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New to IT

Theresa Liebich

25. Juni 2018

“You’re programming? Wow. I could never do that.” or “Really? You like programming?”

I get a lot of surprised looks and comments between suspicion, admiration and awe when I tell my fellow students or friends that I work in IT. I study Interactive Media at the University of Applied Sciences in Augsburg, I’m currently in my sixth semester and I work for Peerigon as a working student.

This post goes out to all my fellow developers that are struggling with the world of IT or becoming very desperate with fixing or even finding your first bugs and need a pick-me-upper.

What I’ve learned

I thought that diving into the world of development would be an easy swim. But it was the hardest struggle I ever had. I never ever would have thought that I would learn so much. Now, after almost nine months I look back with pride and enthusiasm. I came a long way, and: I’m swimming through that pool of code without sinking!

When I started at Peerigon in mid September, I had some basic experience with web development and JavaScript from former student projects. After just two days, I realized that I really didn’t know as much as I thought. So my first step was learning, learning, learning and of course eating (a lot) due to producing all that brain power I needed. And most of the first things I learned were not even related to IT: all the names of my new colleagues, where to eat lunch, all the new rules at work and just getting to know the company.

After settling in, I got to the technologies I was supposed to use from now on. Mattermost, Clockodo, WebStorm, Sketch, Figma, BrowserStack, the Chrome Developer Tools and many more, but especially: GitHub. It took me a few days until I fully understood where I should click and fill out what in GitHub. Between reading issues, opening new issues, new pull requests, merging these and reading all of those notifications, I was really challenged at first because I had never worked with anything like this before.

Eventually I came to the IT stuff. Updating my JavaScript knowledge, learning React and Redux. I’m still not where I want to be, but getting closer every day — line of code after line of code. Working with the terminal, Node.js, CSS, Less, Sass, JSX and HTML.

All in all I got to learn all of the necessary technologies for learning, writing texts, creating screen designs, implementing a web app, styling the app and making it responsive, testing and debugging it, opening pull requests, reviewing the code, merging branches and deploying it. And between every single step: Getting a lot of feedback and seeing all kind of alternative ways to solve the same problem.

What I wish I’d known

First of all:

Take a very deep breath.

Secondly: Determine what exactly the problem is. Is it a bug? Is it a big problem? Split it in small portions and solve them one by one.

Thirdly: There is no easy way to become an experienced developer or an expert in programming. You have to work for your success. The necessary programming skills will not fall out of the sky and hit you. You’ll have to learn the language. Learn how to use the tools. Learn how to use Google and Stack Overflow for finding solutions. Learn how to ask for help. But in the end, you will have learned to love what you do.

Top 10 mistakes I made and their solutions

  • Committed changes, but forgot to push them and deleted branch. Solution: Use git reflog.
  • Opened new branch, wrote code, committed, pushed, opened new branch — but based on last branch not master. Solution: Use git rebase, but make sure that you haven’t shared your branch with other developers yet.
  • Too much functionality on a feature branch (or even a single commit) causes every reviewer pain. Solution: Keep branches and commits small.
  • Forgot to format code before committing. Solution: Format code, commit again (or use git commit --amend if you haven’t pushed the commit yet).
  • Working non-stop. This is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Solution: Take breaks, stand up once in a while, go for a short walk and breathe in that fresh air, get some more coffee, talk to a colleague. Taking care of yourself should always be the top priority.
  • Thinking you can remember everything you learned or heard without writing anything down. Don’t overestimate yourself. Solution: It’s easier to just take a few notes once in a while and know where to look them up, than asking the same questions over an over again.
  • Not seeing the CSS style changes you just made? Solution: Delete your browser cache.
  • Solution: Backup your work, before it becomes a problem in the first place.
  • Underestimating while planning projects. Solution: When starting a new project and working in sprints, calculate a lot of extra time, so you get everything and all those small problems along the way done.
  • Seeing your lack of experience and expertise instead of the problem. Solution: Stop focusing on yourself and thinking about what you can’t do yet. Look at the problem as if it was a mystery that needs solving. Don’t sell yourself short, you’re doing a great job!

Last words

No matter how small or big a bug or problem is, everybody needs a while to fix it the first time. And maybe the second and third time will still be a lot of work. But eventually you’ll get a hang of it and figure it out quicker. So don’t be afraid of drowning, just jump into that cold water and start swimming!

You’ll get there. Believe me. Until then: Code long and prosper! 🖖

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