Recently, I was in a position where I was the only developer assigned to my project. Not for too long, as it turned out, but initially, I didn’t know how long I’d have to fly solo. As a more junior-level developer, the thought of working alone for an indeterminate amount of time was terrifying. However, I managed to overcome some of that fear and uncertainty by utilizing a few strategies.
1. Plan Ahead
At first glance, this may seem obvious, or at least a non-issue, but planning ahead is a key strategy to working alone for some amount of time. You probably have a backlog of work already, and the project may already be headed in a certain direction. However, I found it valuable to plan my time even more specifically than usual.
Breaking down stories into thorough task lists and taking note of what each task will require is a good way to help discover the knowns and unknowns of the work ahead of you. For me, it put some uncertainty to rest.
2. Confide in Coworkers
I was pretty anxious about being the only developer on my project, and part of that anxiety stemmed from wanting to appear that I could totally handle it in the eyes of my coworkers and clients.
But after thinking about it, I realized that my coworkers should all be informed about the way I feel about work. After all, my success is their success, too. So I sat down with the people I work with closely and let them know about my anxiety surrounding the situation, how I expected it to potentially affect my work, and how I thought they could help.
It can feel awkward to be vulnerable like that, but of course, everyone was very receptive and helpful. And it turns out that just talking through my fears with others helped to clear up some of the anxiety I had in the first place.
3. Think about Onboarding
After a (thankfully) brief stint of working solo, I found out that my project would be getting a couple more developers. But I knew that developers can’t just join a project and start crushing features in one day. And I definitely knew that I wanted the other devs to be able to start making higher-level technical decisions as soon as possible, to save me from handling it all by myself.
What helped here was to consider how I would onboard new team members as I was working by myself. Thinking about how to tour the codebase with new devs and what feature work could provide a holistic view of the project helped me get my new teammates onboarded quickly so they could share, and then fully handle the technical leadership of the project.
By using these three strategies, I felt better equipped to handle solo work. Now on a team with more developers, I feel more comfortable providing leadership and even being an authority on some parts of the project. It helped turn a stressful, challenging situation into a great learning experience.