Junior Developers, Navigating Uncertainty: What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Entering software development as a junior can be daunting and confusing.

As a junior developer, stepping into the world of software development can sometimes feel like diving into the deep end of a pool with no lifeguard in sight. You're handed a ticket from the team's agile board, and suddenly, you're faced with a problem you're not sure how to solve. It's okay to feel overwhelmed or uncertain in these moments. What's important is how you navigate through this uncertainty and find your way to a solution. In this article, we'll explore some strategies for junior developers to tackle these situations with confidence and skill.

Understanding the Task

Begin by carefully examining the ticket you've been assigned. Pay close attention to the acceptance criteria and any related documentation. Understanding the requirements is the first step towards finding a solution.

Analysing the Problem

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Consider any connected tickets or associated epics that might provide context to your task. This broader understanding can help you formulate a plan of action.

Formulating a Theory

With a clear understanding of the task and its context, start formulating a theory on how to approach the problem. This could involve brainstorming potential solutions, sketching out ideas, or even writing pseudo code.

Validation and Feedback

Once you have a preliminary plan in place, don't hesitate to reach out to a more senior or lead developer on your team. Ask for a few minutes of their time to validate your plan and assumptions. This demonstrates your willingness to seek guidance and collaborate with others.

Skills and Behaviours

  • By following these steps, you're showcasing several important skills and behaviours:

    • Critical thinking: You're actively analysing the problem and formulating potential solutions.

    • Initiative: Instead of waiting for instructions, you're taking proactive steps to tackle the task.

    • Collaboration: Seeking feedback from senior team members demonstrates your openness to learning and working with others.

    • Adaptability: You're willing to work with uncertainty and adjust your approach as needed.

Embrace Imperfection

Remember, there are no perfect answers in development. It's about finding the best possible solution within the constraints you're given. Embrace the process of iteration and refinement, knowing that each step brings you closer to a successful outcome.

Wrapping up

Navigating uncertainty is a natural part of the journey from junior developer to seasoned professional. By approaching challenges with a proactive mindset, critical thinking, and a willingness to seek guidance (after some struggle), you'll not only solve problems more effectively but also continue to grow and develop as a developer. So the next time you find yourself unsure of what to do, remember these steps and trust in your ability to find a way forward.