Looking for a job as a NET developer?
So was I about a year ago. Same thing with Alex Yosa. We're here to give you an idea of what it was like during our first year working at Aztek. Apologies in advance for the non-techy audience; we talk about programming languages and other terms you might not be familiar with. And there definitely aren't enough cat references.
TL;DR: Two of our web developers share highlights and challenges from their first year at Aztek.
A year ago, I was just a wee lad with a bit of PHP experience under my belt (I know, I know). I was mostly working on the front-end of web projects and dealing with clients. The most exposure that I had with .NET was a few community college classes on C# and VB (yes, I paid someone money to learn VB). That all changed once I landed a position at Aztek, and what a marvelous journey it has been.
What I was Looking For
I was hungry for an opportunity where I could really learn and grow into a dependable web developer - something serious where I could produce code that I was proud of.
After a few weeks of looking around, I eventually came across Aztek on Twitter. A developer, who is now my co-worker, tweeted out about a position they were hiring for at the time. I decided to go for it.
Long story short, I got the job. I was stoked! June 1st was to be my first day and I was ready to hit the ground running. And boy did I run.
Pairing with a Senior Developer
My first few weeks I paired with our Senior Developer, Frank Branicky. I heard the tales about him throughout the interview process - Old Man Branicky (Er, Frank) is hard, but he is fair. He likes things to be done correctly and has a low tolerance for BS. He's an extremely intelligent person that taught me the majority of what I know today about programming, business processes, and assorted BBQ meats.
New Tools, Processes, and Languages
There were lots of tools and processes that I needed to understand very quickly. It was certainly overwhelming, as almost anyone in this industry will tell you when they describe the work in their first few jobs.
While I poke fun at my PHP experience, it did give me a solid understanding of OOP to build on. And learning C# was not as difficult as I had thought it may be. It's certainly more strict, but I've learned to appreciate that part of the language. Once I had a handle on the language, it was time to pick up on all of the tools that we were using. Things like SQL Server Management Studio to manage data, LLBL to generate code representations of the database, and AutoMapper to map those LLBL entities to models.
I also had to learn how to use TortoiseSVN and how to move our projects from our different development servers for the first few months. I needed to understand how to configure a Jenkins CI server and how to setup an application in IIS. Shortly after that, we moved to Git and started hosting all of our projects on BitBucket, which was a little less foreign to me.
Outside of the technical skills, I also needed to pick up on the Agile culture that was being adopted. I participated in daily stand-up meetings, sprint planning sessions, retrospectives, and more. This wasn’t nearly as intimidating. I actually thought a lot of it was fun!
With almost everything that I just mentioned, I had absolutely no experience at all. Little by little, I started to understand. Not only did I pair with Frank, but I paired with everyone on the development team. I gained a different perspective on our process every time I worked with someone else. It was an amazing learning experience, and I am incredibly thankful that I was put in a position to have that opportunity.
Code Exercises and Conferences
Outside of the real world experience, I participate in weekly PluralSight training sessions to expand my skill set. The development team also puts on a monthly code exercise where we break up into groups to conquer software problems and then conclude by discussing our solutions as a group.
Additionally, our team participated in a variety of tech conferences over the past year to learn new techniques, concepts, and meet new people. Conferences we attended include:
These ended up being some of the greatest experiences of this past year for me. I got to learn about some of the most awesome new technology while bonding with the great people I work with.
Software is Hard
Now, with all of that said, it wasn’t all gravy the whole way through.
I can’t even begin to describe to you the amount of doubt that ran through my head at times. Coming into a more junior role was mentally tough. I didn’t pick up everything instantly. I struggled at times, which caused me to question myself. Do I belong here? Do I just not get “it?" Do my coworkers think I am a burden?
Eventually, I got over it. Why? Because I realized software is hard. Really hard. And not everyone is a genius that understands everything with minimal effort. Thanks to my incredible co-workers, I was able to learn things at a steady pace and contribute to projects a lot more than I may have given myself credit at first.
I don’t think I’m an expert at what I do now that a year has gone by, but I do think I'm a peg higher than “Complete N00b.” And I know that I’ll keep getting better as time goes by.
If you think that sounds like something you’d like to do, you should probably check out our careers page right meow!
A year ago, I was working part-time at Aztek and going to school full-time. I was lucky to be able to apply things I learned at Aztek to my schoolwork in the same night, and vice versa. I also had the comfort of knowing there was a full-time opportunity just over the horizon when I finished school.
Classroom to Coding
I picked up my two-year software development degree on a Saturday, and on the following Monday morning I was in the full swing of things. It took a few solid months of learning everything I possibly could, but I became comfortable with the idea of being responsible for single features or sets of tasks.
Made it through my first day at @aztekweb full-time without breaking anything. Severely. Nice.— Alex Yosa (@zappyalex) May 19, 2014
Getting Comfortable with Responsibility
A year later and I'm still pretty much doing the same things. But, I feel more comfortable than when I first started.
Most importantly, I'm able to help out as a valuable member of my team. We strive every day to create and improve the best products and experiences. And we're using some awesome technology to do it. Heck, even over a year the technology we're using has improved rather drastically.
There is an unbelievable amount of ground left to cover, and I'm still learning a lot every day. Getting to this point was not easy, but things are finally starting to really settle in. I know I'm doing what I want to do. There are very few things I am looking forward to more than seeing what we can do moving forward. It's been a year, but I’m really just getting started, and that’s exciting.
Any tips for developers just getting started? Share with us in the comments below.
Photo Credit: "SDC19333" by Mr Thinktank is licensed under CC BY 2.0