What to Expect as a New Software Engineer Part 2: Get Ready to Tackle These Challenges and Red Flags
As a newly minted software engineer, you have a great big world of opportunities ahead of you! A long career path of learning, creativity, and collaboration is yours to enjoy—but first, you have to build the experience necessary to navigate each bend in the road with confidence.
In Part 1 of this two-part series on what to expect as a new software engineer, we outlined the lessons you’ll likely learn during your first year in computer programming.
Here, in Part 2, we’ll dive deeper and unearth the challenges and red flags you’ll encounter—not because you’re not smart or talented enough, but because this is life, and life loves nothing more than to throw the newbie a curveball.
The Two Biggest Challenges You’ll Face as an Inexperienced Software Engineer
Every workplace is pieced together from a unique collection of ideas, experiences, perspectives, goals, and (hopefully) some seriously great snacks. What’s not so unique are two major challenges inherent to entry-level software developer jobs.
But don’t wait until you find yourself in deep water, stress-eating Snickers bars. Go ahead and prepare yourself to face (and surmount!) these challenges.
Challenge 1: Imposter syndrome
As brilliant as they are, our brains sure can trip us up. Imposter syndrome is a prime example of how our minds can hijack our realities, making monsters of our fears and uncertainties.
There’s no way around it: you will have horrible days where your brain convinces you that you’ve accomplished nothing and will continue accomplishing nothing until you get fired and have to move in with your deranged cousin twice removed.
Another deep breath would be wise at this juncture.
Imposter syndrome is dreadfully demoralizing. It will make you doubt your knowledge, shrink back from your skills, and question the value you bring to your job.
Imposter syndrome is also normal. I’ve been a software developer for over 20 years, and I still get hit with imposter syndrome from time to time. The odds are good that your manager wrestles with this maddening mindset, too.
When you get bowled over by imposter syndrome, don’t be afraid to talk about it.
“I’m dealing with some major imposter syndrome right now,” you might say. Let that propel you toward asking for help with a problem, building closer camaraderie with your team, or simply reflecting on what you DO know so you can get unstuck.
(It’s also helpful to eat a Snickers.)
Challenge 2: Asking for help
Some of us hesitate to ask for help—even when it’s imperative that we do so. Others tend to ask for so much help that people run when they see us coming.
Your goal should be to land somewhere between the two: able to seek help but never becoming a nag or a nuisance.
Launch Academy grads know not to let every spark of curiosity come flying out of their mouths unfiltered. You need to do your own research first. You’re probably more capable than you realize of solving the problem you’re faced with; you just have to buckle down and do the work.
If you’re tackling a problem that should be solvable in, say, 10 minutes, give yourself 10 minutes to dig deep and find the solution for yourself. If those 10 minutes pass and you’re no closer to an answer, talk to a mid- or senior-level engineer. Tell them what you’ve already tried, share your hypothesis, and ask for their guidance.
They may hand you the answer, or they may point you in the right direction so you can find it for yourself. As long as you first demonstrate that you made a genuine effort to resolve the challenge before asking for help, your team will be happy to chime in.
However, if you run for help at the merest indication of a challenge, your team will eventually shut you down. Don’t risk your personal growth or your career’s longevity by acting less like a colleague and more like an obnoxious little sibling who wants a ride to the movie theater.
The Major Red Flag New Software Engineers Should Watch For
I know we just finished telling you to solve your own problems, but there is a (seemingly contradictory) warning sign you should stay alert to. That warning sign looks like a big red flag depicting YOU—all alone.
We’re talking about workplaces that utterly fail to support their own team members.
Unfortunately, some junior engineers land entry-level software developer jobs only to discover there aren’t any mid- or senior-level developers available to support them. A lack of experienced software engineers could signify several things:
- The company thinks it can save money by hiring only junior-level developers
- The company doesn’t have a clue what you do—or what they need you to do
- The company itself is so young that it hasn’t yet established a personnel structure
- The company’s tax accountant said, “Whoa! You’re gonna owe BIG unless you invest in the business!” so they arbitrarily hired 17 new people, and one of them is you
The point is this: A junior software engineer can NOT succeed during their first year without the guidance and support of a higher-level professional.
A junior software engineer can NOT succeed during their first year without the guidance and support of a higher-level professional.
If you want your first year in your new career to be great, you need to advocate for an enriching experience. And the best time to investigate a job’s potential is during the interview process.
When you’re hungry for a computer programming job, you may be tempted to nod and smile and “yes” your way to an offer letter. But interviews should serve you as much as they serve the organization. A poor-fitting job serves no one.
So ask about the structure of your future team. Find out who you’ll report to and who you’ll work alongside. Ask how much experience the software development team represents, and make sure you get to talk to some of the professionals within that team.
If the company is a startup that doesn’t yet have a robust structure in place, you may choose to counter-offer with a 10-hour monthly consulting contract with an experienced software engineer.
But if a company can’t or won’t provide a supportive work environment that’s conducive to your development as a junior programmer, you’re probably better off moving on and moving up to seek other possibilities.
To be clear: YOU are not the red flag
Sometimes software engineering jobs don’t work out. New and experienced developers alike have found themselves in roles that simply aren’t right for them. If this happens to you, know that it does not reflect your skill or potential as a software engineer. Walk your big, bold programmer boots back out to the interview circuit and find yourself a job that suits your style.
And if you’re a Launch Academy graduate, go ahead and pull your phone out while you’re walking that circuit. Our Career Services team is a phenomenal resource for anyone having doubts about their current role. They’re always available to help you evaluate your concerns and decide what move to take next—even if that means helping you find a position that’s a better fit.
You’re More than a Coder. You’re a Problem-Solver.
Challenges and red flags are as much a part of life as rainy days. You can choose to ignore the forecast at your own peril, or you can anticipate and plan accordingly. (Spoiler alert: planners are the folks who whip out an umbrella when the rain begins!)
As a Launch Academy-trained software engineer, you’re better equipped than most to tackle even the biggest obstacles head-on. After all, problem-solving isn’t just a skill you’ve acquired; it’s the foundation of your career and the cornerstone of your future.
Start your own journey into creative problem-solving today! Get Launch Academy’s latest syllabus, and you’ll be on your way to a career in software development in only 18 weeks.