A day in the life of a junior software developer

In the winter of 2020, I graduated from university with a degree in computer science. As any 2020 grad will tell you, it was a weird and daunting year to enter the workforce.

In the winter of 2020, I graduated from university with a degree in computer science. As any 2020 grad will tell you, it was a weird and daunting year to enter the workforce. Facing the job hunt in the early days of the pandemic meant that I had to reset my expectations about my first “real” job. My interview, introduction, and onboarding at Jonar were all done virtually. I didn’t meet my co-workers or see the office in person for a long time after getting hired. This may sound crazy, but for me, starting my new job during the pandemic (after Jonar had already pivoted to online work) wasn’t strange or disruptive. I didn’t have to adapt to the change because my “regular” workday was defined in a pandemic world.  Curious about the workday of a pandemic grad? Look no further. 

9:00 AM - Start work

One of the best parts of working from home is that I get to avoid a long commute to the office. I love being able to just roll out of bed and start work. I begin each day by checking what I need to work on. Like many software companies, Jonar uses the SCRUM methodology, which means we work in two week sprints. Basically, I have two weeks to get my assigned work, known as cases, done. By checking my case statuses each morning, I can organize and prioritize my work and keep from falling behind or procrastinating. 

9:45 AM - Stand up 

Our stand-up is a short daily meeting during which all of developers answer three important questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What am I doing today?
  3. Do I have any obstacles?

Apparently, back when the office was open full time, the stand-up involved actually standing up. I can’t say that's something I’m sad to have missed out on. The stand-up can be intimidating, especially if you struggled during the previous day. It can be awkward to admit you are stuck on a problem, especially in front of senior developers. I hate feeling like I’m slowing other people down. That's one of the major differences between school and work - if I got a bad grade it only affected me, but if I mess up here it could mean product delays or more work for someone else. But, thankfully, our senior developers are always willing to help problem solve or figure out next steps. In my opinion, virtual stand-ups have proven to be just as effective and efficient as they were in person for troubleshooting and peer support. 

10:15 AM - Review code

Peer code review is an important process for developers. When writing code yourself, you tend to focus just on your tasks and the code you are writing. This targeted mindset means that you run the risk of missing stuff. Getting other developers to review your work not only makes sure your work is correct, but can also teach you new skills and perspectives. Unfortunately, this process can, at times, be cumbersome to do over Zoom meetings and Slack messages. It sometimes takes way more time for us to explain concepts and point out flaws than it would if we were sitting side by side.

12:00 PM - Join Zoom call and get to work on cases

I love the flexibility of working from home, but it can feel isolating at times. To combat isolation and boredom, the other junior developers and I have an ongoing Zoom call. Every day, while working on our cases we keep the meeting open. It’s not exactly like working face to face, but it gives us the chance to talk and collaborate just like we would in the office. Sometimes, we help each other with cases or do quick reviews, but for the most part, it's just about staying connected.

2:00 PM - Lunch, cat cuddles

When I’m working from home, I normally have lunch whenever there is a lull in work. I use it as a way to break up my day. Having lunch while working alone from home isn’t nearly as exciting as it is when I get to go into the office. But on the bright side, it means I get to use lunch to relax, rejuvenate, spend time with my cat and prepare for the afternoon. On really challenging coding days, I’ve sometimes even substituted lunch for a nap or a walk. A definite work from home bonus, as napping in the office might be frowned upon.  

3:30 PM - Development demo

At the end of each two-week sprint, we have our development demo. This is when all the developers get together and look at what we have accomplished over the last sprint. In any given sprint, we could work on things like new software features, bug fixes, or building integrations between Paragon and other software that our customers use. Doing demos allows us to see how the code we write actually works in the software and how our customers benefit from these changes. When I first graduated and started this job, I thought the most interesting aspect of my job would be the actual coding. But I soon realized that it was also pretty cool to collaborate with other departments to have a more complete perspective on the software and how our work impacts others.  For example, the demo helps us understand things like ideas that Product Management has about UX improvements, or problems Quality Assurance feels they keep running into. That's why demos are so important - they have helped me to see the big picture and understand who and what I’m coding for. 

5:00 PM - End my day

I can honestly say one of the best parts of working is the freedom you have at night and on weekends. When I was in school, I always felt like I had an upcoming assignment or homework to deal with. It was hard to turn off and relax, even during weekends and holidays. But now, when 5 pm rolls around, I literally turn off my computer and do whatever I want. 

I never expected to be working remotely for this long. No one did. The general consensus seems to be that people my age are unlucky because we don’t really know what in-person work is like. And, it’s true there have been many things I missed out on. But, there are also a lot of benefits of this remote working life. For those of us who are starting our career in these strange times, we get to be a part of an exciting new future that will challenge workplace norms to find new and exciting ways to prioritize work/life balance, support positive mental health and redefine professional success.

Hanisah Hilmi