Matt Trask

Questions from NSS Cohort 22

February 05, 2018 | 4 Minute Read

What to expect as a junior developer

I spent some time today at NSS and wanted to memorialize some of the questions I recieved and go into some more detail for the students there.

What would I tell myself 3 years ago

This was a great question that came at the end of the session. I came up with a few possibilities. On the personal side it was:

  • Develop a stronger work out routine
  • Don’t eat out so often
  • Take breaks to walk and get away from the computer

As for professional:

  • Learn to communicate better
  • Don’t be so afraid to go to meetup groups

Are side projects important?

This wasn’t the exact way the question was asked, but it was a good topic to cover. It was asked if I think side projects/open source contributions are important. To that I said yes but to a degree. Im 30 years ago, Im single so I can do whatever I want. If I want to drink the day away, eat hot chicken and play video games I absolutely can and answer to no one. But in the same regard, I can spend all day working on side projects. Side projcts are a great way to learn new things, they are a great way to experiment and fuck up with little to no professional recourse. But you shouldn’t shackle yourself to a computer in the name of your career. Go outside, go have fun. Find a new whiskey, learn to ride a bike and then learn how to hammer up a hill. Learn a language, read a book. Do a side project and have fun. Don’t let the fun run out.

How can I break into the meet up scene?

It’s a common thing that when you are new to something, anything; you tend to be shy about it. When it comes to being a developer, it’s so tough to be around people who you know are better then you when you go to meetups. They generally know everyone, they can talk about anything and they are usually involved. When you go as a junior developer, find this person and shake their hand. Offer to help setting up or breaking down. Make it a goal when you go to a meetup, especially one like NashJs which has 100 attendees on average; to meet 2 new people. Those two new people can be anyone, and they could end up being someone who will offer you a job.

What does an average day look like?

There are no two days alike. From planning days to bug fixing days they are all different. Most of the days do look something like this. Roll in around 8:30-ish, get coffee (probably make coffee since people suck), open laptop and let the mac loading process begin (if I would shut down my laptop, or at least close all the apps I have open, this would be faster). Then once that shit is done, open Github and review issues from day before, check my email, check the company intranet stuff and put my headphones on and get to the task at hand. Whether I am spending the day planning out my next project or working on bug fixes, those are all constants in my day to day life.

Where do I look for jobs?

I look for jobs through my network and the community. For a few reasons, one is that I find people to be more honest and up front when it comes time to talk about the actual job, they won’t hide legacy code or anything about the job that sucks. Another reason is that those offers come from people who have been watching me and know where my skill level is. I spend time trolling through the “Ask HN: Who is hiring (month, year)” threads to find where trends are going and things like that. I tend to stay away from job posting sites, because the chances are small that they will work out for you.

Why does community matter

Steve, the “coach” as they call him, posed this to me: why is community important and why should everyone get involved. It was a simple one to answer: I owe my career to the community. I’ll write a subsequant post about who deserves my thanks (so many) but suffice to say, I wouldn’t be where I am without the communities I am in. From the PHP community to the OpenAPI community to the Nashville community, it has made my life better. Because of these communities I have couches to sleep on in other cities, I have friends who I can call on in times of need and get their advice and council, I have peers who want to see me succeed, and I have people who will vouch for me when it is time for recommendations as well as people who want to bring me on their team because they see my community involvement turned into passion for programming and writing good clean code.

I think that cover the majority of the topics we covered today, cheers!

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