Developers Happiness
Development Noise
Productivity
Career
Developers happiness
Development noise
Productivity
Career

The things nobody warned you about when taking a developer job

Oct 25, 2021
8
 min read
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You did it. You finally landed that fantastic job you've been dreaming of. However, you quickly realize there are tons of issues that weren't part of the job description.

In today's article, I'll go over some of the things I've had to deal with, as a developer over 15 years and in many different companies.

Let’s look at what it means to be a developer in a team, which is a part of an organization.

Being a developer is not just being the person that types code and solves issues; it’s a lot more than that. It’s about being part of an organization, having colleagues, and working with new or modified systems.

Meetings

We all know meetings exist and very often could be just a simple email, right?

There is a thin line between valuable, productive meetings and clutter meetings.

To demonstrate, I’ll break them down into several types of meetings you may encounter in your developer’s career: 

  • Status update meetings

In development they are often known as stand-ups, retrospectives, or something similar. These meetings are usually organized with excellent intentions but can turn into a burden. I'm sure you've had these meetings where you thought, wow, I'm not paying attention, and I'm not the only one.

When working in teams, it’s a must that everyone be on the same page, but perhaps there are better ways to keep track of progress?

  • Decision-making meetings

In these meetings, there is often discussion about technical options, structural changes or ideas. I find these meetings super valuable, as they can help the whole team agree on a strategy. During decision-making meetings, be an active part of the conversation. If there is only one person talking and making the decisions, why did we have a meeting at all?.

  • Problem-solving meetings

These meetings often occur in a smaller setting, when we come together to solve an issue holding someone back.

In my experience, we can take pair programming as an excellent example of a problem-solving meeting. This can be a highly productive session because it will help the person with the problem understand how another person would solve that problem. However, keep in mind that doing so interrupts the work and flow the other person (i.e. the one helping) was already in.

  • Team building meetings

I'm sure you've been in at least one of these, right?

Some examples of team-building exercises might be: 

  • The show of trust: Building trust in each other by falling backward while your colleagues catch you
  • The paper tower challenge: Often used as a perfect technique to practice team work

 Perhaps your company is more into mountain biking as team building? Whatever  concept they choose, it's a fun day out, or at least it should be. I enjoy these meetings as it breaks up the daily routine, allowing you and your colleagues to connect on a different level, which is nice.

  • Info sharing meetings

Meetings with the purpose of providing you with the “Guys, we sold our 10.000th product” information or a small team update. These kinds of meetings are held to update the team on specific company information. However, they can be just distracting, depending on the information (e.g. if the information is not valuable).

  • Innovation meetings

These meetings are very hands-on and involve a lot of thinking and brainstorming, not as concise as the decision-making ones. In this kind of meeting, it's expected of you to be very proactive. Be aware that you might feel drained after an innovation meeting because you've used a lot of energy actively participating. .

As you can see, there are many types of meetings; some more helpful than others. However, they can all be a burden on your already heavy workload. When it comes to meetings, we should look at how valuable the meeting will be and if everyone’s presence is needed. Perhaps a friendly follow-up email or a group slack message might  work better for 50% of the people.

Managers

You might find yourself in a company where your manager asks you for all kinds of urgent, ad-hoc tasks reports.

Manager: Hey Chris, can you quickly change the X button to be 10 pixels lower in project Y?

Chris: Yeah, sure, I'll do it right after I’m done with this taskManager: But I need it in two minutes, the meeting starts in five.

Chris: Oh, um well, I guess I'll just drop what I'm doing then

The conclusion was that my managers’ request broke whatever I was working on. I had to spend a couple of minutes doing something completely different and then get back into what I was doing before.

All and all, these 5-minute tasks reduce your productivity by much more than just those 5 minutes.

I've worked in companies where these types of requests have almost become more of a day job than my actual job. Depending on your manager and who you are as a person, this might become an issue.

Generally, it's a good idea to talk to your manager about it and explain why it might be a problem.

A valuable tip is to write down the time it takes you - not only the time it takes you to do  the actual task, but the time that includes stopping your current task, the back and forth communication about the request, the admin tasks, and the time it takes to re-focus again on your work.

I'm not saying you should never do these tasks, but perhaps you can agree with your manager to give you more of a heads-up so you can plan your day better. 

Personally, I like to tackle these tasks either early in the morning, before starting a project, or at the end of the day. This way, I can stay focused on my work and still manage additional tasks productively..

Other side tasks

You’re a developer, you must know all kinds of tech stuff, right?

Hey Chris, can you fix the printer? It's jammed. 

Chris, my laptop is stuck. Can you fix it?
And even: You're an engineer, can you fix my car?

Wow! That is very often our response, but we deal with it. Yes, we can have a look, and often we might even know how to fix it. However, these are not our areas of expertise, and it might take us longer than expected to get the task done.

Bottom line: Our core job’s timeline is now in danger. Whose problem is that? Yes, you guessed it right: ours!

The main point I’m trying to make here is: communication. Communication is key. We can tell people “I need to finish this by the end of the day/week/month, and I need my time for that.Perhaps we can hire a technician to do this?” Even if that’s not possible, you’ve clearly set up your boundaries and consequences.

Work clutter

Clutter is distracting, especially when you're focusing on your work. It has many varieties, so let's break them down.


  • Physical clutter

Perhaps your office is a mess. It's noisy. There are always people talking and distracting you, especially if the office is open space? That can truly mess with your concentration and annoy you. Sure, we use noise-canceling headphones to drown out the noise, but working in a messy environment can be distracting, even demotivating. Try to make sure your work space is clean and organized.

  • Online clutter

The same applies to your online space. Perhaps you're using Dropbox/Google Drive or whatever, and you need to find that one important document. Jim told you it was sitting in Dropbox, but somehow you can't seem to find it? Having spent 10 minutes browsing in vain, you decide to go back to Jim and ask him where it is. He then casually mentions the file is called34342.docx. Oh wow yeah, that's a good name for project_plan_project_x_dec_2021. You see where I'm going with this? Clutter is not quirky or fun, it's messy, and we don't have time for it.

  • Lack of guidelines

Having clear, specific guidelines is a blessing for developers. It's the red-line for our jobs.
Sometimes, there are not enough guidelines for a project, meaning it’s hard to figure out how to work on it, or to see why certain decisions have been made.

The opposite can also be tricky, meaning too many guidelines might confuse us and defer the solution of the problem we’re here to solve.

  • Unclear descriptions

Another, perhaps even more annoying, thing are unclear or incorrect descriptions. Trust me, I've been there. Readme says “Install Y and Z, then press X”. It turns out you need to install Z and W and then press CTRL+C. That's super annoying because you need to be able to trust the documentation. This gives you a good idea of the many faces of work clutter you may encounter. Often work clutter can be solved with smart systems, guidelines, and helpful tools. I always found it very useful to talk to colleagues and team about it. Don't forget you might not be the only one affected or thinking it's not very pleasant.

Conclusion

Being a developer is much more than being the person that types code and solves issues. It’s about being part of an organization, having colleagues, and working with new or modified systems.

When starting your job as a developer, there’s no need to be scared of these things.  This article is here only to give you a heads-up on what types of jobs you can expect on top of your core job as a developer.

Also, remember, in these companies, we’re not alone; if you feel burdened by clutter or unsure how to react to something, talk to your colleagues about it. This concept is widely applicable for developers. When we hit a problem we can’t solve, we don’t hold back but ask someone to help us. This can also be applied to all those tasks nobody warned you about.


Well… I warned you now. 😉

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Chris Bongers
Software engineer, Holland

I’m Chris, a full stack developer with 16 years of experience in development.
I’m from the Netherlands, but travel around as a digital nomad, every single day I write a blog article related to web development.

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