I’m just back from RubyConf Philippines 2017 where I spoke with Bobbilee Hartman on the subject of fostering a welcoming, supportive, and productive environment for junior developers. From the the feedback we heard throughout the rest of the conference our presentation sparked plenty of conversations regarding the need to attract, grow, and retain junior developers which is great as that’s exactly what we were hoping to achieve.
We first had the idea to speak on this subject late last year when we started to think about the talks we’d seen at other conferences relating to junior developers, all of which fell broadly into one of a few categories:
- How to land your first junior role after graduating from a bootcamp
- How to create a junior development/apprenticeship program
- How to encourage senior developers to hire more junior developers
- Why it’s important to have junior developers in the workplace
We noticed a pretty big omission in this list: once you actually hire a junior developer, how do you create an environment where they can thrive and level up quickly, and become a productive, independent member of a development team? As it happens, this is a topic that’s close to our hearts!
Bobbilee graduated from a web development bootcamp and has worked professionally as a developer for around four years, and I’m self-taught and landed my first dev role around 18 months ago, but while we’ve our own diverse experiences to draw on we thought why not cast the net a little wider. Accordingly, we conducted interviews with a number of current junior developers, seniors with experience working with and mentoring juniors, and business owners and directors who have the ultimate say in deciding whether or not to hire juniors in the first place. We wanted to find out about their experiences either as a junior or working with one, what did and didn’t work, and what they’d do differently in the future.
The result was some actionable advice that we think will help companies retain and grow junior developers, and make hiring them in the first place a much less scary proposition.
Our decision to present together was perhaps an unusual one for a technical conference but there was a good reason for it; we wanted to show that becoming a successful developer shouldn’t be and in fact isn’t a solo endeavour; in order to continually grow and develop your technical and non-technical skills it’s critically important to be surrounded by a team that works together and is consistently supportive. It simply made sense to us to drive this fact home by speaking on the subject together.
You can check out our slides below. This was my first time speaking at a conference and I enjoyed it so much that I’d like to do it many more times in future, so any feedback on the slides will be graciously received; hit me up on Twitter or flick me an email.