How I Balanced my Computer Science Degree and Junior Developer Role

🗓 5/9/2021

In the final year of my BSc Computer Science degree, I took on a part-time role as a Junior Developer, working with JavaScript / TypeScript and React. This was my first role in the industry, so there was a lot to get to grips with. Despite this, I did complete my final year and overall degree with a first class, and have been hired by my company full-time as a graduate developer. In this post, I hope to go over some of the things which helped me balance my studies and work.

Planning Ahead 📝

At the beginning of each week, I'd use Google Calendar to identify when I wanted to focus on work, and when I wanted to focus on university. I'd start with adding all my classes, and then filling in the blanks around this. With my job, the hours were flexible, so it was up to me when I'd choose to get my work done. This made it even more important for me to plan when I'd get my work done, otherwise I could have risked focusing too much on my degree and hardly getting any work done!

Time Blocking 🗓

As mentioned, I'd use Google Calendar to plan ahead. I'd plan everything by the hour, so I'd add multiple one-hour blocks throughout the day, focused on certain things. This method of time blocking ensured I gave myself one main focus at any given point of the day, so my mind wouldn't drift, or so I didn't start doing other things instead...(TikToks and Instagram Reels, I'm looking at you💀). Below is a quick example of how I'd space out these hour blocks.

  • 7:00 - 8:00AM: Work
  • 8:10 - 9:10AM: Work
  • 9:30 - 10:30AM: Work
  • break
  • 12PM onwards: time blocking for university studies, similar time blocking method as shown above
  • Pomodoro Technique ⏰

    The time blocks I mentioned are all well and good, but how did I focus during them? I used the Pomodoro Technique. This is where you set a timer for some amount of time to work, then set a short timer after for a quick break, and then repeat. The amount of time you work for depends on how long you can focus. I would generally work for 30 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then work another 25 minutes, concluding a single hour block of time. I'd then take a longer break after this depending on how I was feeling (10-20 minutes, longer for a lunch break). I recommend using 'Toggl Track' to manage this sort of time tracking.

    Communication 🗣

    Due to the flexibility of my work, it was important for me to keep my work team in the loop about my status. Whilst I’d attend most daily standups, occasionally I couldn’t. I’d make sure to prepare a message in advance detailing my status on any tickets I was working on. This meant everyone knew where I was up to, and what to expect from me depending on my university workload.

    Asking For Help 🤝

    At times, this balance was not always easy. It was during these times that it was important for me to speak to my manager when things became tough. I’m fortunate to have been in an environment where speaking up when struggling was encouraged, so I would often let my manager know when things got tough. This would help me relieve any anxieties that I had at the time.

    These are just a few little things which I feel helped me get through the final year of my studies whilst working part-time as a Junior Developer. Click to read my blog post on how I landed this part-time Junior Developer role.