Life Sucks! Notes To My Younger Self.

Life Sucks! Notes To My Younger Self.

As a developer, especially as a junior developer things can take a turn for the worse and you probably won’t have seen the blinding obvious coming right at you… Life can seem to suck at times, but like everything, it depends what you take from it.

This is part 2 from the React JS/Finland talk that I had the opportunity to give on the 14th Sep 2022 ( This sections goes to show that even though I had what seemed like the ideal first job, it really wasn’t.

My first role was to help with the creation of this game! 😎

First Job

So after a year of job hunting, I got my first role in a AAA games company. Exciting – yes, very much so. A large company with 3 separate games being made (in conjunction with other studios). Each team had around 30+ people in it. The place had it’s own arcade booths, we got fresh fruit every day, people would play online games during lunch. Variety of the latest consoles laying around the office. What wasn’t their to like!


So in the door and on the whole, people were busy, very busy. They had headphones on and coding away – in the zone so to speak. I recall being shown a list of literally 1000’s of bugs that needed fixing before the game was suitable for release. Of course in those days, you couldn’t update over the internet. What shipped on the disk was what shipped into peoples homes and of course if the game didn’t make the Christmas deadlines for being created that was not a good thing!

So with everyone being so busy, support was next to nothing. I only recall a single meeting with management to see how things were going, and that was early enough for me not to really give a good opinion in it. Recall many times scratching my head, wondering what was happening with the code, but everyone had headphones on and ‘in the zone’. As a junior, certainly didn’t feel like I could/should be interrupting the other dev’s to ask ‘silly’ questions. None of the senior dev’s would ask how I was going, or if I required assistance.

Could it get worse?

Yes it could! Due to the main team being in the states (we were based in Scotland) and infrastructure issues (20 years ago, transferring 2-3GB of data nightly was problematic at best) the whole team had to fly out to the states in order to complete the game on time. But I was about to get married, so I couldn’t go…

So now I was working US hours, essentially on my own in a mainly empty office. But I was getting free food/dinner as I was working late, and I was still doing some dev work, just nothing really meaningful. Trying being a jnr in a code base many 1000’s times bigger than anything your experienced from university, it’s not documented in any way, PR’s and unit tests were not a thing, even source control was very sketchy.


But did I see any of the above as an issue – NOPE! Why not, well I just didn’t have the experience. I thought once the team get back from the States, I’d get properly into the code, be able to ask questions, do some learning etc.

I knew things weren’t great, but at the back of my head, I was sure it would pan out and be fine!

Did that happen, nope… Redundant soon after Christmas 😢

Hard lessons

Looking back it was clear from the start that the company wasn’t interested in me. I was a number to allow them to get what they wanted. A decent company that hires a junior dev will never just leave them to flounder on their own. They will mentor and guide them. The simple fact that there was zero support was a simple and clear warning. So if this is your experience right now or at some point in the future – what to do?

You need to invest in yourself. They will not care, so you have to make the time to pull apart the code base. Dig into it framework, put tests around items and generally if anything looks different/new learn why. This is hard, but take it in small chunks. Create a small app and slowly copy parts of the larger code base into it to get them working in a context you know and control.


Always support a junior developer. If you happen to be a workplace that loves music to code (most of us do). Then make sure that you take off those headphones to ask how it’s going. Don’t just accept a – ‘yeah all good’ response. It’s easy to do so, as you’re busy and if they say they’re fine, then great, you can carry on with your important jobs… Make sure that they are good. Junior dev’s are the people that come with energy, enthusiasm, new ideas etc, you need to channel that into something meaningful.

As an aside, over the years I feel that the gain you think you get from being in the zone with headphones on and banging out code – is actually a downside. Yes being focused is great, but often being out of reach regularly from your fellow developers is not good. One place I worked got the balance right, but that will be explained in part 4 of my talk review.

Junior devs

You can’t learn effectively in isolation. You need a team around you, you need a variety of experience. If that isn’t there then it’s time to look for an exit strategy. Be preparing your CV, go looking to see who’s looking to hire etc. Get preparing small demos, learn the usual interview questions as so on.

At the same time you should and need to be more vocal in asking questions. Never stop asking questions, don’t keep asking the same questions, but do keep asking questions. It’s not only good for you to learn, but at the same time those you’re asking the question off will also learn. If something isn’t clear – is it a good bit of code? If it isn’t, then perhaps it needs refactored. Sometimes it’s good to discuss an area of code that hasn’t been touched in years as you’ll have forgotten it’s purpose. Either way it’s not a one way street when you ask questions. So as a senior developer, I welcome questions.

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