Connor Smyth

Connor sitting in a chair talking

1st Year as a Developer

On April 1st, 2019 I started my first day as a developer at Art & Science. It’s been one year since and I wanted to share some of my more notable experiences and the lessons I have learned along the way.

In the Beginning

Going into the job I was still developing my first app, BlockDown, which is now released on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. I had accumulated most of my experience building software applications as opposed to the web apps and websites that I was going to be building. I knew there was a lot for me to learn and the company’s expectation was that in six months I would be at a place where I can take on projects without much assistance. I was eager to learn and excited about the opportunity to finally show what I was capable of.

Lesson 1: Be Picky

One of the first lessons I learned was that it was certainly worthwhile to take the time to be picky about which offer I selected. I am aware that not everyone is provided the opportunity to choose between multiple offers. That may be due to financial constraints or the job market is just not in a place where there are a lot of openings. But if you are given multiple offers, make sure you take the time to think through your decision. This also applies to when you are given an offer early in your job search but you’re not sure if it’s the right fit.

My choice essentially came down to two offers. One was from a company that made software that did not seem very interesting to work on, but the perks and office environment were very enticing. Also did I mention they offered a larger salary? The other offer was from my current company, Art & Science: a variety of types of work including web, software, and hardware; a cool office; and a great company culture. The two biggest factors in my decision were the type of work my current company is doing and I found my current manager incredibly interesting. This early in my career I knew that more money would come in time, so I wanted to work on things I would feel proud of and that would continue to challenge me every day. I also knew I had found a very valuable mentor.

Lesson 2: Find a Mentor

I have been thinking about a post I’ll write one day called The Invaluable Value of a Mentor (working title), for now, this section will have to do. I believe every developer should have a mentor, preferably more than one. Having mentors in my life has helped me get to where I am today. It’s good to have a technical mentor you can look to but I think it’s more important to have a mentor that can help you navigate the workplace. A mentor can help you find a voice within the company which in turn allows you to ask for the types of projects you are most interested in working on.

I think if you have read any of my other blog posts or you want to read any future ones you will see that I am a big endorser of mentorship. I’ve even gone to events and meet-ups on mentoring and what I’ve noticed is if you want to be successful in your career you need to be able to ask for help from the right people when you need it.

Lesson 3: Everyone Wants You to Succeed

After my first client project, we had a lessons learned where we re-hashed all the things that were both good and bad about it. Although the project succeeded, there were many things that went wrong on the project. One of which was simply due to my capabilities as a developer this early in my career. Now we were all going to talk about it.

What ended up happening was my manager let everyone know that a certain portion of the hours I spent on the project would be allocated towards his budget, instead of toward the client. This is the first time I learned that my manager really cared about my success. His mentality was if I succeed, then we all succeed.

My manager showed me that he didn’t want my first project to be labeled a “failure” by the company. My first project was also months one and two of the six month time time span I was allowed to get my skills up to par. I will always appreciate what he did to help me.

Lesson 4: Be a Part of the Community

Go to conferences, events, meetups or anything of the sort. Even if you take away one little tidbit of knowledge it was worth your time. I think it’s important to meet people in the community and build your personal brand and these are perfect places to do that. I try to attend at least one event per month if I can.

During these times of pandemic, it’s also good to be a part of the online community. Things like having your own blog, posting in technical forums, and using platforms like Twitter are all great ways to build and maintain an online presence.


I think what I’ve learned most of all during this year is that it is good to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’re curious about something take the leap of faith to explore that curiosity even if you’re scared.

Also if you are interested in finding out more about my manager you can see his Twitter here