By Lorenzo Sauchelli – PHP Developer at Santex
What makes a good junior developer and why do companies look for them?
Getting a job when you have no experience can be hard. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of computer science. Usually, a company does not look for a junior Developer. This is not just because they lack the required coding skills needed to work on a project. The employer has no way of knowing if the potential employee has the abilities required to grow into a senior developer, whether or not they have the right work ethics to fit in at the company, or if they can carry their load on their shoulders without constantly having to ask for help.
Here at Santex, we have a created a training program to help junior developers excel in these areas. There will always be 12 junior developers on the team working on exciting internal projects. The idea is that they will get real world experience, evolving into Full-Stack Developers, basically someone who is familiar with each layer of development, from front-end to back-end, business logic, and everything in between. At the same time, they can work on a product that can be useful for the company.
The skills required for a junior position are completely different than those required for a senior one. When we look for senior developers, we look for people who are not just knowledgeable, but also experienced. Junior developers are expected to need a guiding hand, especially in the beginning.
Another common issue is that companies have much less reliable ways to separate the good junior candidates from the not-so-good ones. With senior developers, we can immediately tell whether or not they fit the criteria we’re looking for. With juniors developers, it’s another story. We need to discern some key aptitudes that help us detect the great candidates:
- Life Experience. Since we can’t really measure their work experience, we need to rely on what they tell us about themselves in other areas. Accomplishments that, at first glance, have little to do with software development can be telling about how they might act in our industry.
- Humility. We’re talking about unproven developers here, so arrogant behavior raises a red flag. And not just in a “who do they think they are?” kind of way. It can also be a toxic attitude that breaks teams and company culture.
- Confidence. While this might sound contradictory when put on a list next to humility, it’s also important that the candidate shows that they’re capable. If they are afraid to speak their mind or unsure about their abilities, chances are they will never grow. They are of little use to a company that’s looking to nurture them into senior developers.
- Ambition. While the right mix of humility and confidence is necessary, if the desire to learn and grow is not there, then it doesn’t matter how much humility and confidence they have. No matter how smart the candidate is, if they don’t want to learn, then they’ll never be capable of expanding their expertise.
- Logic. Of course, to be successful at coding, any developer needs a good head on their shoulders. They need to be able to think about a problem and come up with a useful solution to it. This doesn’t mean they need to know everything about the programming language they use, but they need to be able come up with creative solutions themselves. If they can’t even get past a FizzBuzz, then they’re not likely to get past the junior moniker.
- Communication skills. We don’t look for people that sit all day long coding, keeping to themselves and never talking with anyone around them. We want people who talk, share, and are willing and able to explain themselves. Communication builds teams and improves individuals.
Now that we know about some of the key aptitudes companies look for, we can focus on how to show these qualities to an interviewer. Remember, the company is not just looking to find out what you can actually do today, but what you might be able to do a few months, or years, down the line.
- Talk about what you know. It’s obvious when someone talks about something they have no idea about. People who do this are wasting the interviewer’s time and their chances of getting hired decrease quickly.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Even saying “I don’t know that yet” can do the trick. It can lead the interviewer to ask the candidate to use logic to come up with an answer. This brings to light how well the candidate works under pressure.
- Learn from as many sources as possible. Blogs, books, and github repositories help developers to improve themselves. Remember: You don’t need to know all the corners of the programming language you’re going to work with, but you need to show that you care enough to learn as much as possible.
- Ask questions, and learn to ask “the right questions.” This is key for any project, since a client might want something but not be able to articulate exactly what they’re looking for. The interviewer might talk about something that assumes some background knowledge to see if the candidate will ask about it.
- Practice, practice, practice. If you claim to love your craft, you can’t be expected to not know how to write a single line of code. You will have to take a coding test or two and you’re expected to solve them. Usually it’s nothing major, but if you can’t solve these, then the employer will wonder how you’d ever work on a real-world project.
Nurturing Passion: The road to the Full-Stack Developer
Okay, so you got past the interview and were hired. Good for you! But it’s far from over. Your goal now should be to continue improving yourself and continue showing the qualities that got you hired in the first place.
At Santex we say “WHERE TECHNOLOGY MEETS PASSION” in big, bold letters. And to make that a reality we need to nurture this passion, to help the younger developers who want to become experienced. The best way to become a Full-Stack Developer is to take steps forward to grow a passion for the craft.
Passion makes perfection. If you don’t love your work, then you won’t care for it, and if you don’t care for it, it will surely suffer from that lack of caring, making it of a much lower quality. And in the world we live in, quality is a great divider. Clients don’t look for companies where the only thing that’s valued is how cheap the service they give is, they look for quality, even if they don’t know they want it.
So, to get that much requested quality clients look for, we need skilled workers. Not just skilled workers, actually, but skilled workers who love their work. People who, when making a commitment, feel good about a job well done.
Earlier in this article, I mentioned the Santex Trainee Program and for good reason. It’s a moralizing idea that helps instill this much needed passion into people. Developers don’t love what they do just because they liked writing little programs when they were kids. Managers need to trust the developers and nurture their passion by creating a great workplace. They also need to identify when someone isn’t happy with what they’re doing. This program aims to help not just the new hires get involved in the field and grow them into Full-Stack Developers, but also to help Team Leaders become actual leaders, and create an idea of a team that, in turn, helps future hires land on softer ground and grow much more quickly.
About the Author – Lorenzo is a passionate, experienced PHP developer who is always in search of new challenges. As a high-skilled developer for Santex, he is always looking for new ways of contributing.