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The Ben Franklin Effect and software developer career advice

Are you a new programmer in need of a quick and simple way to blend in with your team? Here's some career advice from none other than Benjamin Franklin that might help you do just that.

I used to give bad career advice to new developers, but U.S. founding father Benjamin Franklin has shown the folly of my ways.

In the past, my software developer career advice for a new job was to lay low, work hard, let the work speak for itself. Team leads are busy. They don't need the new hire to constantly tug on their pants, asking what comes next. A good developer should be able to figure that out with minimal guidance.

It shouldn't be that difficult to determine the next task, given how Agile development methods and ticket tracking tools like Jira and ServiceNow make the required next steps clear to finish the current sprint.

But I'm stepping back a bit from this software developer career advice. I'm no longer convinced that hiding away in a cubicle and simply concentrating on newly completed user story submissions is the best approach for a new hire. Franklin has convinced me otherwise and has altered my perspective.

Software developer career advice from Franklin

"He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged," is an old Franklin quote. It's more about making friends with your neighbors than software developer career advice, but I think it equally applies.

This thought process is also known as the "Ben Franklin Effect." The main concept is that people actually like doing favors for other people because it makes them feel useful. My new software developer career advice is to ask your co-workers for a simple favor or two in the first week of the job. Don't make it a gargantuan task, but don't make it trivial either. Maybe ask for help on how to set up a printer, an overview of the team's Git development strategy, how to access the local Maven repository or how to obtain a parking pass.

Advice for software developers

Again, people like doing favors for other people. A meaningful interaction makes the new programmer more familiar to others on the team, which in turn builds a better bond than a quick head nod or a short introduction at the daily stand-up.

Fit in as the new programmer

He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.
Benjamin Franklin

The other curious benefit of the Ben Franklin Effect is that when you do a favor for someone, it makes them more likely to ask you for a future favor in return. When you follow through and return that favor, you've proven to be a dependable person willing to reciprocate. This leads to trust, trust leads to friendship, friendship strengthens teams and the end result is both increased productivity and a strong sense of community among the people with whom you work.

There is virtue in independence and an ability to work productively with minimal guidance, but that virtue can turn into a fault if the end result is a degree of invisibility from the team. Sound software developer career advice is to take advantage of the Ben Franklin Effect.

When you're a new developer, reach out to others on your team and in your organization. Ask for the occasional favor, and when asked to perform one in return, be quick to do so. It will help make you a pivotal member of the team.

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