by Trey Huffine

So you’re a new Software Engineer. Let’s face some facts and debunk some myths.


When we’re learning to become software engineers, we’re told many stories of what it is like to actually work in the field. Some of them are true, some of them are not. Here is a breakdown of the common things you’ve been told, and whether they’re Fact or Myth.

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Fact: Personal projects matter

Projects are the best way to learn, and they empower you to show potential employers that you have the ability to contribute. Using your own time to build software shows others that you’re passionate about this field and have the enthusiasm to figure things out. Display your projects and portfolio to make it easy for people to get to know you.

Fact: Attitude, passion, and enthusiasm go a long way

Enthusiasm shows that you’ll be enjoyable to work with on the tough projects, and it’s a good indicator that you’ll be reliable. Demonstrating your passion lets others know you’ll be learning and growing while being a positive force on the team.

I’ve seen instances where a person’s attitude tipped the scales between being hired or not. An inexperienced yet passionate person is given a chance because the company sees something in them, whereas a talented but uninspired person is ultimately told it’s not a fit.

Fact: Getting the job is the starting line, not the finish line

Software is a world that’s always evolving and growing, and most of the things you will learn will be learned on the job. Be enthusiastic to learn and be humble about what you already know. You always need to be moving forward.

Fact: Imposter syndrome is real

And you can overcome it. We’re in a field that is constantly evolving and growing. No matter how experienced you are, you’ll never feel like you know everything. If you are overwhelmed, take a second and try to think about where you were one month, three months, six months, or one year ago.

Once you recognize how far you’ve come, you’ll realize that you can learn anything you need to learn to get the job done. The ability to move forward is always within reach. Which leads me to my next point…

Fact: You don’t need to know everything

The most important part of being a software engineer isn’t knowing everything. It’s knowing how to learn everything.

Fact: You will break production

Everyone will bring down the production application or push bad code. In fact, you’ll do it many times regardless of how experienced you are.

When this happens, own it and be ready to fix the issue immediately. If the bug is beyond your experience, be available and help out in any way you can. Treat it as a learning experience. It’s not the mistake that matters, it’s how you respond.


Myth: Companies have all the power when you’re searching for a job

You are entering a job market, and your skills are valuable. You may have to compromise a little bit on your first job, but don’t sell yourself short. If you’re working hard and continuing to grow, you’ll find a great role.

You should consider what the company can offer you just as much as the company considers what you can do for them.

Myth: The language and frameworks you know don’t matter

This is a partial myth. The more experience you have, the higher probability you have of being hired into a role requiring brand new skills. As a junior developer, many companies consider your core technical skill set. They need to know that you will be able to contribute without having to learn everything from scratch. If you want to make a change, use your time outside of work to learn something new.

Myth: All that matters is being smart

Soft skills still matter — quite a bit actually. In a technical field, some are led to believe that it’s all about brains. Teams place great importance on being able to work with others and being able to connect. Also, you owe it to yourself to find a company where you enjoy the people you work with.

Myth: You’re guaranteed a $100k+ salary in your first job

Unfortunately this isn’t true. However, if you believe in yourself and work hard, you’ll get to that point quickly. Because there is such a high demand for developers, the salaries are very high. But because they are so high, it makes every hire a risk for the company.

As a junior engineer, you are at your riskiest because there are almost no data points to determine if you will be successful. For developers, experience trumps almost all other factors. Find the quickest route to gain experience, and the rest will follow. Once you have experience on your resume, it makes everything else much easier.

Myth: A person with job experience always knows more than you

You may be surprised how much you learned in school, your boot camp, or from self-studying. Since our field evolves so rapidly, there’s a good chance you picked up on some tricks or learned patterns that someone with more experience may not know.

You will typically know what’s on the cutting edge of development, so use it to your advantage to guide your own future learning. Just humbly remember that it’s still only a small fraction of everything you need to know and will pick up on the job.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and offer alternative opinions or ideas. Be brave and write blog articles or speak at Meetups — you’ll be surprised at how much more you learn by putting yourself out there.

Myth: You will be judged for how you learned to code

All that matters is that you know how to do it. It doesn’t matter if you have a CS degree or are self taught — only results matter. It’s up to you to be aware of your knowledge gaps and bridge them, but you should never feel inferior because of how you got to where you are.

Unfortunately, some companies may not consider certain types of applicants with a non-CS background, or they’ll try to leverage bootcamp experience against you. But you most likely don’t want to work for those companies anyway. You want to find a company that understands your skill set, sees your determination to grow, and is willing to invest in you for the long-term.

Final thoughts

Finding your first job is like pushing a boulder across flat surface. You push as hard as you possibly can to get that boulder rolling. But after you gain even minimal work experience, it’s like you’re chasing that boulder down a hill. You can barely keep pace with the opportunity. Recruiters frequently contact you, your value rises, and the uncertainty around your ability to contribute disappears.

The key is to continue to believe in yourself and never stop learning. Regardless of your background or experience, if you want it bad enough, you will eventually get to where you want to be.

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