Today I want to share a pivotal moment in the career of a freshly graduated junior developer.
Rand’s writing prompts inspired this post. Every week he sends out a few writing prompts. The following prompt brought back memories of a situation I haven’t thought about in a long time:
Michael Lopp (Rands)
The name of the person who helped you the most and why.
About 10 years ago
I’ll take you back about 10 years, I was a junior engineer. I graduated a few months earlier and was still getting up to speed. I was working in a team with an approaching deadline. Our senior engineer/scrum master got sick. Nothing serious but he was out for about 1,5 weeks. Together with another junior engineer, we tried to keep our heads above the water. But there were a few bigger / complex tasks we couldn’t pull off.
After a few days, our product owner pulled the two of us into a meeting room. He gave us a motivational grasshopper speech. We need to finish those 2 big ugly tasks or we will miss the deadline. I’m counting on you two. It might not be easy, it might be scary. But I believe in you, and you can pull this off.
I picked up the task that had a big risky legacy deployment. I didn’t have rights for those systems, never did anything with them. I felt lost, but the Grasshopper speech gave me the push I needed. And for the first time, I reached out to engineers outside my team. I’d met a few grumpy seniors at lunch who always complained about the legacy systems. They might be able to help me. And I simply asked them.
To my surprise, they were all happy to help me. They walked me through the systems and reviewed the code. And together we did the risky deployment. We had to ssh into a machine, git pull, and update a few dependencies as git submodules. You know, the fun stuff.
Both the other junior engineer and I managed to finish our tasks and made our team meet the deadline.
At the time I did not realize it, but this was a pivotal moment in my career. I used to be quite hesitant. Who is going to listen to a junior engineer fresh out of school? Well, it turns out, if you bring a can-do attitude, and treat folks nicely, they are happy to help.
Looking back at my career, this feels like the moment things changed for the better. A few leaders in the department started to notice me. A few months later they asked me to be the scrum master in a new team. Where I could make an even bigger impact. And started my route to senior engineer, and now Engineering Manager.
So I’d like to thank my product owner at the time, for showing me I could do much more than I thought. And that with the right attitude titles don’t matter. The attitude I share with all my engineers
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