I would be lying if I told you once you graduated from your IT related college program, it would be smooth sailing. It's far from it, it's a challenging but rewarding experience. Your salary can be amazing and you are able to afford new things such as cars, computers, gifts for your loved ones, and even a home. But something that will never change in this field is that you will always be learning. Just because you finished your degree, doesn't mean that your learning is done. Here is my story thus far.
In late 2017, I graduated from Florida International University. I was pumped to be done with my degree and eager to begin my new career as a software developer. After graduating I started to look online for job opportunies and started to realize that my degree and my only internship at StateFarm was not enough to easily find employment. Sure, I had a great GPA and thought that would be the most important thing to any recruiter. But I was wrong, The degree I received from FIU was only the tip of the iceberg for knowing what it means to be a competent engineer.
After about 2 months of searching, I found a company that was willing to take a chance on me after your standard software developer interview (I had connection also vouch for me). It was an insurance company in Sunrise, Florida. February 19th, 2018 would be my first day on the job and I was ready to go. At the same time I was nervous because the job description and requirements were mostly unfamiliar to me. I didn't know what exactly a ReST API was, or how to use SOAPUI, my SQL skills were also very rusty since I hadn't written SQL in almost a year and a half.
The commute about 45 minutes one way. It sucked; I'll admit but I finally had my foot in the door. All I needed to do was impress so I set myself some very high expectations. I would learn that those expectations were very unrealistic.
For those of you starting out in software, a junior level engineer is more of a learning position. You are not expected to know everything that they throw at you, but at the same time they don't want to see you slacking off. After all, you are learning on their time. After a few weeks of being at my new position, I was very nervous and thought I would be let go for performance reasons. All because of these high expectations and not knowing what a junior position really is about. I was given a task and if I had any questions to ask that it would be ok to do so.
After asking a few questions to a more seasoned developer, I would feel bad for asking them so many questions. This is ok ladies and gentlemen, it's only an issue when you start to ask the same questions over and over. When I stopped asking questions, that's when my progress would completely stall. You can't feel bad for asking questions, software engineering is performed as a team almost anywhere. If you can't rely on your team, then do you really want to work there?
I realized that a software engineering position wasn't only about coding, but rather understanding the business context in which you are developing for. In my case, I had to learn a lot about home insurance to be effective in pumping my assigned features in any given release.
A year would pass and one day in 2019 I took a look at the proverbial mirror and realized just how much I had learned. You don't realize how much you know until you take a good look back at yourself. I had learned how to use the Spring framework rather well, I became really good with the Angular framework. I shipped out a front end all by myself and worked with my mentor to hook it up to the server in which they implemented. It was team work at it's finest. The confidence issues were gone, and I really felt like I had hit my stride. I stopped valuing myself so low compared to others and going to work became a pleasure, not a stressful experience.
I was laid off in May 2020, due to the Coronavirus situation. I have begun my job search again and this time around I feel confident and ready to move on to the next step in my career. I know this layoff was not performance related, but just the natural ebb and flow of a company through the easy times and the hard times. The best thing one could do is to not take these layoffs personally, think of them as a stair case to the next opportunity. Just a week later after being laid off, I am prepared to get back out there. As I look back to my first job, I made so many good friends and unforgettable experiences. I will never burn these bridges as long as I live. My team members will always be a part of my family, we have all been there for each other and I know that won't change.
I want to end this blog post with a small list of things we should all do as members of the IT industry.
If you made it this far, I thank you for hearing me out, I hope you got some value out of this post. Until then...
-Alberto Jesus Camacho