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New kid on the block

You're the new hire? Here's some advice for junior programmers.

New kid on the block

I've written extensively about pursuing and obtaining your first programming job. Now let's assume that you've gotten it -- what should you do in your first day or days on the job?

I recently received an email from someone who tries to take newly hired programmers under her wing. She mentioned several important points that new programmers should bear in mind in their first days, weeks and months on the job.

First, come to grips with the fact that even if you're the world's greatest programmer, you just started with the company, and there's a lot about the company's business to learn. For instance, if you've just started with an insurance company, take the time to learn as much as possible about insurance. Just getting up to speed on your company's business rules could take you a year or more. Your first day on the job is the time to start learning. The same applies to nearly every industry for which you will work. Remember, you don't program Visual Basic, or C or Java -- you program applications, and those applications have a business behind them.

Second, try to stretch your horizons, and be willing to take challenges. You may have been hired as a programmer, but in many companies, you're expected to be much more. For instance, if a user calls or visits about a problem logging into the company's network, roll up your sleeves and try to resolve the problem. It's OK to ask someone else for advice, but passing the user off because it's a "Systems problem" makes you look bad in the eyes of the user. Even worse, it could make you look bad in the eyes of those you're working with.

Third, obtain a knowledge of the IT environment in which you are working as soon as possible. This will avoid problems down the road. For example, let's say you can't understand why it's taking hours to build a Recordset from the company's Oracle Database down the hall. Instead of complaining that the tech school from which you graduated had T1 connections, take some time to understand why the network is slow, and see if you can program around it. It could turn out that the problem is because there are a limited number of licenses, or that your program is running while the database is being backed up or maintenance is running.

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