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How I started running a fully remote junior developer team | Reflection Series : Part 1

The previous year, as we all know, was extremely stressful and full of losses which took every single one of us on an unexpected journey. In January we didn’t know what hit us and by August it was absolute mayhem everywhere..

My ‘unexpected journey’ started during the summer months. Although I didn’t know it then, it would change things quite a bit… In this reflection series I’ll be going through last year’s happenings, personal learnings, and mostly, discussing how building a team of complete strangers felt.

Table of contents:

Why did I decide to create a team

Due to the whole COVID-19 situation, just before starting HacktoberFest Challenge, I’ve lost a job I really enjoyed and with that – the support I had from seniors in our tech team. It was a fairly dark time and I didn’t know if I’d find somewhere that supportive again. Once again, instead of waiting for things to happen on their own, I thought I could create my own team of junior developers and be the support for someone else this time.

Trying out HacktoberFest Challenge for the first time

In October 2020 I wanted to participate in the HacktoberFest challenge, organised by Digital Ocean and GitHub. Being very much a junior developer, there were limited amount of GitHub repositories that I could participate in and complete the challenge. So I created my own!

By the end of the month, we counted just over 20 participants and more junior developers got to have their first taste of open-source teamwork. We created personalized cards for ourselves and populated a page you can see here.

I wanted to repeat the experience but unfortunately, this was a once-per-year event and I had to wait for a new one. This is when I started thinking about creating a discord channel for fellow junior developers. Soon after, I made a post in a CodeCademy group to see if anyone would join me, back in January ’21.

I really liked what we’ve done with HacktoberFest Challenge so I tried to find all our contributors and message them to form a group. GitHub didn’t have a messaging feature so I couldn’t get hold of all people who have contributed that easily. Soon enough, a new person (who ended up being someone I’m most proud of) has joined as one of our first members and we (officially) began running a group.

How were decisions made at the begining?

Previous to my career in tech or healthcare, for that matter, I was a gamer. I spent thousands of hours on Call of Duty / CounterStrike games, streaming, making YT videos, running a game review website and most importantly, a large gaming community. To give you an insight of our size, we ran 35 servers across Europe and reached over 30k unique monthly visitors to most popular servers. These servers were paid for and managed by our team of 35 admins, who were all once just regular players.

This particular community was going to be used as a template for the way we built up and made decisions in the Junior Developer Group and how we behaved when given all permissions one can have. Here is a throwback screenshot we took back in 2011 on one of the servers 🎮

Likii and her gaming clan posing in front of a helicopter, on a Call of Duty 4 map called Crash

Once we knew what we wanted to build – we needed rules. We needed to know what tools are we using and what are we building. We needed to get to know each other and identify all the problems time zones would soon create.

We did all of this by creating a one-hour (well, sometimes longer) Friday Focus Session that would repeat every week at 7 pm UK Time.

Here is where we’d start discussing all of this and soon – much more!

Decision to grow our Junior Developer Group

Once there was a clear plan and we knew what kind of community we wanted to build, we started inviting members.

All our members were individually selected to start with. This meant I would send individual messages to each new member, introduced myself, and tell them about the group, how I imagined it all to work, and asked if they’d like to join me.

Everyone I spoke to at the time got very excited and we slowly started building the team we have today.

It has been very many months since then. We recently had our 30th Friday Focus Session just before going on a Summer break. In the last couple of months, we’ve got quite a bit done – which wouldn’t be possible without Atlassian’s Jira team and their Open Source Licences 💙

To read more about our journey come back for a Part 2 of Reflection Series which will focus on the challenges we faced in the first couple of months..or follow me on socials to get updated when a new post goes live 🤗

Until next time,
Likii

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