Original question from Quora:

What is expected of a junior (back-end) web developer?

My Answer:

I’ve been a junior developer before and I’ve worked with plenty of other junior developers and been part of the hiring process when hiring younger developers, so I have some amount of experience in terms of expectations.

There is really one big expectation that if a junior developer meets they will have no problem in any job…

When I was working quite a few years ago at a job there was a developer working there who had been there for two or three years when I got there. He was what I thought a pretty good developer. He was on the bubble of junior and mid level.

At the very least he knew his stuff.

A week later a new developer started who was very, very green. He could work with some PHP and HTML, but Ruby and Rails was not really in his wheelhouse.

However, there was a very important difference between the two developers…

The more experienced developer struggled to ship code on time and on budget. There were a lot of instances where he was thrown into the deep end of the pool and just couldn’t swim. At the same time, he didn’t really put in the extra hours to remedy the situation. There wasn’t a big push to up his game. He just was sort of okay with underperforming.

The younger developer had a background in the military and knew how to work hard. He had almost zero skill and 110% work ethic. So, he busted his butt to learn all day long while shipping code. He did a lot of QA type work for us at times, but he would also go home and work on his coding skills.

This was the same kind of dedication he has to everything in life, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise once I got to know him.

Now, fast forward to a year later and something strange happened. The first developer with more experience, but not nearly as much drive to work hard and improve ended up flaming out and left the company.

Meanwhile, the second developer’s skills improved dramatically and last I heard he had moved on to a better job situation and is a very successful ruby developer.

To me the difference between the two was night and day. The guy who showed up and worked his butt off even though his skillset wasn’t great ended up being the best one to work with and will likely go far in life. The more experienced, technically capable developer ended up being lazyier and from what I understand has struggled more in his career.

So my big expectation for junior developers is that they “show up” every day, not just to their job, but to work on getting better.

The drive to constantly improve goes a long way.

-Brian

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