Amelié Chan spoke to us about what she experienced in her first role in development, what could have been improved, and what those responsible for recruiting can do to attract more junior developer talent.
Amelié Chan is currently a Web Developer Engineer at Amazon in Berlin. Previously she worked as a Full-stack Developer for Night Zookeeper, and interned at Ticketmaster. Amelié learnt to code through the Founders & Coders bootcamp, and previously ran a cafe and worked in music publishing.
Nathan: Hello and welcome to the second of our CoderList talks where we’ll be chatting with different parties involved in Junior Development. Today, we’ll be speaking with Amelié a bootcamp grad working as a full-stack developer. So, Amelié what do you do?
Amelié: Hi! So i’m a full-stack developer at an education tech start-up.
Nathan: Cool, so how did you get into that?
Nathan: Awesome, so you got your first job through that bootcamp?
Nathan: Cool. So what was the process of you finishing that bootcamp and going into that role?
Amelié: So it was really easy, I was very lucky. I didn’t really have to worry about getting my first job as a junior developer. I was able to walk straight into it. The bootcamp had a bunch of different recruitment partners and they provide each cohort with a certain number of placements. They had one with Ticketmaster where they gave two internships per cohort, so two out of sixteen. They also offer some other internships and full-time roles.
The process for me was to send them my CV, and they interviewed everyone who applied. We then had a half an hour chat, where we spoke about some quite basic things. A little bit about testing, and how I’d solve certain problems. They wanted to see if we had an interest in front-end development, as that’s what the internship was focused on. I then started the next week. It was pretty good!
Nathan: Awesome. How did you find that first job? Did you find it was a good fit for you after your bootcamp?
Amelié: At the time I struggled. It was a very big organisation, and I’d just been in a very small bootcamp. There was a very fixed structure [at Ticketmaster] with fixed processes. I found it a bit impersonal. That was new to me. I struggled a little bit and found I didn’t get much feedback on what I was doing. I felt we lacked communication. I had the classic feelings of not feeling good enough.
There were many good aspects of it also. They had amazing regimented processes when it came to continuous integration and code reviews. I had every single line of code absolutely scrutinised, which was scary at the time, but looking back it was really good. It’s something I don’t have at my current job at a startup where all of those processes are sort of missing, and you don’t have time to scrutinise every line of code.
So, many good things, but bad at first due to feeling like there was a lack of communication and I wasn’t given enough feedback on how I was doing personally.
Nathan: What do you think that company could have done better to make you feel more comfortable when you came in as a junior?
Amelié: I think if they had laid out a plan for me of what they envisaged me doing and how they planned my progress, there would have been something for me to work with. Something to measure myself against to see how I was doing. There wasn’t any of that. It was more ‘would you like to pick up this ticket’ or ‘would you like to pair with this person today’. It seemed a bit ad hoc and I felt a bit of a loose part. They didn’t have a plan for me and therefore I wasn’t being valuable.
If they had just a loose plan, or told me vaguely how they wanted me to progress and what things they envisaged me working on in the future, then I would have been able to feel like I was progressing. I think that’s really important.
Nathan: Do you think that if people in the business had had the conversation about what things they wanted you to do and where they would ideally like you to end up in the business, and then shared this with you, you’d have felt more able to progress within the role?
Amelié: Yeah, that’s exactly it.
Nathan: Great, I think that’s going to be very helpful. I think my next question for you is what was hardest thing about that role, the thing you struggled with most? Is there something you felt someone could have reached out and changed for you?
Amelié: I feel having more one-to-ones would have been extremely valuable for me because I was having all of these feelings about whether I was a valuable asset to the team, and not knowing if I was progressing in the way they thought I should be. If I had been able to have those conversations and at least known what was right and wrong, I would have had much greater peace of mind. I think it would have been a little less of a time of anxiety for me. I think communication is key - one-to-ones with your boss, quite basic stuff but a lot companies don’t do it.
Nathan; Quite an easy thing for companies to implement. Obviously time is a very valuable asset for companies, but if they can just share a little bit of it, then you’d have done much better which would have been good for everyone involved.
Amelié: Yeah, exactly. It would have been better peace of mind. I would have been a happier employee I think.
Nathan: Cool. As a bit of a broader question what would you like to see in terms of perks for a junior? If someone is looking for a junior and struggling to find the right person, what do you think they could offer that would bring someone like you into their business?
Amelié: I was really looking for support. I want to know that the team is going to have time for me. Time in person to chat about problems and the best ways of solving them, but also time to look at my code and give detailed feedback on it. As a junior developer you just want to progress, and continue learning and you need to get feedback from people who are more experienced to be able to do that. Otherwise, what are you there for? You’re not improving personally. So I would be looking for a support system, with concrete examples of how they do that. Examples like ‘We spend an hour code reviewing every day.’ or ‘we offer everyone a day every two weeks where they work on personal projects’. This would help me know that learning, communication and feedback is part of their company structure. That would be something i’d find really attractive.
It would be even better if they said I’d have someone who would be a mentor, who has extra time for you. Also, if they had concrete examples of how often they pair program, or how often they meet together as a team to learn, solve a problem or discuss improving things together. That would be a huge win for me. It would be amazing.
Nathan: Yep, I think that’s very clear. Having that team environment where team communication is done in a structured way. They say ‘this is how we do things’ and you know how it works. You’d feel supported by knowing what the structures are and how they work.
Amelié: Yeah. Knowing that they actually have practices that they abide by, and they’re not just saying that. That it’s a fixed thing that they do.
Nathan: Yep. It’s interesting, as I’ve never thought process would be such a big thing for you. It makes perfect sense though, that as a junior you’re feeling uncomfortable and you want to have a clear idea of what’s expected of you, but also what support you’re going to get. Having that clear in your mind, you’d feel much more comfortable and with that comfort you’d become a much better employee.
Amelié: Yeah, totally.
Nathan: Cool. That’s really useful. This is the last question. I think you’ve touched on your answer already. If you’re talking to someone who's responsible for hiring juniors, who isn’t technical, what’s the best piece of advice you could offer? What characteristics do you think made you successful as a junior?
Amelié: Yeah, that’s a good question. A willingness to learn, and a real desire to learn, with no attitude that you already know it all. I think that’s pretty essential when you’re a junior. No one knows it all, especially a junior, and your main goal it to continue improving and learning. You should want to learn and in the best way possible. So, I think you want to look for someone who is ambitious, but who also wants to be a real contributing member of the team. They should want good processes and practices. I think that’s a good indication that that person is going to be a long lasting member of your team.
Nathan: I think that’s a great answer. A willingness to learn, but with the humility to see that they’ve learnt a lot, but there is so much more to learn. As a developer of any level, you never know it all. As you said, as a junior, you definitely don’t know it all.
Amelié: Yeah, if someone expresses a real desire to genuinely learn, that’s probably someone whose going to want to be in your company for a longer time vs someone who just doing the job because they can do it, but don’t necessarily want to improve things.
Nathan: Amelié, thanks so much for spending some time talking to us today, and good luck in your new job.
Amelié: Cool, thank you very much.
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