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Ryan Wilson’s Rookie's Survival Guide

  • What do you wish you’d known before you started work? Or started that new role in a new team? PwC’s Ryan Wilson shared his list of tips with the Northern Ireland Developer Conference attendees in a session titled The Rookie's Survival Guide.

    He studied Game Development at Ulster University where he spent his gap year working in a game company set up with three other students – where they made lots of mistakes and learned some harsh lessons – and is now a junior engineer at PwC.

    He expected that the hard work was over when he left university with a first. His experience has shown him that he needed to start over again in work. In fact, the first lesson that Ryan shared was that you can be a rookie at any stage of your career, in a new role, picking up a new task or technology. He recommends Liz Wiseman’s book Rookie Smarts

    Ryan says that he has learned that “it’s better to be a B+ in all the columns that an A in some and an E in others.”

    Secondly, feel free to ask the silly questions you need answers for. “Don’t worry about being annoying, ask the same questions until you finally understand the answer.”

    Managers should let rookies know that they’re in a safe environment where that can ask questions. Ryan recalled some good advice from a more a senior developer in PwC: “be stuck for ten minutes and then come and ask for help.”

    Thirdly, find your Jedi Master(s), mentors who can show you the way, where to look, which meetups and technologies to explore. He helpfully differentiated between coaches (task orientated advice, speaking on a nearly daily basis), role models (people you’d aspire to be like, though you should bring your personality and experience to roles rather than become a clone of someone else) and mentors (who are more focussed on career paths).

    What should you look for in a mentor? Someone you can be embarrassed around. Someone who has the patience for your silly questions. Someone you get along with. And perhaps, someone you’d who is not overly busy.

    Ryan’s fourth lesson is to be aware of burnout. When you find yourself prefer to do anything other than typing the next line of code or running the next test, take a break. Get up and spend five minutes drinking a cup of tea or coffee or taking a walk outside to get fresh air. Value productivity over presence.

    Don’t compare yourself with the more experienced people in your team; you can’t do everything they can. Compare yourself with yesterday’s ‘you’ and find the incremental gains in your technology. A 1% gain every day soon adds up.

    Fifthly, attend meetups and access the knowledge that is there.

    Ryan’s last piece of advice is to go to bed!

    “It’s really good for your health. There’s a detrimental stereotype about developers and programmers working in a room, lit only by a screen with coffee stains and pizza boxes. It’s not a good stereotype. You need energy and bounce.”

    He recommends Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep is a good primer to better understand the value of sleep.

    “You’re told to ‘sleep on a problem’ not ‘stay up with a problem’ so use the power of sleep to process a problem.”

    Lessons from a junior developer that resonated with the variety of experienced heads in the Riddel Hall lecture theatre.

    His final tip: keep a box of Berocca on your desk: “the flu is worse than burnout!”

    Subscribe to the NI Dev Conf YouTube channel to keep up to date with recordings of the talks being uploaded from the June conference.

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