We’re taking a trip down memory lane today.
The Zaengsters are looking back at what we learned years ago, as we each answer the following question:
What's one lesson you learned early in your career that still holds true?
We all know things change fast in the web world. Yet as fast as digital trends seem to come and go, there are plenty of things that stand the test of time. These nuggets of wisdom we picked up during the early days of our careers have shaped each of our journeys and kept us on track. And maybe they’ll resonate with you too.
Here’s how we each responded to the above question.
One lesson I learned early in my career is it's okay to not know everything. As developers we tend to feel the need to put up the front that we know everything because we are supposed to be problem solvers.
I started realizing this my third year of college when my programming courses started getting a bit more challenging that I didn't know as much as other persons in some areas. I had to put aside my ego and realize that I had my strengths but I also had areas that I wasn't fully knowledgeable about and thats okay.
It's okay to not know everything and pretending to do so is a disservice to yourself because you are closing yourself off from having the opportunity to learn something new or to expand your knowledge.
No matter what field you are in, you will never know everything. There's just too much information out there and it is okay. Tomorrow is always a new day to learn something new.
- Software development is fundamentally about people and expectations, not computers and code.
- No one ever wished that their code didn’t have working tests.
- The problem with “Let’s just do a quick+dirty fix and come back and fix it later” is that you (almost never) do come back and fix it later, at least not until it becomes a problem. It’s (almost!) always better to suck up any negative effects of doing the extra work, and do it right the first time.
You are not your work. It's important to take pride in what you do and to do the best you can, but understanding that work is your work, and not your worth, is clarifying. Success, failure, criticism, and praise are all easier to manage with that in mind.
One of the most significant things I learned early on in my career was to be willing to try new things. I ended up working in this field almost by accident. I was a few years into a teaching degree when I decided to join the tech team at my church simply because they were low on volunteers. After many Sunday mornings and weeknight practices spent in the tech booth, I realized I’d found the right fit.
The following semester (when I was only one semester away from student teaching 😲), I changed my major to multimedia and never looked back. If I hadn’t taken the chance on doing something new back then, I probably wouldn’t have ended up working in the tech world today.
Over the years, I’ve had opportunities to try my hand at a variety of new things in my personal and work life. Some were successes. Some not. But there was always something to be learned, and I know those moments have gotten me to where I am today.
There are a few things from early in my career that have helped me. The first is to always take a database backup before making any changes to it! 😀 Seriously though, some things that have helped me are to remember that treating people with kindness and being reliable are just as important as technical ability. Along with that is the need to maintain an open mind when people from non-technical backgrounds share opinions. Sometimes these are the most informative ideas.
One thing I learned early on is to be open to feedback and constructive criticism, and to be sure not to take it personally. You’d be amazed by how much you can improve in different areas if you’re open to feedback and you see it as an opportunity to grow, rather than seeing it as a slight against you or your skills. Whether it’s comments on a blog post or pull request or a coworker making suggestions for how you can improve the way you communicate certain things, you can learn a lot from feedback if you’re open to it.
I have an internal monologue constantly telling me two things:
- It's my job to leave things better than I found them.
- Nothing I do will ever be perfect, and that's okay.
These ideas translated into two simple drives that have served me well.
- If I see something that's broken or could be improved I either fix it right away or flag it for improvement later.
- Making things better often means scrubbing the toilets or taking out the trash. AKA no task is beneath a given role.
It is important not to accept a solution too hastily. I have frequently made the mistake of considering my initial solution as the most effective approach available. What I learned early in my career, and continue to observe today, is that my first approach to a problem is often not the cleanest.
Typically, my initial attempt at solving a problem tends to be unnecessarily complicated. This occurs when I delve too deeply into the problem without taking a step back to assess the overall scope of the task.
However, when I take the time to do so, I often discover a much simpler and cleaner approach. Know the scope. Get the big picture. Simplify the problem.
My CS degree only scratched the surface of business operations and software development. Early on, I had to learn that while writing software is great and all, good communication and expectation management can save your project and your business.
Want to read more tips and insights on working with a web development team that wants to help your organization grow for good? Sign up for our bimonthly newsletter.
Marketing & Product Manager
Emily can often be found reading, enjoying the outdoors with her dog, and trying to keep her houseplants alive.
Keep on reading
Client - Agency Relationship Management
What to Look for When Hiring a Development Agency
Benefits of Focusing on Strengths in the Workplace