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How can I work better as a junior dev?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Oracle6 months ago

In July, I received a mid-year evaluation indicating room for improvement, with a rating of 2 out of 5 on the scale. My goal is to achieve an outstanding rating by this time next year. Here are the areas my manager provided feedback on for improvement:

He is a college hire, so he is a very junior developer.  He is an enthusiastic member of the team and seems eager to make contributions. He has struggled to learn the fundamental skills required for the job (programming, database, web development).  He will need to improve upon these skills in order to make contributions to the team with little assistance from his peers.



  • 18
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    6 months ago

    This feedback is quite high-level, but here are the 2 overall improvement areas I've extracted from it:

    1. Increasing Learning Speed
    2. Executing On Tasks More Independently

    Increasing Learning Speed

    There's a couple tactics here:

    1. Ask questions better - Make sure that the question quality is great, and you are able to extract a ton of learning from each one. I recommend these to help:
      1. Bad Question vs. Good Question Example
      2. How To Actually Learn Software Engineer Skills
    2. Learn outside of work - This may be tricky as Oracle is such a huge company, so I assume it has a lot of custom in-house stuff. Regardless, you can ask your manager/tech lead what books/courses he recommends. Another option is to work on side projects (this one's my favorite). I talk about that (and more) in-depth here: "How can I write great code faster?"
    3. Just get more from your time - If there's 1 tactic I would choose, it's focus blocks. It's the easiest to implement as a junior engineer, but I've seen so many junior engineers mess it up (primarily by going into meetings they don't need to). We made a video about it here: A Powerful Tool For Software Engineer Productivity - Focus Blocks

    When it comes to learning a new tech stack/codebase, I recommend Taro's most viewed resource of all time: "What is the effective way to understand new repository in order to make the required changes in that repo?"

    Executing On Tasks More Independently

    There's a couple reasons why you might not be perceived as sufficiently independent (both of which I've seen a lot from junior engineers):

    1. You get stuck a lot and need to be bailed out - We have an excellent article about how to unblock yourself faster here: Stuck? Here's How To Unblock Yourself As A Software Engineer
    2. Your questions are perceived as low quality - Even if you're not asking too many questions, it will seem that way to your peers if your questions are effectively "I don't know how to do this, can you please teach me?". That phase should only last 1-2 months for a junior engineer, and after that, the questions need to evolve. We break that down here: "What does it mean to not require handholding anymore?"

    I'm happy to provide more specific advice, but I'll need more information on what kinds of interactions your manager's concerned with. Are any of the following true?

    1. Your code gets a lot of comments in code review for being messy and hence goes through review slowly
    2. Your code breaks in production more than the average team member
    3. You have gotten feedback that you ask too many questions or have asked very similar questions 2+ times
    4. You are falling behind and not able to ship tasks on time
    5. You get stuck on tasks a lot, especially initially as they're too ambiguous

    Anyways, I'm really rooting for you to get that "Outstanding" rating next cycle - Please keep asking questions into Taro as issues come up!

  • 10
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    Entry-Level Software Engineer at Qualtrics
    5 months ago

    Hi! Thank you so much for reaching out on Taro!

    Alex put it well, and there isn't much more to be said initially.

    I will try to add some additional value here:

    Based on the feedback you received, it seems a bit too ambiguous. This is a complete guess, but I have feeling it is due to lack of information about you and your work. When it comes to improving based on feedback from your manager, one crucial aspect is to take charge of your own progress assessment. Your manager might not have visibility into every facet of your work, so it's up to you and your coworkers to accurately represent your contributions. Actively communicate your achievements and challenges, as this empowers your manager to provide more precise and valuable feedback. This collaborative approach ensures that the feedback you receive aligns better with your actual performance and helps you grow more effectively.

    I hope you find this helpful!

  • 8
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    4 months ago

    Amanuel brings up an excellent point about the visibility of work - I have seen so many engineers land great impact, but they're terrible at fully sharing that so they're perceived as low performers.

    Here's some excellent resources to help with this: