My First year at Test Double
I just celebrated my 1 year anniversary at Test Double and I'd like to share a bit about my journey thus far.
A little about me: I'm 24 years old and currently living in Louisville, Kentucky. I've been programming about 5 years. I worked as a freelance consultant and worked for a few companies in college but still had the "new college grad" label. I knew some stuff, but I knew that there was still so much to learn.
Here are a few of the things I've learned and observed.
There are more important things than writing code
When I'm consulting for a client, I'm expected to ramp up on projects and start delivering features immediately. It's important to get a good understanding of the existing code, but I've found it even more valuable to understand the business I'm working to improve.
Discovering the context around the business is a tricky problem because it usually can't be found in the README or issue tracker. Gaining that context requires talking to existing members of the team and finding out what things are going well for them, what things aren't, and what things I can be doing to deliver maximum value for their business.
A great boss changes the way I work
TLDR: Todd and Justin are great and you should come work for them.
I can hear you groaning from across the Internet: "oh no, Josh is just sucking up to his bosses, skipping this section". Don't!
What sets Todd and Justin apart is that I could fill this section with a rant about how awful they are and they would still publish this and ask me how they could be doing better. They are the very first to admit they don't have all the answers and the very last to blame anyone but themselves when things don't go well.
These qualities have influenced the rest of the team and are manifested in 2 ways.
Every month I have a 1 on 1 with either Todd, Justin, or both. When looking back through my notes from those meetings, I found a pattern. They ask me what I want to improve and then they ask me what they can do to help me meet my goals. The only thing I've been asked to do is take a close look at myself and find the areas I'm lacking. Recently, I've been focused on how I can improve communication on my client team and how we can leverage each person's skills to level each other up. On the more techinical side, I've been focused on learning clojure and iOS. My motivation to improve has skyrocketed when I see the problems for myself and I'm not told I need to do x, y, and z.
The amount of trust Todd and Justin have in their team is staggering. When I'm relieved of the stress of trying to make my bosses happy, I'm free to do my very best work and make decisions knowing that they will back me up even when I screw up. As a new grad, I expected to have to start at Test Double with the training wheels on but nothing could be further from reality. I've been treated with respect and trust at every step of the way which has made me that much more likely to be successful and deliver value at my clients.
Ask Lots and Lots of Questions
This one should be a no-brainer for me, but it has taken some time getting used to. My instinctual reaction to being the least knowledgeable person in the room is to "act the part" and hide my own ignorance. This is counterproductive for 2 reasons: I don't grow and no one really believes me anyways. At Test Double, showing your ignorance does not result in judgment. It results in people stepping up to teach. I can't stress how valuable this has been for me.
Working From Home Can Be Hard
This one is the hardest to explain to my friends. The good things certainly outweigh the bad here, but it's important for me to point out the pain points.
- It becomes REALLY easy to stay in my apartment for days on end. This may not bother everyone, but I was used to walking around campus and seeing friends everyday with almost no planning. Without that constant social time, I quickly felt disconnected which affected my happiness. I've had to combat those feeling by taking deliberate effort to schedule lunches, activities, and walks outside the house to keep my mind fresh.
- Work/life balance becomes weird when you watch movies in the same place you do your work. At times, it can feel as though you're always "at work", even on the weekends. I've adopted a similar strategy to separate work from life by setting hard limits on the hours I'm "at work". When I'm not in those hours, I don't respond to slack, email, or Github notifications. I was initially worried that I'd miss important notifications or that a server would catch fire and I wouldn't know about it but I've found that the world goes on just fine when I'm not around. As a worst case scenario, my teammates and clients have my cell number if an actual emergency comes up. This has worked really well for me, and I'd encourage this habit even if you work in an office. Having work time and home time prevents all the anxiety that stems from constant connectedness.
I've grown more in 1 year at Test Double than I had in several previous years in school and consulting on my own. I still have a lot of areas for improvement, but I anticipate the same growth curve continuing in the coming years. If Test Double sounds like a place you would like to work, drop us a line at email@example.com. Test Double is always interviewing and we would love to chat.