Five Things We Wish We Knew When We Started Working as Software Engineers

by Adobe Life Team

Posted on 09-24-2019

Contributed by Vanessa Gutierrez, Software Developer at Adobe & Banafsheh Derayat, Software Developer at Yelp

As two 2018-university-graduates-turned-software-engineers, we’re wrapping up our first year of work. After reflecting on our time at Adobe and Yelp, and polling other grad’s in our networks, we found the top five things we wish we knew when we started.

Here are the highlights:

  1. How to ask questions

As an intern, Banafsheh was told she wasn’t asking enough questions and that she was spending “way too much time” figuring things out on her own.

It’s a familiar struggle for junior engineers: when do you ask for help?

Don’t know where to start? Simply ask, “What should I check out to get started on this?” This’ll send you in the right direction and unblock you, and it’s different from asking for prescriptive steps.

Otherwise, ensure you have a well-formed question. Try typing your question in a message–but don’t send it! Try to answer it, _or _think of follow up questions. Repeat until you’ve answered all your questions or are stuck. Now ask someone (or hit send) with specific questions that’ll save time and demonstrate you’ve given it thought before approaching them.

  1. Who to ask questions

First, consult your code base, internal documentation, or online resources. You’ll either find answers easily, prime yourself to understand a teammate’s explanation, or confirm it’s difficult to figure out alone and therefore you aren’t wasting someone’s time with an easily searchable question.

So, documentation first — who’s next? With technical questions, talk to someone who worked on the same thing, or something similar. Independently identify who that is with Git Blame, or Author, to see who last touched relevant lines of code.

Still unsure who to ask? Approach your mentor, technical lead, or manager. They’ll direct you to the right person, and over time you’ll learn who to go to for what.

  1. Communicating with your manager

A combination of unusual events meant Vanessa had three managers in three months. Expectations for her success and her evaluation against those expectations became ambiguous, and as a result, things became…stressful.

Though her situation is highly unlikely, it accelerated some consequences that come from lacking transparent expectations and goals with your manager. So, how did Vanessa, and how can you, kick-start and maintain clear communication with them?

First, find out how your manager prefers to communicate: Slack, email, stopping by their desk, a recurring one-on-one on the calendar, setting one-on-one’s as needed, etc?

When you do talk with them, touch on some items we found helpful in our conversations with our managers:

  1. How to get valuable feedback

When we surveyed other working new-grad’s, learning how to get “good” feedback was a recurring theme.

So…how do you get more than a “You’re doing great”?

  1. Networking

One of our poll respondents said, “I wish I’d known the importance of going to lunch.” Well, we agree. Here are the ways we’ve most successfully networked at work–including lunch:

Want more advice on meeting with your manager or networking? Read the full article on LinkedIn and drop by our career advice page on the Adobe Life Blog.

Topics: Adobe Life, University, Career Advice, Employee Impact, Adobe Culture, Brand