The first experience is always hard because everything is new to you. You have to manage a lot of new information, you face the imposter syndrome because you don’t feel ready for the job. College doesn’t prepare us for that. Hopefully, you hold on, and it gets easier.
My first experience was definitely THE WORST
Let me share that experience with you.
To validate my engineering degree, I had to do a final internship. Finding this internship was a headache, but that’s a story for another time. Thanks to some classmates I had an internship in a company in Grenoble — France — and I was hired by the same company at the end of my internship.
My first mission was to code a frontend interface from scratch in Angular, for a client managing financial transfers. They wanted a new UI with modern technologies. I never worked in web development and neither with Angular. Thus, my manager thought it was a nice project to get me into it and to learn the basics. First, I was trained by a senior colleague for 2 weeks. Then the company decided to send me to work at the client’s office.
The client’s place was exactly what we imagine when we gather all the stereotypes about developers: an old and dark open space, only middle-aged men, they were only talking about work and making tech jokes, not welcoming, a little aggressive when they were discussing with each other, etc…
I was feeling so lonely
So here I was, the only woman in the office, the youngest person in the office, the only outsider because I was from another company, and I was working alone on the UI. I wasn’t even provided with a second screen when everyone had one. I was put in a dark corner, away from everyone… I didn’t manage to connect with the guys, nor make conversations because I felt they didn’t even try to get to know me or welcome me into the company. I was eating lunch alone every day, some days except saying hi to the guys in the morning, I won’t talk to anyone…
In addition, I had to work a little with their lead tech, he had to monitor my work to see if it was meeting the expectations and deadlines. I was also supposed to ask him questions when I was stuck on the global logic of the pages I had to code. He wasn’t easy to work with at all!! Sometimes he was nice, and other times he was very distant and arrogant. I would tell him about a bug from the API they were providing me, and he will act like I wasn’t knowing what I was talking about until he would test and see for himself that I was right. Also, sometimes he would say hello to everyone in the office and check hands, except for me, he will just ignore me. I’m not a very susceptible person, but in this position, I couldn’t ignore that feeling of frustration and anger toward his behavior. It got to me so hard that I had to go a few times to the bathroom to hold back anger tears.
They blamed me for the delay
It gets worse… I didn’t meet the deadline for the project for two main reasons. First, I was slow because I was still learning. And second, the estimation of the project hasn’t been done correctly because it was missing a lot of screens and features that were not included in the mockups. However, my company played the “She is a junior” card to justify the delay, telling the manager and lead tech that it was my first experience, etc… I think it was a way for them to justify the delay and also to make the client’s team act nicer with me, but I felt they were throwing me under the bus, and they were depreciating me. Later on, I run into the tech lead in the break room, and for once he tried to make conversation, saying “we didn’t know it was your first mission, that explains a lot”. It was very frustrating because it sounded to me as he was saying “that explains a lot, that’s why you suck”… Moreover, it was inappropriate for him to try to be nice now when he was ignoring me for months.
I was supposed to stay at the client’s for a few weeks only, then be back to work at my company’s office to finish the project. Only it seemed like my manager forgot about me, I stayed 3 whole months… to be honest, it was very hard for me.
Finally, my manager decided that it would be better for me to come back to the main office and finalize the project for the last month. I was relieved!!! It felt wonderful to be back. I had friends at the office, all my colleagues were so helpful, they would spend hours to help me fix my last bugs.
This experience was very hard on me because as much as I hated the 3 first months, it’s the experience that taught me the MOST!! I learned the structure of web development, Angular 4, I practiced git, I learned about the dev tools in chrome, cross-browser testing, API request and so much more…
What I learned from this experience
In retrospect, I know I should have told my manager how I felt about my situation, maybe she would have understood, and I would have been back at the office sooner. At the same time, as a junior, as a girl, I felt it was expected from me to be patient and accept whatever was asked of me… I feel it’s very challenging to impose yourself when you don’t feel very confident yet, sometimes you feel that the company hiring you is making you a favor by letting you work for them, so you accept everything. You definitely shouldn’t. I’m a very understanding person, I don’t complain a lot, especially with work, but in this particular situation, I definitely should have because I was starting to question myself and my whole career choice.