If you have ever made the brave and crazy decision to switch careers because you finally figured out what you want to be when you grow up, this is for you.
Career transition is hard at any age and I have always admired people who knew what they wanted to be by the time they were 17. I wasn’t one of those people. Sooooo I spent years and years doing things that I sort of wanted to do and basically became a boring adult with no goals or aspirations. I was exactly what we Gen X-ers had nightmares about being.
Fast forward, age 40.
Yeah, I’m over being boring. So, I started learning to code. I drank the kool-aid, but for whatever reason, I pretty much loved the kool- aid and was good at it. Making the computer do things I told it to do was exactly what I was missing in life!
As I embark on my very first collaborative coding role, I want to share that it’s not your expertise in coding that will challenge you. You can write Rspec’s, you can refactor that one line of xml even though you have never seen the need to use xml.
What is going to challenge you , is the process. It’s super great that I have worked on client projects when I was freelancing, or that I created Reddit, Wiki and Pandora replicas at bootcamp, however, NONE of these will prepare you for the real world of coding. So I will share with you what will.
1.) Asking a lot of questions
A wise woman reminded me that when she started her job at a very important company, she had NO CLUE what she was doing for the first 3 months, nor did her very important company expect her to know what she was doing for at least 6 months. WOW! So falling down a rabbit hole and saying to yourself “They are paying me to DO something and I can’t DO anything cos I don’t know WHAT to DO!” Is a huge waste of time. Just don’t do it. I have done it for you and I can sincerely tell you it wasted a large amount of my valuable time. Instead, start asking questions and then ask some more. One caveat here, and I can’t stress it enough, you must ask the right questions. This is a skill and talent. If you are learning to code you probably already have a lot of experience googling the right questions to get the proper answers, if not, start doing this immediately.
EX of a not so good question: “Why xml”
EX of a better question: “Can I use logical operator && with xml?”
EX of the best question: “xml, && logical operator errors”
2.) Documenting the answers from those questions to be useful to people that come after you.
This was sincerely the best thing I could have done. Each time I had a well thought out question for my colleagues I would open an Evernote and write down the answers. What this does is creates a record of documentation, for people that onboard after you, that will run into the same challenges. This step will also help to save time of those colleagues who you will ultimately need to interrupt, to explain, yet again to the new person, how the process works. If you create excellent documentation from your questions, in the future, these colleagues can quickly point the new person to the documentation, while taking less time to explain and more time on their own tasks. *Note, NONE of my colleagues have ever made me feel like I was wasting their time asking questions, but I am intuitive enough to know that each time they are interrupted to help me out, they can’t work on their own tasks.
3.) Taking your brain out for a walk.
This is a no-brainer <- HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Just take breaks peeps, even when you are on a role. Some of my best solutions when I have been completely stuck or lost in the last 10 days have come to me when I am walking the dog. It’s like scary epiphany brain walks. The type where you get home after having this epiphany and you say to yourself “that was simple, why was I lost for 30 minutes?!”
4.) Not freaking out
I was recently told that the difference between a Sr. Level Engineer and a Jr one, is that a Sr Engineer is calm at all times, Jr levels lose their shit almost every time.
So, there you have it. Things I’ve learnt in just 10 days! Let me know in the comments if any of these learning techniques have helped you out in a new role or in life.