Maintaining a work-life balance

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Charlotte Skinner
Charlotte Skinner

Hi everyone!

In this blog post I wanted to tell you about my first few months as a developer, and discuss how to maintain a work/life balance when you are starting out. I'm not going to lie, I haven't 100% managed this yet! When I first accepted my job offer back in October, one of the student advisers on my course lovingly referred to this year as being my 'year of hell' - but one that will propel me into the world of tech, have me learning new things every day and will provide me with a career that I love.

I began working as a Junior developer just over 4 months ago now, which comes with its very own punch-you-in-the-face learning curve. Alongside this I am studying for my diploma in Software Development. And with what little time there is left in the day - I am supposed to fit in a social life.

For the first 3 months of my job I have put my course on hold so that I can immerse myself in the world of tech, which has enabled me to learn a shed-load at work - but the guilt of not progressing with my course has felt very real.

Last month I passed my final probation at work, which comes with it's own targets for the next few months. My first target is to learn SQL (a database language) at a higher level. I use SQL on a daily basis in my role, and I have found that this language is very much something you learn on the job rather than out of a book/video. I found that videos and books give examples from very small, simple tables e.g. 'a table listing some groceries, run some queries to find the groceries you need'... when in real life, the databases I work with contain MILLIONS of entries of data.

My second target is to learn more C# to prepare me for moving onto more complex development work later in the year. My predecessors in this role (who are now my seniors!) have all said how they wished they had learned more C# prior to moving up in their role. This has been really valuable advice from them, as not only have they set me on a solid learning strategy, but they obviously care about my career trajectory to offer this advice. To improve my knowledge of C# I have been using a combination of Pluralsight and Youtube videos, Code Academy courses and quite simply actually looking at the code in the software we create at work and working out how all of this fits together.

With this in mind you might be thinking.. how the hell is she supposed to get her coursework done, whilst learning new languages at work, and have time to talk to real-life humans outside of work!?

Well.. I must admit the social life has taken a hit the past few months. BUT, things are getting better. I think to see progress in your learning you have to fully throw yourself into something initially - but as you gain confidence and knowledge, you start to find ways to compartmentalise your learning and form a routine. Recently I arranged with my manager to alter my working hours to allow me to study at work. I find when I get home from work my brain is mush, so factoring in some time in the middle of the day to do coursework is making the most of my productive time. So I will be working 8am - 5.30pm with a two hour lunch break to a) grab food and b) do some code. I'm looking forward to seeing whether this works for me, as this will get me an extra 1.5 hours per day (7.5 hours per week) of study that I was just too tired to do before. This structured time for learning will ensure I actually get things done, and this way when I get home from work the evening is mine to do with as I wish! I can then do a few hours on the weekend where time permits.

The past few months have been crazy and mentally challenging, but in the best way - I can't wait to learn more things! Hopefully this new study plan allows me to get things done whilst factoring in some time to relax :)