The #1 Mistake Junior Software Developers Make in Their Code

Dan Pickett

By Dan Pickett

April 20, 2022


Picture it: you’re a junior software developer, fresh out of a degree program, coding bootcamp, or self-taught training. And, you’re looking for that very first software engineering job to set the trajectory for your new career. 

You’ll need a solid resume that tells a compelling story about you. But the most important thing a hiring manager will review is your portfolio of coding projects. Software engineering has always been more about showing than telling. When a recruiter looks at your portfolio, it tells them a lot about your work and whether you’re a qualified candidate for the job.

It’s not that you need a senior-level portfolio: you’re a junior software developer applying for an entry-level position, and hiring managers know that. But, if they see a red flag in your portfolio, you may be disqualified for the job immediately (even if you’re actually capable of doing the work). 

Keep reading to learn the #1 mistake we see junior developers make in their portfolios—and how to avoid it.

Coding at Scale: The Big Mistake Junior Software Developers Make

 When a hiring or technical manager reviews a candidate’s portfolio, they’re not just looking for clean code. They want to know if you have the skills to fit into their organization. And if your code isn’t built for scale, it’s a big red flag that you might not be the right fit. 

In fact, the #1 reason hiring managers disqualify junior software engineers for jobs is because their code can’t scale.

What does coding at scale mean exactly? There are three main elements:

Code that scales is adaptable

Your code needs to have some flexibility built into its design. A hiring manager doesn’t need your code to be perfect. But they will ask, “Can we build off of this code? Can we expand on it?” 

If your code would require a ton of rework to get it to function under a different set of circumstances, it may not have the adaptability that companies are looking for.

Code that scales anticipates a large volume of data

Your portfolio may contain a project that involves 1,000 records—and the code may work beautifully. But, what if you have 1,000,000 records? Will your code work quickly and effectively in that situation, too? 

Here’s an example: You’re writing a change that will impact a database table. To enact the change, you need to update that field from a number to a string. 

Most junior code portfolios would load all the records in memory, update them all, and send them back to the database. But that approach won’t be functional if you have millions or even trillions of rows in the system! In production, you’ll quickly run out of memory and crash the instance you’re working on!

Code that scales handles errors well

As a student, what happens when your code breaks? You go back in and fix it. In the working world, if your code breaks, your company could lose thousands of dollars waiting to get it up and running again. Remember when Facebook went down for a day in October 2021? The company lost nearly $100 million dollars in ad revenue! 

Now you see why having code that anticipates and handles errors is key to coding at scale. Incorporate exception handling into your portfolio projects. If you’re talking to an API, is it available and up? If you’re talking to a database, are there resources to be able to issue queries? Consider what happens when the answer is no? The code in your portfolio needs to gracefully handle these kinds of exceptions, and make a lot of noise when something goes awry.

Set Yourself Up for Hiring Success

Now that you know what hiring managers are looking for, you can avoid getting a big red flag on your portfolio by submitting code that can’t scale. You may not be experienced at coding for scale—yet. But hopefully, you have a teacher or mentor who can review your portfolio and help you make it as strong as possible. ​​With a little work, you can be the junior software engineer that companies are looking for!

We know how important it is to land that first job as a software developer. That’s why our coding bootcamp includes career support for every student—and why we have so many success stories!

Want to learn more about the Launch Academy experience? Check out our syllabus for all the details!