Issues in my first dev job

Hi guys, my name is Anna and I wanted to get some career advice for my situation.

In early 2019 I’ve decided to quit my non-programming job and teach myself coding. In December 2019 i got my first job as a junior web developer. At that point I’ve learned: HTML, CSS, Java Script and React.js.

Whats important to mention is that since the company is relatively small (12 people) I was only the second developer to join. The other colleague is obviously far more senior than me and has been coding for 7+ years (although this current job of 2 years is his first commercial experience too).

When I joined I was assigned with a task to build a company’s app in React Native. I totally loved it, although it was quite a task for a junior person like me! App was finished 6 months later (I’ve build the whole interface and in-app logic and my colleague added the current backend to it). Things were going great and I felt as if I finally got my dream job!

Then shortly after my company hired a new person for UX design. Ever since, my role changed to fit HER needs. My new colleague (also self-taught and this is her first job too) is creating prototypes with the specs up to each pixel and the exact colour tint. I used to enjoy front-end side of things as I am quite a creative person. However, she sends me images with red lines all over (specifying literally each element’s margin-left, padding-right and what not) and wouldn’t accept any other design suggestions. I spend my days transferring it to code. She also constantly changes her designs once i’ve already coded everything. I tried to explain that it’s not very helpful but she doesn’t seem to understand and starts arguing that ‘it’s only a small change!’

Another issue is that my senior colleague has a freelancer mentality where he is a one man team (he actually does freelancing at the same time too) and we literally have no project management in place. All projects are getting handed to me (by that i mean the ux person sends me images via slack), then I build everything and then I have to prepare a doc with screenshots and examples for our senior dev if there are any backend tasks or advanced functionality on front-end. Also if other people found some bugs once I submitted the project, they report them to me and expect me to prepare a clear guide for him so that he can fix it. I feel that it’s quite unfair as its seems like these are my personal projects and he doesn’t work at the same company? Not to mention some mean comments he makes if he is in a bad mood (eg he once told me that i should’t be coding at all because i didn’t understand one bit of code and asked him to explain it). While I was building the app he constantly was being negative, saying how it’s rubbish and not going to work (in front of the bosses) without providing any concrete examples or guidance when I was asking what does he mean by that. Sometimes he wouldn’t reply to me at all (on slack). Important to note that I barely ask him any questions so I am not pestering him at all!! As a self taught person, I use all possible resources until i even dare to ask him something!

Right now I spend my whole free time learning Node.js so I can continue picking up new skills (at least outside of work!). I would like to learn backend and transfer to a more full stack role eventually.
Worth to mention that my boss gave me a lot of praise during the last performance review and generally seems to be very happy with my current role. The bosses are typical business people though, so they know nothing about coding.

I feel like instead of growing in my career everyday, I went a whole level down since the UX person joined. I also feel like I am a freelancer myself and I don’t have anyone to ask for help…

So my questions are the following. What tasks, realistically, should I be getting as a junior web dev (considering the size of my company) and are they similar to what I am getting right now? Am I right to expect some help from the senior developer? Shouldn’t I be getting a bit more guidance? Is it right that projects assigned to me directly and I have to prepare tasks for him with a comprehensive explanation (e.g. screenshots and all)?

I would like to have a perspective of someone from the outside as I am planning to bring this issue with my boss soon.

Apologies for any errors (not a native speaker!)

1 Like

Then shortly after my company hired a new person for UX design. Ever since, my role changed to fit HER needs. My new colleague (also self-taught and this is her first job too) is creating prototypes with the specs up to each pixel and the exact colour tint. I used to enjoy front-end side of things as I am quite a creative person. However, she sends me images with red lines all over (specifying literally each element’s margin-left, padding-right and what not) and wouldn’t accept any other design suggestions. I spend my days transferring it to code. …

Well, that’s kind of her job. You may think she’s not good at her job, but it is still her job. You may think you have better ideas, but it’s still her call. If you think that she is nickel and dime-ing you with a bunch of small UI changes, it may be time for you and your respective bosses to have a discussion about cost and benefit.

But yeah, working with UI/UX people can be frustrating. If you have a good team, you should be able to say, “Look, I know this seems like a minor tweak, but this will actually be a major refactor to get this to work. Is this tiny change really worth a week of dev work?” If you have a good team, you can have a healthy discussion about that. But even then, sometimes the answer is going to be something you don’t want to hear. You have to accept that. But if it’s taking all your time, be sure to mention it (non-confrontationally) in your stand ups, that you can’t get to feature work because of U/I tweaks.

Yeah, the whole “pixel perfect” thing get’s on my nerves. But some people have that attitude. And some U/I people are in love with every pixel they design. That may soften over time, but it is still their job and your job is to make that work. I like the UI/UX people with whom I work but there are times when I think, “Really?”

And the senior dev should be helping you out and available to you - that’s part of his job.

What tasks, realistically, should I be getting as a junior web dev (considering the size of my company) and are they similar to what I am getting right now?

Yeah, it sounds about right. It’s a bit odd to give you a massive project to do on your own, but OK.

Am I right to expect some help from the senior developer? Shouldn’t I be getting a bit more guidance?

Yeah, probably.

Is it right that projects assigned to me directly and I have to prepare tasks for him with a comprehensive explanation (e.g. screenshots and all)?

That sounds a bit odd. I would expect him to have been involved in some of the planning. But on the other hand, if you built this app, you may be considered the expert on it. Still, written explanations with screen short for a senior dev to fix a bug sounds odd. I would sometimes get a call from a senior dev to discuss some of my code if it wasn’t clear, but I never had to write out an explanation for them. There were a few things I was expected to document, but mostly I tried to write code clearly enough that it explained what it did.

Small companies can be weird. You may not have a lot of institutional knowledge. There is much more of a “seat of you pants” attitude. As companies get larger and mature, they tend to need more devops and structured procedures, but when they’re small they can sometimes get away with “who cares, just get it done” attitudes.

So, it sounds like you are unhappy. I once went to a lecture of “How to Deal with Difficult People”. The main thing that stuck with me is this: You have three choices. You can try to change them (which almost never works), you can accept it, or you can move on. Now, you might have a chance of making some small changes, but you also aren’t going to get the company to redesign itself. Fortunately, once you have some experience, switching jobs is not too tough. Maybe you start looking elsewhere. But for now, do your best and try to be as cooperative as possible.

5 Likes

As Kevin said, the interaction you’re having with the UI person is pretty normal. Maybe a bit territorial, so you may have to meet her more on her terms than yours, but chances are good you can come to some middle ground, such as demonstrating how pixel-perfect designs fail on many mobile devices, so those red lines need to become guidelines of whatever tolerance.

As for your colleague denigrating you in front of your peers, that’s unprofessional, unacceptable, and you need to tell him that point blank (and unlike him, do so privately). Sexism is unfortunately rampant in the industry, and he’s likely taking the default attitude he does with all women. Once it’s made glaringly obvious, it puts the onus on him to correct the behavior. If it continues, you bring it up with the management, and if they’re not on your side, it’s time to jump ship.

As dev jobs go, it’s a seller’s market right now: if you’re being treated poorly, there are other fish in the sea.

4 Likes

And even if it wouldn’t be a seller market, mental health and some personal boundaries should be more valuable long-term than some money.

I would follow a simple 3 layer approach:

  1. short-term: talk to your colleague about your feelings and that you will act on it (not as in a threat, more in that you will change something if it doesn’t get better). Because if you quit, then he will suffer too (doing part of your work).
  2. mid-term: inform your manager, but try to solve it on your own first.
  3. long-term: apply for other jobs to have a fallback if nothing will change.
4 Likes

Thanks so much everyone for taking your time reading my message and providing your useful tips. I feel like I have a clearer picture in my head now!
:slightly_smiling_face:

I used to enjoy front-end side of things as I am quite a creative person. However, she sends me images with red lines all over (specifying literally each element’s margin-left, padding-right and what not) and wouldn’t accept any other design suggestions.

If you do decide to apply for other jobs, I suggest you look for ones that ask for some design skills, maybe even including the hybrid “web designer/developer” role. That might be a better fit for you personally.

For me, starting from a sketch or xd file is ideal. I have felt pressure in the past to do design work even though that’s not my strength or interest. I’d rather go down a rabbit hole on RegEx than choose colors or typography :slight_smile:

I know some of this has been answered already but it really resonated with me so thought I’d add a reply. It’s only having some time away from working for a company that I’ve been able to reflect and understand the issues I experienced .

I started out doing freelance and found it interesting and exciting. Sometimes I’d try and make something based on what a client wanted (I’m not a designer - they would give me examples of what they liked and I’d come up with something). Sometimes I’d get designs to turn into websites. That was back in the day when people where only starting to think about mobile, so you’d get one design at 960px and one at 320px with nothing in between.

When I started working at an agency it was different. Some of my frustrations came from decisions being made for me. I was used to having to solve all the problems, but now I was being told how we were going to do a project so that took some of the fun away.

The other thing was working with the designers. They were mostly ‘print’ designers and designing for the web was new to them. I worked with them to try to explain responsive design concepts but that could be challenging. I believe that front end design and development are so interlinked, communication between designer and developer is essential. The designer needs to know that something that may look simple to them is complicated to us. It’s acceptable to go back to them and say “this isn’t possible, can you do it differently?”. You’ll find somethings are possible, but so time consuming that it’s not worth it. So you might end up saying, I can do that, but it’ll take me 4 hours, if you were to do it it this way it would only take me 1 hour. Designers may not be up to speed on things like accessibility and best practices. I recently found myself saying “I can make it like that, but it won’t be usable by someone who’s using a screen reader.” Sometimes you have to put your foot down!

I thought web development was all about learning technical skills, but half of it is about learning people skills. There are loads of books out there about this topic so might be worth having a read. I just started reading “The Pragmatic Programmer” and the first few chapters seem to be about dealing with people rather than dealing with code.

With regards to the other developers you’re working with, yes they should be helping you and no they shouldn’t be making nasty comments. I find that unacceptable. I have friends who are developers at various levels and we always ask each other advice and are happy to give help and encouragement. Having a friendly developer who can be a bit of a mentor is really helpful and has been invaluable to me.

I wish you the best of luck. Don’t get discouraged and keep doing the stuff you love about web development in your spare time so you can keep enjoying it.

2 Likes