I don't feel like I am learning the job

I’m having some difficulty at my new job as an entry level software developer. We do a lot of pair programming - usually 7 hours out of an 8 hour day. We use teamviewer with skype and there are usually between 3-5 programmers on the call. I think I have aspergers and I have social anxiety. So I do not talk very much.

I have been working at this job for 5 months. I can not do the stories that we plan out in sprint planning on my own. I need help to finish any of these. I don’t know enough about how the programs I am working on function along how things work. Because of this - I am dependent on pair programming.

I think part of the problem is that I do not get the opportunity to do very much programming so I am not getting in much practice. I would say 90% of the time I am watching other people program in these 3-5 programmer groups. The 10% of the time I am the one driving - the other programmers are telling me what to type and sometimes it feels like I am transcribing rather than programming. When I do have something I can work on without much help, the other programmers observing get bored and have side conversations. Along with the other people talking around my cubicle it makes it difficult to concentrate, along with the pressure and stress of having other people watch you code.

I might learn better if I could get a programming assignment to work on my own that was within my reach. Than I could stop to think about things, navigate through the code, digest the concepts, and go through the process of figuring it out. I think that would help me learn. There is not much time for any of that when you have other people waiting on you in pair programming.

I have a difficult time speaking up and asking questions. I do not know where to go from here. I’m stuck pair programming with the work that we have to do because of my inexperience and that is sort of the way it is done there. I don’t feel like I am picking up experience because I’m watching other people program the vast majority of the time. Sort of a catch-22. I have enough difficulty just working full time due to my autism.

One of the reasons this job works for me is because I can live with my parents and commute to work. I think I would have difficulty trying to live on my own. There is not much other opportunity within commuting distance.

I could say a lot more but I don’t want this post to get too long to read. Thanks for reading.


I feel the same way. I feel like I’m basically modifying code; not writing anything. I would say give it some time. Also, see if you can somehow surmise your performance/their expectations. You could be exceeding! I’ve only been at my job 4.5 months, and I’m trying to take my own advice. Programming is hard. It takes a lot of time, practice, and patience. Chin up!

Heck I’m realizing I was doing mostly only that for the past 3.5 years. It’s part of my current anxiety.

I posted something similar to this the other day. Do you feel like that’s what most of your peers do? I really hope my notion that the great developers can write code from scratch with little reference is wrong because I certainly can not, novice as I am.

At my work the seasoned guys are always building things from scratch or extensively adding to existing code and features. It’s very intimidating sometimes, and when working with them I feel the bar is set really high and I start feeling inadequate. But I know they look things up all the time too.

However on the flip side of that, 3 of my friends from college in the same major are nothing like that at all. One has jumped job to job and has done alot of documentation more than anything, and QA. Another is a project manager and hasn’t coded much in years. Another is between jobs, but he was pretty good with C. But he looks things up all the time.

The other developers seem to be able to figure out how to complete the stories on their own without a problem. There are three experienced programmers and one other novice programmer. The other novice programmer has 10 months experience on the team to my 5 months experience. He is in another league at this point. Last year he won rookie of the year and developer of the year at my company.

My main concern is that I’m not getting much practice. I’m watching 90% of the time. Maybe others learn to program by watching other people program, but I learn by doing. I could see if it was 50/50 on coding versus watching during pair programming - how observing could be more beneficial. As it stands I don’t feel like I’m learning very fast.

5 months difference is a lot in workplace experience, not only in skillset but in the environment itself. If they are not giving you the opportunity to program yourself, that’s on them and they shouldn’t expect you to be great without being hands-on. I’m the same way. I feel like I get a lot from watching, but when I sit and try to do something similar, sometimes I’m still lost. Practice is invaluable. That being said, you shouldn’t feel obligated to practice outside of work. They pay you to be a developer from 8-5 or whenever you work. If you are motivated enough, then great, work outside of work, but you shouldn’t feel an obligation. Aside, the novice programmer you’re comparing yourself too seems pretty swift anyway. I know it’s tough, but try not to compare yourself to others in the field. If anything, try to find someone in the same boat as you and work through things together. I remember in my college programming classes there would be guys who could code circles around me and it’d piss me off, sure, but people comprehend at different rates and many of them had experience coming in. Programming is hard. People know that. Some programmers may give off the vibe that it’s easy for them, but they’ve struggled at one time or another.

tl;dr: chin up, we’re all here for you!