Lessons Learned in 2 years as a Software Developer

June 21, 2019

I’ve been interested and learning programming for most of my life, since I was 11 years old tinkering with RPG Maker and dreaming of being a full time game developer.

Fast-forward 12 years in the future, two years into the best job I could ever hope for, a lot learned along the way and a lot more to learn in the future. Two years might not seem like a lot, but working for a startup made a lot of difference, being exposed to new technologies and having people to support me while I was learning.

Knowing that you don’t know

Looking back with the power of hindsight my biggest lesson was that there is so much I don’t actually know. At that time I had been programming for 10 years, if you call the first few years as actually programming, I had tested the waters with Java, C, C++ and occasionally web development.

The main focus of most of my time learning was to create a game that I would enjoy and call mine, quite common among gamers that go into programming. But a mistake I repeated time and time again was to doubt my own abilities. I would start over 100 times, trying to find a better solution, watched hundreds of videos and tutorials, but always beginner level, and that was my biggest mistake, not exposing myself to more advanced programming made me stagnant for a long time.

Do… or do not. There is no try.

* Tutorials are great, but actually doing stuff is even better.

The tipping point of my programming career came in the form of Open Source software, two years into my undergrad I enrolled in a program to “foster open source software development”, that was the first time I had to tackle a codebase larger than a dozen files, with a clear goal and being exposed to code that wasn’t written by me. A couple months after that I landed my first real programming job.

Knowing how to search what you don’t know

One of the most important tools of the job has to be Google (or DDG!), but it’s one of the hardest to actually get it right, knowing what and how to ask something is actually more important than trying, and failing, to know everything by heart, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of tasks that are deeply ingrained in your memory and you will be able to correctly execute them till the end of your life, but the rest you should google.

So, how do you look for something online? My first instinct when I try to find something is to actually find someone that went through the problem I’m having right now and how they fixed it, most likely ending up reading a question in Stack Overflow. The search query could be either the error message or an imagination of how that question would be asked by somebody else, like “how to pad strings in javascript?”. These types of questions will most likely yield better result when you know very well what you’re trying to accomplish, and sometimes knowing lingo, and that’s the hardest part.