My 5 Biggest Fears as a New Developer

My 5 Biggest Fears as a New Developer

Being new is scary! This is how I work through my anxiety and get the work done anyway. My 5 Biggest Fears as a New Developer. Being new is scary! This is how I work through my anxiety and get the work done anyway.

Any change is difficult. Big, life-altering changes are by their nature going to bring a lot of discomfort and angst. No big change like this comes without needing to learn new things — probably after the change has started and probably more quickly than you’re ready for.

When I decided to change my career and become a developer, I expected it to be hard. I’d already been trying to learn to code on my own and through a wonderful after-work program through my employer. It felt like the type of opportunity I couldn’t pass up once I knew it was there.

I was right. It’s really hard. It’s difficult in ways I didn’t even expect.

I started as a professional developer in December 2019. I’m currently a couple of months shy of a year in and I feel like I’m making good progress.

That’s sort of a lie. Some days I feel like I’m making good progress and some days I feel like I know absolutely nothing and will never be a “real” developer.

If I let myself, I could sink into a deep pit of self-pitying despair on a regular basis. But where would that get me? Nowhere! Instead of letting my anxiety and fear get the best of me, I want to share with you all what those fears are. After talking it out with some other newbies, it seems like they are more common than I thought. Let’s talk through some ways we can combat these feelings of dread and keep getting the work done anyway.

1. The Performance Anxiety of Pair Programming

This is the one that I struggle with the most — and what surprised me the most when I first started. It’s honestly the most difficult skill I’ve had to develop.

In past jobs, I’ve definitely been given work to do that I didn’t know how to do right off the bat, but I’d always had the opportunity to go off by myself and pore over it until things started to make sense. Pair programming has forced me into the position of learning in public, something I have claimed to be interested in but didn’t really understand.

I fight off social anxiety in a variety of situations, but I’ve never encountered a setting as unavoidably mind-numbing as pair programming.

In case you haven’t heard of it:

_“Pair programming is an agile software development technique in which two programmers work together at one workstation. One, the driver, writes code while the other, the observer or navigator, reviews each line of code as it is typed in.” — [Wikipedia_](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pair_programming)

When my pair programming panic really sets in, I sometimes lose the ability to focus or even read words! It’s like not knowing what to do when someone is waiting on me causes my mind to turn itself off.

This happened especially during my first few months. I’ve employed a few tactics recently to combat this fear and stay present while pairing:

  • Remember that pairing anxiety is normal: I’ve heard from other developers that pairing anxiety is something that they experience — even years into a new programming job, even when they were already experienced developers_. _I use this thought to break up my anxious spiraling. Then I take a deep breath and refocus on the task at hand.
  • Interrupt the negative self-talk: You just can’t know all this stuff yet! When your brain makes you feel bad for not knowing what to do next, interrupt that voice and remind yourself you’re learning. Accept that you don’t know and that all you need to do is ask your pair partner for help, and they’ll get you where you need to go.
  • Extend trust to your pair partners: Your team is your biggest resource for mentorship and learning how to code in your projects. Extend trust and assume they are there to support you.

As a new developer, you’re going to learn the most by being the driver, so you’re doing the typing and getting in the experience of putting code into action. Also as a new developer, you probably won’t know what to type. For me, that puts me into the position of having to be very vulnerable, needing to ask hundreds of questions. That’s OK! Extend some grace to yourself and your pair partner, and the steady practice will lead to more comfortable pair programming sessions.

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