After graduation, I was hired as a junior engineer at Pitch First. I can’t wait to start my career in technology. But as my first day on the job approached, I found myself anxious to tackle the challenge ahead of me. Fortunately, with the help of my team, I overcame my minor hiccups and gained confidence in my new role. Here’s my advice for people starting their careers in technology.
Transitioning from college to the work environment was a big adjustment. With my computer science degree in hand, I knew I wanted to be a software engineer, but self-doubt hit me when I was working on a pitch:
Was I really ready?
What is expected of me as a youth team member?
What if I break things?
What if I fail?
How do you use git anyway?
I had a serious condition called imposter syndrome. I was looking forward to getting started, but the thought of joining a team of highly experienced software engineers—working on a product used by tens of thousands of teams—was overwhelming.
When I started, I decided to be honest about how I felt. It was hard to accept how little I actually knew about software development. But my new colleagues were incredibly welcoming, and all helped ease the transition.
I realized that learning is not my job to know everything. In that spirit, here are three things I’ve learned so far about what it takes to hit your stride in your tech startup.
Ask lots of questions – and ask them publicly
Shortly after joining Pitch in August 2020, I learned how software is built by collaborating engineers. College prepared me to write code, but not to ship software in a production team. I didn’t know how to create a pull request or what it meant to review someone else’s code.
At first I was worried that others would know how little I knew. I was afraid to ask questions because I didn’t want to seem incompetent or naive. But after some reflection, I realized that pretending to know things doesn’t get me very far.
I stopped trying to figure it all out on my own, and started saying things when I didn’t know them.
I stopped hitting people up personally, and started asking questions in public Slack channels.
In short, I stopped hiding my experience, and started embracing it.
My new approach helped me find the answers I was looking for. But just as importantly, it brought me a broader perspective—not just from my manager, but from the entire engineering team. I’ve found that asking questions has opened doors to new topics that I may not have discovered yet.
After a few months, I felt my progress start to accelerate, and I started getting shoutouts from colleagues:
Asking in public didn’t just teach me the basics of software building in pitch groups. It was also key to learning Clojure – the language most of our codebase is written in. The change in approach has helped my growth in every way. So I encourage any other growth-minded junior engineer to stop hiding and start asking.
Learn to manage
When you’re just starting out in technology, it’s natural to think that your manager will tell you what to do and how to improve. I guessed it myself, but I’ve since changed my mind.
A good manager gives guidance and advice. But I learned that if you really want to flourish, you have to take ownership of your personal growth by having a two-way conversation.
Even in a relatively small team of engineers, a manager has many different responsibilities (and the other people they manage), so it’s up to you to help them grow. The Tactical Guide to Reading First Round Review shed some light on this for me.
During the first few weekly one-on-one meetings with my manager, Oscar, I expected him to lead the conversation and tell me what to focus on. But after reading about management, I changed my approach.
I created a shared document, and before each one-on-one, I wrote down the topics I wanted to discuss. Within a week, I explained how I wanted to spend my time, what was holding me back, questions I had, and where I wanted to grow.
On my pitch team we like to edit this template for 1:1s.
These arrangements have enhanced the quality of my relationship with Oscar – making it much easier for him to give me feedback and help where I need help. Our conversations became ten times more effective, and how we worked together improved a lot.
Be knowledgeable even if it doesn’t flash on the topic
At Pitch, we help new entrants get the hang of our codebase and workflows by letting them work on small tweaks, improvements, and bug fixes before they get big features.
My own initial tasks were focused on minor improvements to the user onboarding flow. Our product hasn’t been the flashiest part, but I’m excited to work on something that touches every new user. After spending a few weeks making these minor tweaks and tweaks, I was assigned my first major feature: passwordless authentication.
Passwordless authentication lets you sign up for Pitch with a simple one-time code — no need for long, complex passwords. It’s cool, isn’t it?
Solving this feature has only been a challenge for me for a few months, but I’ve been closely watching our validation flow and how users get started with Pitch. By the time the feature finally shipped, I had a deep knowledge of our onboarding flow. This turned out to be very useful as I went on to build many other onboarding features.
It felt good to be an expert on a subject – and to be trusted by my teammates with the knowledge I had developed.
An endless learning journey
These days, I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m tackling more advanced technical features. I’m contributing my knowledge to a new team that will help Pitch grow by making it easier for users to get started, invite teammates, and share their work.
Reflecting back on my early days on the pitch, I now realize that I put a lot of pressure on myself. Pitch didn’t hire me based on how much I knew – I was hired based on my ability to learn and grow. To this day, I consider this my most important skill set.
In that sense, starting my first career as a software engineer was no transition at all. It was a continuation of my learning journey that started in kindergarten. It’s been a rewarding adventure so far. And as long as I’m open to learning and growing, I’m sure there’s much more to come.
If you’d like to join me and my team on our journey, we’re hiring – so get in touch!