DevNexus 2019 – Proper Care and Feeding of a Junior Developer – Valarie Regas

See the table of contents for my other blog posts from the conference



  • The speaker has one year experience in development
  • She was a stay at home mom after having an unrelated underground
  • Was a junior at 35 years old
  • [This is good because she has more life experience than your typical entry level employee which provides a different perspective than the one you typically hear]

“People are a resource” [grumble; I wish we shouldn’t call people resources. She meant it in a positive way, but still]

Costs when someone leaves

  • Recruiting costs
  • No productivity while interviewing/discussing. Cummulative over interviews
  • Onboarding costs [she then listed hardware; but that’s not new per person unless you customize everyone’s laptop and desk]
  • Time spent learning codebase/process
  • Learning to trust new person


  • Senior developers need to teach junior developers to become senior developers.
  • Can’t promote when people aren’t ready “behind you”
  • As a junior dev, responsible for yourself
  • The team needs to meet expectations and succeed together.

Tracking accomplishments

  • Keep list of accomplishments for review time [I do this too]
  • Include examples of what you encouraged/helped the junior to do

How mentoring helps you/the team

  • Teaching others helps you understand it better.
  • Refreshes memory of something you don’t do often.
  • Get faster at doing job.
  • Delegating tasks to the junior so less work [I disagree; there’s always work to be done. You can make the team accomplish more. And you may not have that task anymore, but you won’t have less work]
  • Feel good/proud of the junior for accomplishing

How to mentor

  • Talk to your supervisor. Need to free up some time. [my team has a 10% employee tax. Except for an intern’s first month, I don’t allocate more time above the employee tax. I do still talk to my supervisor, but it’s not about allocating time]
  • Explain what expect. Team process and workflow.
  • “A short time investment up front will save you so much time down the road”
  • Tour the code base
  • Give them a hard task so they feel a sense of accomplishment and gain confidence.
  • Have a style guide/set conventions. Code, github comments, tickets.
  • Don’t mock a junior [doesn’t this go without saying?]
  • Set time limits so research isn’t open ended. Then they know when to ask for help.
  • One on one’s important. Every 2-4 weeks. Discuss goals. The junior should come up with or help come up with goals. Provide feedback on whether reached.
  • Success is getting to the point where you can’t answer junior’s questions off the top of your head.


  • Did a survey in the South EastMost people had bad experience as juniors
  • A lot of people didn’t have a mentor.
  • 37% of those who had a mentor, felt like their mentor didn’t want to help and avoided helping them.


  • How deal with expectations that turnover is ok – do what want and tell leaders after the fact. Then propose changing more broadly.
  • How avoid people becoming a time sink with questions? Average person should get it after 1-2 times if teaching they way the person needs to be taught
  • What other resources besides mentoring? Pluralsight, linux academy. Study on Fridays instead of meetings.
  • How do you manage resistance when someone doesn’t want to be mentored? How mentor experienced people? If a person doesn’t want to learn, maybe they should do something else. Junior people tend to be really enthusiastic and want to learn.
  • How help overly ambitious junior focus on tasks? Limit by time. Some goals can be for current quarter, next quarter, two years, five years, etc. Makes the goals more achievable.
  • What if overqualified for job? Give examples of what can do.
  • What could a junior developer do to make it easier for mentor? Look at calendar and ask when not end to end meetings. Learn when good chance to ask. Send message “when you get a moment, this is not an emergency, <explain problem and what tried here>”
  • What if learning style incompatible? Find a different mentor

My take

She articulated the topic well. The real world analogies to judo and marriage/kids were good. It was great hearing her perspective and using it to reflect. She’s a new speaker (there were a lot of paper notes.) But it didn’t affect the flow of the presentation. And I’m glad to see someone newer to speaking (on her career) at the conference. It inspires others to get up there. I also like that she did a survey to get more points of view. I also like that she explicitly encouraged/demanded Q&A. Good advice in there too.

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