Four Things You Should Do When Starting a New (Dev) Job

Your first 30 days with a company can be nerve-wracking. Your boss is watching your performance, trying to decide if he made the right choice. Your co-workers are trying to learn if you’re going to be a helpful member of the team or just dead weight.

All that scrutiny gives you a golden opportunity to make a great impression.

Here’s four ways to make sure they’ll be glad to have you on board:

1) Go in Early

I know a lot of developers are night owls, but for the first 30 days, you should make an exception. Come in earlier than you normally would, but stay as late as everyone else does. You’ll show everyone you’re serious about the job, and aren’t afraid of work.

Even if you shift your schedule back to a normal one after the first 30 days, you’ve gone a long way to reassure your colleagues that you’re here to help them out.

2) Update Documentation

Was the system setup process well documented? If not, fix it. If documentation doesn’t exist yet for something you’re supposed to learn, create it. Your boss will notice, and you’ll be helping future employees get up and running faster.

3) Ask Questions

It’s one thing to learn how a company does things. It’s better to learn why they do them the way they do.

Look for areas where they don’t have any reason to back up how they’re doing something. If you can find a better way of doing it, pitch it to your boss. You’ll show him you care about the quality of your code, and you won’t have to step on anyone’s toes.

4) Stay Calm

You’re learning a lot of new things, and trying to stay productive at the same time. Don’t rush yourself. Most employers don’t expect their employees to start seriously contributing until they’ve put in 90 days. You’re going to be slower than normal, but that’s ok. Take the time to really learn all the nooks and crannies of the system you’ll be working in now, so you can contribute more later.

Five Reasons to Learn a New Programming Language

You’ve landed a good job. You negotiated a high salary, plenty of vacation days, and flexible work hours.

Congratulations. But don’t stop thinking about your career just yet. Now that you know your way around your current programming language, it’s time to learn another one.

Here’s why:

1) Languages go obsolete

Every programming language becomes obsolete at some point. COBOL isn’t used for new software anymore. Whatever language you’re using now will be obsolete, or at least on the downward trend, in 5-10 years. You don’t want to end up chained to one company (or worse, laid off from said company) with only an obsolete language on your resume.

Pick a language that looks to be on the upward curve, and learn it. Think of it as insurance against the future.

2) Languages express best practices

When someone creates a new programming language, they’re codifying a certain style of programming that they consider to be the best. After all, if Guido Van Rossum thought functional programming was the best style to work in, Python would have been a functional language.

One of the easiest ways to get deep into someone else’s ideas about the best way to program is to learn their language. Consider the learning experience a conversation you’re having with the language creator, trying to learn how they think programming should be done.

You’ll probably agree with them on some things, and disagree on others. Take the things you like – the parts of the language that make some best practices easier – and find ways to incorporate them in the language you’re currently using.

3) Languages don’t do everything well

Most of the general-purpose programming languages we’ve got are actually really good at just one or two things, and terrible at others. PHP is a great scripting language, but pushing it to express a complicated DSL leads to code that’s hard to read and painful to write.

Picking up a new language gives you a larger toolbox to draw on, so when it comes time to build that internal website, or reporting system, or distributed image processing software, you’ll be able to use the best language for the job.

4) Languages lead to jobs

This one almost goes without saying. You can’t land a Ruby job without learning some Ruby. You need to know C++ (or Objective-C) to work in the games industry. If you want to switch from web development to scientific computing, learning a new language is your best bet.

5) Languages teach programming fundamentals

Do you know what a monad is? How about S-expressions? Learning a language that’s radically different from what you normally work in (say, Haskell for Python devs) can teach you new programming concepts. You’ll learn new ways of thinking about programming, and new ways to approach traditional programming problems.

In the end, learning a new language (or several languages) is all part of becoming a mature, experienced developer. If you want to prepare for the future, expand your programming horizons, and keep a secret weapon (or two) in your dev toolbox, then you should learn a new language.