twitter. Give me a check it out, of course you can find him probably by just looking up the hashtag 100 Days of Code. That's 100 Days of Code. But I'm so inspired by seeing all of these young engineers who are learning by doing, by staying consistent, by waking up every day and opening your computer to write some code. That's the whole point of 100 Days of Code. And I want to provide some advice to those of you who are in this very, very early stage of your career. But before I provide this advice, I want to give you a little bit of a disclaimer. All advice, and this is kind of like meta advice, all advice that you ever hear as an engineer, you should take with a grain of salt. All of it is coming from a particular perspective, from someone's experience, from their opinions, from their background, and there's no way to have an objective piece of advice. And so you should listen to the advice of people who have come before you, but you should be ready to discard it when you have evidence that you should. After all, this is what it means to learn. We are all learning and changing, and that is my first piece of advice. Be ready to learn and change as you experience new things. Be ready to learn and change as you experience new things. This is incredibly important to take to heart at a very deep level, because the things that you're learning right now, and you may feel like, well, I'm learning something new every day. Of course, I'm open, and of course, my mind is open to these new things. I'm staying totally flexible, and my mind is changing every day because it's expanding. But here's the reality. At some point in your career, you're going to face a crossroads. And this is true for every developer, it's true for every non-developer, really. But at some point in your career, you're going to have a conversation where you have a very strong opinion that is different from someone else's opinion. And I'll be bold enough to say you're going to have a very strong opinion or even a strong belief that is actually wrong. Getting to evidence or according to some fact that you don't know, or maybe you're denying for some reason, you're going to have an opinion that is wrong. And this is incredibly uncomfortable. It is made more comfortable by digging your heels in. This is antithetical to what we want to do, but it's also more comfortable. It's very similar to getting up and working out early in the morning. Of course, it's more comfortable to stay in bed. The comfort you experience in that short-term moment is detrimental to the long-term health of your body. And when it comes to changing your mind, your entire career. If you're unable to learn and adapt and grow with your peers or even on your own, let's say you encounter some information because you were reading a book. If you're unable to use that information to learn and grow, then you will stagnate. And right now, at this early part of your career, learning and growing is exciting. It's giving you the positive adrenaline rush because today, you're building something that maybe even yesterday you couldn't have built. This is perhaps the most exciting part of your early career where you're learning at such a rapid pace that it feels like you're gaining new superpowers. I remember this rush myself. When I was first learning how to do the little bit of HTML and CSS to get something on screen, and then taking that and actually going further with it, refining it, all of this making this creative process was so excited about it. But eventually, eventually I hit a wall. Or at least it felt like it. In reality, I hadn't hit a wall. I just wasn't accelerating as fast as I was before. This is my second piece of advice. Distinctly understand the difference between acceleration and velocity. This is something that we've covered on the show before. It's the cause of a lot of mid-career feelings of imposter syndrome. It happens to people who are well into their careers. You probably are feeling imposter syndrome right now in your youngest, your early days as a developer, probably because you feel like there's so much to learn. And all of those senior developers know so much more than you do. And as a senior developer, as someone who's been doing this for quite a while now, the reality is senior developers get that same feeling. The amount of knowledge that there is to know, right, the total body of knowledge is so incredibly vast that you will probably always feel like your handle on reality, your handle on software engineering, your handle on mathematics, whatever that particular thing is that causes you a sense of anxiety, causes you a sense of imposter syndrome. It's going to be there for your whole career because the amount of knowledge that's available to you is incredibly vast. It goes far beyond what you could ever learn in a hundred lifetimes. So we need to accept that reality. But here's a critical difference between where you are today and where you'll be at some point in your mid-career most likely. Today you are learning an incredibly fast pace. And your pace is like an acceleration pace. In other words, you can imagine that your overall velocity is the amount that you know as an engineer. And your acceleration is how fast you're adding new things to the amount that you know. And so yesterday you may have known nothing. Let's say you're on day one of a hundred days of code and you went from knowing nothing to something. So you accelerated. But you're going to continue accelerating for quite a while. But at some point when you move out of that kind of primarily learning mode into some kind of production role, let's say a mid-level engineer where you're building products, your learning is going to shift. And a lot of what you're going to be doing is actually more like practice. You're going to be practicing what you know. And you may know a lot more at that mid-level than you do today, but you might feel even more insecure at that point than you do now. Why is this? Well, it's likely because your feeling of insecurity is not related to the amount you know, but rather to the acceleration of that knowledge. In other words, you may not be learning at nearly the pace that you're learning today when you get your first job. You might feel like you're just grinding through all of the tasks that you already kind of know how to do. But then you'll likely look at the senior engineers who know you feel like a lot more than you do. And this can feel frustrating, it can feel a little bit scary, and you can feel like you're stagnating, but the truth is all of the things that you're learning today didn't just disappear. You're learning them today to use them at that mid-level. So this piece of advice is more about awareness and mindfulness when you do eventually hit that feeling of imposter syndrome. Understand the difference between acceleration and velocity. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then I'm going to come back and give you a little bit more advice, those of you who are junior developers. Today's episode is sponsored by Zbrand. Zbrand helps you launch a product with minimum visual brand design resources without internal designers, costly agencies, or questionable freelancers. With Zbrand, you can launch your product without investing too much time and money on branding, which means your team can give 100% focused product development. By asking some simple questions about your product, AI-based Zbrand algorithms create a uniquely tailored brand toolkit full of branding and marketing essentials, including fonts, color palettes, pitch deck templates, and much more. Zbrand is easy to use and is free to get started. So you basically have nothing to lose here. Branding alignment and consistency across your collateral is cool, professional, and it makes it easy for your team to rally in unite under one branding identity. Setting up your brand with Zbrand only takes five minutes and you'll have instant access to your assets to start showcasing your product today at That's Thanks again to Zbrand for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about the early stage of your career as an engineer. The 100 days of code that stage, the very earliest part of your journey as an engineer. And I want to be the first to tell you if no one else has that no matter what your background is, no matter how old you are, no matter your gender, no matter your race, no matter your religion, you are welcome as an engineer. The harsh reality is that as a community, we have a lot of growing to do, but you are a part of that work. And we need your voice, we need your talent, we need your mind, we need your contributions. We're so grateful that you are a part of this larger community. So we've already gone through some bits of advice here, but I want to give you one final piece of advice as an engineer, as a young engineer. This right now, it's easy to focus on the code. It's easy to focus on the technical side of this job. And there's a lot to focus on. Don't get me wrong. There's a lot to learn. And if you can't write code, then it's difficult to be an engineer. But when all of the tech changes, and it will change, when all of what we learn today becomes obsolete, and it will become obsolete. This industry, this job, is about people. It's about understanding other people and being able to cooperate with them. It's about making things that other people find valuable. It's about making things that have an impact on the world, even if it's a small one. And the impact on the world is not just a technological impact. It's also a human impact. I encourage you to focus your mind and focus your efforts on not only becoming an engineer, but becoming a human-focused engineer. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I again want to encourage those of you who are starting out on this path as an engineer that you are welcome. You're going to have days that are difficult. You're going to have bugs that drag you down and make you feel like you haven't learned anything yet, but that's going to happen for the rest of your career. It's just a part of being a human while also trying to be an engineer. I want to encourage you in that particular regard. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. By the way, I want to take a moment to remind you about JS Nation. JS Nation is the biggest JavaScript conference you can attend it in the cloud. It means from the comfort of your own home or from the safety of your own home. Go and check it out. Head over to live.js Registration is totally free. You have nothing to lose. This is a group of engineers that are essentially deciding the future of JavaScript. JavaScript is very likely a part of your future as well. So go and check it out live.js Another thank you to today's awesome sponsor, Zebrand, kind of to You can get started in as little as five minutes and it's free to get started. Go and check it out Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. If you enjoyed this episode, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you're currently using. And of course, you can find other incredible shows on the spec network, head over to Take it started. Thank you to today's producer, Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.