By Misty Hays March 6, 2018

How to Be the Best!

You just landed your first job and you’re excited! You worked hard to get here and now it’s your time to burst through the dirt and become the strong Douglas-fir that you are. You were destined for great things, so let’s show ‘em who’s the best!

I’m going to show you to be the best in three steps: building your credibility; use discovery and learning; and network.

1. Build Credibility

Building your credibility in your new job is the most crucial step in becoming successful in your career. Doing this well will allow you to the other two steps we’ll talk about today: learning and networking. Once you have this mastered, the other two are intuitive.

Don’t say your level of experience, or that you don’t have a CS degree.

You are not your title. I’ve known people who made the mistake of doing one or both of the above, and couldn’t get past that. They were always seen as the “junior.” They were still referred to as one when they were doing work levels above. My Granny always said, “Don’t volunteer information that someone could use against you.” This runs true as a life lesson. Some companies care about CS degrees, and some don’t. But in my experience, if you can do the work, then they won’t necessarily care about your education.

Ask questions!

This is the most important step in the process of building a reputation. The best programmers ask questions and are constantly learning. In parallel with asking questions, think about your questions before you ask. Take the time to write them out, read them back to yourself, and edit again. As you level up by asking and gaining knowledge, people on your team will take notice and you’ll soon be a gatekeeper of the codebase. If you have a question, someone else probably has the same one (or hasn’t thought of it yet). If you are willing to ask questions no one else is, you’re at an advantage. Asking questions doesn’t make you look bad. In fact, thoughtful questions show you care about your work. So just ask!

Pay it forward.

Now that you’re asking questions and gaining knowledge, write some documentation. Lack of documentation is a common problem in tech, but if you can take that new knowledge and share it with others, your teammates will pay attention. Documentation establishes your credibility from the start. Don’t put it off for later—trust me!

2. Discover & Learn

Learning your codebase will help you realize what areas you love and want to learn more about.

It allows you to experiment because you think you may know what you want, but you probably don’t. Don’t sell yourself short! As you become more experienced, your interests will change. It’s vital to experiment and be exposed to all areas of the business, because you may not always want to do what you’re doing right now.

Putting yourself out there is scary but it’s worth every second of it.

You gotta put yourself out there or you’ll never grow. Don’t doubt yourself. Find a mentor. If you can’t find one, be your own mentor. Love yourself. Tweet me.

Learning software fundamentals will give you so much context.

I can’t even begin to tell you—this will set you apart from other engineers. I know you probably think syntax, x language, and coding is most important, but you need the fundamentals. If you want to be a principal engineer or want to have a long career in tech as an engineer, you must know fundamentals. Udemy is a great place to start and usually runs $10 days on all kinds of technology, so take advantage.

3. Network

Meet people in and outside your company. Twitter is #1 for this! Find people who write in the language you know or work at the company you admire. Go to meetups in your area of interest—don’t waste your time at meetups that aren’t related to what you do or what you want to learn. If you’re slightly interested in a meetup, research the speakers or companies who are participating to make sure it’s worth it. Bring business cards to these events.

These steps will make you the best, so go get that promotion! If you have questions, tweet me (@mistymadonna) and I’m always happy to help.


About the Author: I’m Misty and I’m a software engineer at Nordstrom for nordstrom.com. I’m from Nashville and in my free time, I love reading, bots, helping people, neuroscience, and computer science/hacking weird stuff. :)


Want to learn more on how to become the best software developer you can? Join us for Misty’s talk this Friday! RSVP »