When I first started out as a junior developer, I was working on two parallel projects – A database entry system and very early website. Both were exciting, both were interesting and on both I scratched the surface on what I was doing. I realized at that time that I enjoyed doing both but that I couldn’t do both well and learn everything I would really need to become really great at it. So I thought about what I wanted to focus in on and learn about more – web-based development or databases.
I chose web-based development and then started the path down VB, ASP, Cold Fusion, PHP, COM, .NET, etc, etc. I was focused on an area, not a language – this was key – I didn’t want to understand the pros/cons of languages and how they could interact with each other better. I wasn’t able to ignore databases completely as working with any of the above was a requirement, but I didn’t focus all my learning energies into them at that point in time. Later, at one of my jobs, I had the opportunity to join the Database group and immerse myself in that technology for a few years which helped me gain a further appreciation for that role and apply it my skills in Software Development (I knew I wasn’t going to be a DBA, but I could be more knowledgeable in that area).
What’s all this mean? Then and especially now, as a junior starting out, I needed some focus and I had to assign that to myself. I seeked out jobs that narrowed on web development, I read every book I could to get up to speed and be more useful in meetings, I worked late on projects and when not on projects I tinkered with new ideas and concepts I was learning.
Being a Junior developer is not easy – everyone is asking for everything and you’ve only got so much experience under your belt. There is an unwritten onus on every junior developer when hired – you need to put in extra time and effort to get into the game – if not said, it’s there, if said, well now you know. When everyone is coming at you with a myriad of requests, I found having your own focus was a great way to showcase where you want to be and get to – people can connect the dots to where you’re headed and when you’ll get there (and if they can’t they are doing it wrong) and if you’re doing things right – they’ll want to be there when you connect the last one.