Monday 27th September 2021. Exactly one year ago from this date, I quit my role in retail, was starting the final year of my Computer Science degree, but more importantly: I started my first day as a Junior Developer at Morrow (formerly App Sapiens).
I had a lot of thoughts running through my mind at this point in time. Did I make a mistake leaving my retail job? Am I really cut out to work as a developer, especially as I was still finishing my degree? What if I get fired after a week, then I'll be left without any job? I'll stop there, otherwise we'll be here forever – hopefully you get the idea of how I was feeling: anxious.
It was a bit of a unique situation to be in, gaining a part-time role whilst finishing the final year of my degree. I was still quite shocked that I found this role before graduating (you can read more about how I landed the role here). Nevertheless, I was excited by the potential opportunities that could come from the role, and in this post I want to walk through the sorts of things I worked on, and subsequently, what I've learned from the experience, all within the space of this past year.
As a result, my first project was actually working on the company's website, which was built with Gatsby & React. This was essentially why I was hired: the website needed some work, and this was the perfect opportunity for my employer to assess my abilities & see how I'd cope with the project. As this was an internal project, there was no major pressure that would normally exist on a client project, so this fit in well with my schedule as a university student. Below are the sorts of things I worked on:
This first project was really important, because it exposed me to a lot of new things:
Whilst I was the only person working on the site, both my manager and other co-workers, who had previously worked on the website before, were always ready to help me in Slack. I'd have weekly calls with my manager to show the status of the Kanban board with all the tickets, and discuss next steps.
The low pressure on the project gave me a chance to really learn and understand the ins-and-outs of React & TypeScript, and to get to know my new team at work, giving me the foundations I make use of in my role today.
As I finished up my work on the company website in January, an opportunity to start on my first React Native project came about. Coincidentally, I was also learning React Native at university around this time, so the timing was perfect! The role for me would be as a support engineer, dealing with the UI and UX of the application, whilst the main engineer dealt with the harder part of "making things work".
Initially, I spent my time working on amending the screens we had in place to match the designs & requests from our client. As I became more familiar with React Native and the structure of the project, I started taking on more tickets related to functionality as well. This involved talking to our backend and rendering & manipulating the correct data, depending on the user who was logged in.
This first client project was super daunting for me, it was the first "commercial" project I was working on, and we were in regular contact with the client on weekly calls. Fortunately, both my team & the client were super patient and understanding of my commitments (university), so allowed for me to do as much / little as I needed depending on how busy my studies became.
This first project came to an end sometime in March, from which point, I moved onto my second client project. The setup was similar to this first project, where I was a support engineer, working to build out new screens based on designs from our client. I was able to transfer the knowledge gained on the first project to ease into the second project, as we have a standardised structure we follow when building apps.
As we entered the month of April, and I started this new second client project, it wasn't long until I needed to stop working to focus on my degree. I had my final deadlines approaching in May, and I was also preparing for the month of Ramadan, where I was due to abstain from any food or water during daylight hours as part of the Islamic month. I really did want to carry on working, but my project manager helped me realise it would make more sense to stop sooner to focus on these things which were more important.
I spent this time finishing my dissertation, preparing for my showcase & finalising the product I was building. And then, I officially finished my Computer Science degree in May 2021 - spending the remainder of the month relaxing.
In April, I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to join Morrow full-time, after working there part-time as a student. I happily accepted the offer after having a good experience part-time, and have been working here full-time since. I rejoined the client project I was working on part-time, and started up on a couple of other new project since.
The past year has gone super fast, and I've learned so much along the way, from both my Computer Science degree, and my role at Morrow. I've become pretty invested in the React Native Expo world which we develop with, and really look forward to deepening my knowledge in this area as I continue my career in this area. I'm hoping this post is useful to others in a similar position to me - early in the industry, and possibly wondering how other people's experiences are.