The year after graduation
Has it already been a year since I graduated? What?
Well, actually, no...it will be a year in a couple of weeks but I wanted to write about it now lol
April of 2021 was when I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Software Engineering. It was an incredible journey full of events, but I am not going to talk about that in this article. I've already written about it here: My Thoughts on Graduating.
I started programming in 2018 and I've been in the industry for 2.5 years, I was one of the lucky ones that got a couple of internships during college and a full-time job before graduating. However, working these past 12 months has felt...different.
What has changed?
Obviously, my schedule.
If you are graduating soon, just know that the first couple of weeks/months you might feel a little disconcerted after the clock reaches 5 pm. Suddenly there is...nothing to do?
I mean, of course, I am still a Father and a Husband full time, but there was something weird about having the evening completely free. No homework, no projects, no team assignments. So I could just dedicate my time to whatever I actually wanted to do, without having to worry about deadlines.
For the first couple of months, I started playing the guitar, singing, and recording covers again. That morphed into getting up to date with TV Shows and Anime and then at about the 6th-month mark, I noticed something.
I started feeling like half a year had passed and I hadn't gotten any better since graduating. I felt like I hadn't gotten any faster at completing tasks at work or learned anything new that could benefit the team. This was, of course, not entirely true, and I hope you, the reader, avoid falling into self-defeating thought patterns the way I did.
However, there were some legit reasons why I was feeling like I wasn't improving.
I felt kind of crushed by the deadlines during my time in college, so once I graduated it was like releasing the valve of all my desire to do whatever the hell I wanted with my time. So what did I actually do with my time? Nothing productive! As I illustrated above. And that's ok... the end goal of life isn't to have an ultra-tight schedule with no room for leisure and spontaneity. But there's gotta be some balance, and I had none!
Also, imposter syndrome was hitting really hard. I found myself constantly thinking stuff like:
"I've been working for only a year...what do I know?"
"My team must think I am not up to par for this project"
"There is so much I don't know!"
But here is where I noticed I needed a change of mindset. Hence the title of this article.
If you are a beginner like I was, you have two options:
You can think: "Ugh, I only have one year of experience, I don't know enough"
"This is year one of many years to come where I will gather experience and grow. There is much I don't know, YET.
One year or year one!
When I started thinking like this, I also started figuring out some solutions.
I was diagnosed with ADHD during my last year of college. So with the help of therapy and my own initiative, I had developed some habits that helped me keep track of my responsibilities during those college years. As soon as I graduated I unintentionally quit those good habits and tools, but now I needed them again!
Scheduling - Google Calendar
Every Saturday, I sit and think of all the things I need to do and events I need to attend the following week.
Work meetings, pair-programming sessions, team Lunch, washing the dishes, going for a walk with my family. You name it...everything was in there.
Everything was color-coded so that I could tell what my day looked like at a glance.
If you do this, don't obsess, and make sure you leave enough room for spontaneity. Believe me, after a while, it feels weird to have "Watch Anime" scheduled in your daily tasks...
This is what one of my weeks looks like:
You can tell even Futbol games and UFC events were scheduled.
Organizing - Trello
Knowing when to do things helps a lot, but it isn't enough. You need to know WHAT to do...
If you are a Software Engineer like I am, you already know you'll never stop learning. And if you have ADHD as I do, you also know you learn better by repetition and routine.
(I know, we HATE routine, but we need it...the ADHD conundrum)
Trello helps me organize my personal study in a Kanban fashion.
But how do I know what to study? Well, I try to strike a balance among 3 things:
Concepts that will help at work.
Technologies that will make me stand out in the market.
Things I think would be fun to learn.
You can see below that I even have those color-coded:
Focus on what matters the most for your career
In times when everyone wants to jump straight into the newest framework or technologies, what has helped me stand out at work has been my fundamentals. Frameworks and libraries are great and they do increase your chances of getting hired. But doing your best to understand the ins and outs of your language of preference and the most useful design patterns, is what will help you succeed, no matter which framework or tool you end up picking.
👉🏼 It's been a year since I graduated. Time flies and if I look back I AM a different developer than I was a year ago.
👉🏼 Imposter syndrome is real and it doesn't go away after only a few years in the industry. You just gotta accept that feeling a little inadequate is what makes you want to work harder and get out of your comfort zone.
👉🏼 Break out of your self-defeating thought patterns by showing yourself that you can accomplish things. The way I did it was by organizing, classifying, and focusing my efforts.
Finally, a poem that I shared in another article but that fits really well here too:
"Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honor, power, place and praise
Will always come to the one who stays.
Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it, too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories after a while."
Check some of my other articles: