7 Tips for (Remote) New Grad Software Engineers

Like many others I’ve been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic. During this time I did two remote internships, one at Google and one at Cash App, before returning to Cash App full-time. I was initially nervous how this was all going to go, especially beginning my career without any in-person mentorship. As the time has gone on, I’ve grown to really enjoy the flexibility of this remote/hybrid work world and I wanted to share some of the tips that helped me in the first year of my full-time career, including some remote specific tips.

1. Invest in your workspace

Just as you would if you had a fixed desk space in an office, make sure to invest in your remote work environment. Improving your work environment is a long-term investment that will pay dividends in your productivity and health. The most important aspects to me are having a good chair and a well-lit working area. With just these two things it will be much more comfortable to spend time in your workspace and help you avoid the posture and eye strain problems that may hurt you and your focus. I know this isn’t a unique tip, but I still can’t emphasize it enough!

2. Don’t be afraid to ask

Many times I’ve hesitated setting up a meeting with someone with under a days notice when I’m blocked on something. I never want to disturb my teammates and their work. That said, more often than not I’ve found that people are willing to hop on a call right away instead of even waiting for a future scheduled meeting! More than once while debugging over Slack, my teammate has simply asked “Do you want to pair on this right now?” and I’ve been shocked! I didn’t know that was an option! You’d be surprised how willing people are to help you out if you just simply ask!

3. Speak broadly

Especially at big companies, speaking up in public places like large Slack channels can seem very daunting as a new grad. I was definitely nervous whenever I had to ask a question more broadly, afraid that I’ll be asking a ‘stupid’ question. Well, there’s no such thing as a stupid question, that’s what they always say and it’s true. Not only does posting in public places make you more visible and known within the organization, asking questions there can help everyone learn together. This also applies if you see someone ask a question that you know the answer to … answer it!

4. Take notes

In a remote setting it can sometimes be difficult for your manager or teammmates to follow all the work you are involved in. Make sure to document as much as possible as these things can really come in handy in performance reviews and even future promotions! Make sure you document important discussions you have, interesting investigations you’ve dug into, and write detailed commit and PR descriptions. You never know when these things will come in handy in the future!

5. The three R’s: Read, Review, wRite

Especially early in your career, reading PRs and design docs written by your teammates can teach you a ton about the codebase you are working on and the general practices of your company. Code wise, I’d even recommend trying to review every PR that gets made on your team (provided your team isn’t too large of course). I know I’ve come across PRs that I didn’t fully understand, but taking those chances to ask clarifying questions is helpful for both your understanding and your teams knowledge sharing. Technical design wise, reading lots of docs written by my team was the best thing I think I’ve done in my first year of full-time. This allowed me to understand what goes into the technical design process and allowed me to feel more comfortable taking on writing technical designs myself.

6. Keep it casual

When working remotely, it’s super easy for all of your interactions with your teammates to be based around work and your current projects, as you miss out on the casual conversations with your team over lunch and during after work activities. These can be added back through coffee chat style 1:1 calls or as a whole team doing game nights or happy hour calls to just chat about non-work things. Although it can be tempting to just keep focusing on your work, if any of these types of invites reach your inbox make sure to click YES!

7. Flex it out

Lastly, I want to stress that anyone in a remote work situation should not ignore the added flexibility that it can provide to your life. Working while travelling to different locations, having more flexible work hours to run errands during non-peak times or just saving some extra time in your mornings are all things that I encourage everyone to take advantage of! There’s nothing better than having full control over how you start your day.