What to Expect In Your First Tech Job


You passed various rounds of interviews. You considered the offers and took a leap on a company. But the journey has only just begun, my friend. Your first programming job will have many surprises in store, but some things are almost guaranteed.

Let’s list them.

You will feel dumb

This is the most important thing you need to know. But don’t worry – it’s only because you are dumb! Look, you can’t know everything, especially when every company has its own way of doing things. And right now you’re actually expected to know very little. So use this time productively! Ask questions. Ask hella questions. Don’t be shy about not knowing because no one expects you to know much anyway.

Later, once you’ve been at the company for a while or have moved to a new one in a more senior position, the expectations will grow that you are Actually Knowledgeable – that’s the time to start hiding your ignorance. But not now! Let your lack of knowledge flourish in the full light of day – it’s the only way to get answers and actually learn. A few years from now when you are bluffing your way through through meetings about the pros and cons of a new system you barely understand, you’ll look back wistfully on these halcyon days when the world was fresh and you were full of hope.

You will get fat

annette_mulaney_donutUnlimited snacks. Free food. A job where nothing but your carpal tunnel gets a workout. These are both amazing perks and the worst thing to ever happen to you. At my first job colleagues warned about the “new hire 15,” but to no avail as the siren crunch of unlimited chips was too tempting. Many workplaces will offer so-called “healthy” alternatives to the copious candy and chips, but there’s something about working hard on a problem that makes me want to shovel Cheetos into my face. On the upside, those orange-dusted Cheeto fingers and expanding paunch will help you feel like a “real” programmer.

It will be awkward

Programmers are not a nerd monolith; however, the average is more awkward than most. Much, much more awkward. You will have a plethora of “off” interactions — best not to take them to heart.

I once had a boss’s boss turn heel and walk away in the midst of me answering their question. Did they not like me? Did I do something wrong? Save yourself some sanity and chalk up any weirdness to them. They clearly had the answer to the degree they wanted and don’t know how to exit conversations. I’m the normal one. It’s fine.

Your social skills will suffer

You don’t think being around these nerds is gonna rub off on you? You’re wrong! This will happen gradually and you will not notice until you are thrust into a party where no one is talking heatedly about javascript frameworks or you are stuck in an elevator with marketing.

Even worse, being around other engineers will give you an inflated sense of your social skills. Think you’re a social butterfly? Maybe for engineers, baby. You’re at best competent elsewhere.

If you feel you’re about average in the socialization game, then woe unto you, sweet naive child. Next time you should accidentally wish the waiter to enjoy his meal, too.

If you are one of the more awkward people around the office, well, luckily apps allow you to avoid human contact as much as possible outside of it.

You will develop a barely-contained sense of grandiosity

pexels-photo-683381_arrogantIf you’re at a tiny startup, you could have full access to the whole system from day one. At larger companies, it may take a while to earn that trust. Different places will have various levels of security and redundancies built in, but let’s face it — once you can fix serious things you also have the power to seriously mess them up.

At first, this power may scare you. Every command will be triple-checked and you will sweat bullets until the danger is over. But over time, you will grow to love owning that potential for destruction and it will radiate in your hands like an angry sun.

Boss getting on your nerves? Have to work on a Saturday? Whisper sweetly to yourself, “a few keystrokes and I bring this whole thing down,” “bow before my might,” and “you are but ants next to me, a god.” Talk about empowering! Just keep it to yourself and make sure not to go full Magneto.

You will have no idea what anyone outside of engineering does

Engineering is blissfully straightforward. This person makes this thing run. That person makes that other thing run. Infrastructure makes the things upon which our things run, run. But there are other jobs. At least, there are people who are not working on engineering. You see them around. For example, salespeople who… call people, I guess? Marvel at someone choosing to live what sounds like a waking nightmare. And someone is doing something with money right? If you’re getting paid then, sure! Is anyone making sure what we’re doing is legal? Often not really! But hopefully by the time anyone realizes you’ll be too big to bring down anyways. In any case it’s not your jurisdiction. Just make the things run. Make the button click.

Annette Mullaney is a software engineer and standup comic recently named a “comic to catch” by the San Francisco Chronicle.  She performs at bars all over the Bay Area, including the monthly showcase “Shame Cave” at Mission Hill Saloon. Her comedy has been described as “improving” by friends and “off-putting” by dudes on Tinder she tricks into attending shows. In a previous life she was a Stanford political science PhD candidate and prior to that, covered the latest sushi restaurant openings in Damascus, Syria. Get more advice from her podcast “Ask a Divorcée” or follow her busy insta or neglected twitter @ho_grammer and find out about upcoming shows at laughatannette.com

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Written by Annette Mullaney

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