Junior software engineers often need to go the extra mile to prepare for the professional principles they must follow to ensure excellent work quality. Software engineering is a branch of computer science centred around building software solutions by applying engineering principles and understanding programming languages. Most of a junior software engineer’s professional workload concerns designing, developing, testing, and maintaining software applications.
There are several articles out there targeted at explaining the pathway to becoming a software engineer, with detailed lesson plans and related hacks. But there are also inevitable common mistakes that you must understand and avoid to grow as a professional. The following list looks at nine such errors that set a lousy engineer apart from a good one.
#1 Memorising all the code
When you move to a new city, it’s normal not to know where the supermarket or the local café is. However, you can use the map app on your phone to find what you need and for directions. Before long, maps are no longer necessary as you learn to find your way around. It has become second nature.
New students can apply this logic when they are learning a programming language. It is often a source of guilt for many students when they need to leave some of their syntax un-memorised. However, it is essential to remember that referring to the documentation is not a sign of a weak developer. Just because you have studied and memorised a few lines of code does not automatically mean you’re good at programming. A software developer’s worth is not in the amount of code they know by heart but in what they can potentially build with it. When a developer is programming multiple languages across many platforms, it is unlikely they will actively attempt to memorise any of their code.
#2 Lack of balance and self-care
It is important to balance quality and speed. Spending an extra month creating something that only makes the project 1% better is unnecessary. On the other hand, it is wise to avoid shaving a week off the deadline only for the design to become unreliable. This methodology applies to having time away from the computer as well. Please don’t spend all day on the computer only to use it again at night. Try shifting your workspace to different locations if your workflow allows it.
Being too sedentary is a common issue for many people starting in software engineering. In IT, it is also understandable since the field can be pretty demanding. Still, any job you start as a first-timer will be an experience that will take some getting used to. Therefore, ensuring you take care of your health and prioritise sleep is essential. It is important to remember that respect for your body is more critical to your success in the workplace than you think.
#3 Low code readability
It is a mistake to underestimate the importance of having code that can be easily read. Senior developers rarely assign tasks focusing on performance to someone at the beginning of their career path. Writing code that is easy to read, and to update is more important than a series of complicated lines that run faster.
Some of the things to avoid include messy formatting and confusing function names. A clear visual distinction between an experienced software developer and a beginner can be seen in their composition. Confused beginner formatting may not have consistent white space and new lines or not be properly indented.
For example, it might look silly to have long-winded class and variable names such as the spectacular “AbstractSingletonProxyFactoryBean” in Java. However, writing descriptive variable names is an excellent practice over shorter abbreviations. Having an evident intent for the code means you are more likely to be clear and choose the correct variable. Of course, there are cases where file size is an issue, but a ‘minifier’ can be used to reduce any size-related issues.
#4 Lack of software tests and debugs
Another common mistake first-timers make in software engineering is overconfidence in their abilities. As a result, they prefer to track down bugs in the software code themselves, using their manual skills. If this was not trouble enough, some programmers even omit the debugging process entirely, a practice that can bring their entire coding “expertise” into question.
When working in Java, C#, ActionScript3, or other statically typed languages, it is good practice –and recommended primarily to beginners– to use the debugger. Taking advantage of the detailed errors the languages provide, in addition to the debugger, will assist in tracking down any bugs in the code efficiently.
#5 Lack of planning and visualisation
The absence of planning is another common bad habit among entry-level software engineers. As mentioned in the section above, many people starting in the field make the mistake of trying to get the code working immediately. They receive a story without visualising the outcome they are trying to reach.
The best thing to do when you are allocated an engineering task is to go through the content as often as possible to get a decent idea of what is required, how you will create it, and how any additional feature may affect the system’s current functionality. These are just a few things you must remember as you analyse it for later software development.
Once you clearly understand the functional and non-functional parts of the assignment, it is best to get your planning out on paper, preferably in the form of a flowchart or a similar diagram. Visualising the solutions expected of you as a software engineer and the best possible route to achieving them without hindering product efficiency will improve your code quality while preventing performance gaps in your work.
#6 Not backing up your work
Data loss is one of the most significant blows in the workplace. Imagine a scenario where there was a massive project that you and your team worked on for months. Then, imagine that right before the product is about to be presented in its finality, someone loses the one file everything was on. The blow to operational efficiency and morale in the workplace will be significantly damaging.
Losing your project data can be a harrowing experience for any professional and is not exclusive to software development. There are several ways to back up work, automatically, manually, using cloud storage or hardware. There are no excuses for being lax with timed backups of any code you write.
Therefore, active use of cloud storage systems and properly secured flash drives are excellent ways of ensuring you have your work backed up at all times. Set your revisions to be continuously saved, so you are always safe from losing data.
#7 Discarding the importance of documentation
Documentation may feel tedious but it will save time and frustration from unnecessary coding revisions later. It is a necessary practice, especially as a developer increasingly gains responsibility and creates more complex designs. Whether designing something from scratch or producing a data flow, clear documentation of your actions can be a robust future reference for yourself or another team member working on the project with or after you.
A simple function is easily identified through its name and parameter. On the other hand, a complex operation that accepts many inputs and produces multiple outputs will need documentation. Adding a new feature while using clear documentation will make it easier to update and modify the code later.
#8 Disregarding the importance of help
Software engineering can be an enriching career path. However, just like any other job, it comes with its challenges. Having this list at hand will assist you in avoiding mistakes in the beginning, in both the tech and the relationships with your colleagues. Always feel confident in asking questions and seeking advice from your seniors. Even the most experienced software engineer can feel overwhelmed or out of depth. Making mistakes as a junior and finding the right solution is an expected part of your learning curve.
It will help you to improve your problem-solving skills before moving on to more significant projects. Some professional projects are designed to test us, and it is okay to sometimes feel like you don’t know what you are doing or how to start. While it might feel like you’re alone in this sentiment, this is mostly never the case. In a professional environment, you will likely find someone who has been in a similar situation before.
Reach out to them, ask questions, gather advice, and start surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people you can learn from. There are no stupid questions, and asking for help will save you trouble in the long run. Accepting assistance doesn’t mean you don’t know what you are doing, just that you want to do it better.
#9 Fear and self-doubt
As a beginner engineer, it is so easy to be overcome by fear and doubt and to think you’re not good enough. But the most challenging part of learning anything is the start, and it is crucial to stick to it. When beginning to code, it can appear like an alien language. However, once you start using it practically, it will be clear that it is, in fact, really logical.
Of course, some people have a natural inclination or talent for programming and analytical thinking. However, software engineers can learn these skills through hard work and commitment. Master fear through educating yourself and building a community! Spending too much time coding could lead you to miss opportunities to work on your business and communication skills. Therefore, it is essential to prioritise every aspect that could affect your professional growth.
It is crucial to remember that healthy coding principles, formatting principles, and incorporation of documentation, take time to sink in. This is why you may need to spend more time in the learning process.
Choosing the right course to help incorporate these practices into your process can be a game changer in getting you off to a good start.
If you’re thinking about pursuing a career as a software engineer, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly team for a career consultation. They will be happy to offer you the guidance and assistance you require.