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Taking the leap: A junior developer's experience joining Grafana Labs

Taking the leap: A junior developer's experience joining Grafana Labs

22 Mar, 2023 8 min

It’s been nine months since I joined Grafana Labs, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to become a junior frontend developer in the Grafana Frontend Platform team. 

That’s not to say I didn’t have any trepidation. I’d made a career switch into software development only a few years ago, which made me question if I could measure up here. Thankfully, those doubts have turned out to be unfounded. 

My role has helped me expand my knowledge and skills in web development and broaden my point of view. In this blog post, I’ll dig a little deeper into my time here so far and discuss in detail the impact this experience has had on me. I also hope it serves as inspiration for others looking to take their own leap, whether that means applying here at Grafana Labs or making any other career move they’re unsure about.

Handling uncertainty: Am I a good fit for the job?

I first came across the opening for my current position when a Grafanista publicly shared that she was looking for a senior developer on her team. I responded by saying, “It’s a pity you’re not looking for a junior,” at which point she said there would be an opening soon.

This was great to hear, but there was a problem: I had little to no knowledge of Grafana Labs. My previous experience as a frontend developer was limited to a small local company from Galicia, Spain, that was focused on digital marketing. 

However, I had friends who were working with Grafana in their daily professional life and they provided me with valuable, open, and honest insights about their experiences with the tool. They considered Grafana Labs to be a leading company in the observability sector and thought it would be a great place to learn and grow as a junior developer.

Despite this positive feedback, I still had my doubts when the opportunity to join the team arose. In my previous company, I had quickly progressed to a position of mentorship and leadership. Now, I faced the possibility of starting over as a beginner — again. Would less than two years of experience as a developer be enough to join the team? Would I fit in at an international, open source company?

Even though I had doubts, I knew that my reservations were not related to the company itself; I was impressed by its cultural values and the information I had gathered. Instead, my concerns stemmed from the gap between my current level of expertise and the new challenges I would be facing. Would it be worth it?

But you know the end of this story: I decided to embrace the journey and focus on the new opportunities and learning experiences that lay ahead. I knew that this opportunity would not come again and I wanted to make the most of it.

Adapting to a new way of working

From the onset, Grafana Labs challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, and not just in terms of using English as my primary language at work.

Throughout the majority of my working life, mostly as a graphic designer, I have frequently encountered situations where individuals place blame on others for mistakes, belittle employees due to their lack of experience or low status within the company, criticize people for putting family above work, or prioritize overtime over efficiency.

But as a software engineer, I’ve experienced a completely different work culture. This has allowed me to not only appreciate the advantages of remote work but also to feel that everyone’s opinion is heard, no matter the role. I also noticed everyone was considered a colleague with different responsibilities and specialities, rather than being labeled as bosses, managers, assistants, seniors, or juniors. This has been a welcome change, and my current experience at Grafana Labs has taken this concept to a whole new level.

The Grafana Frontend Platform team meets for an offsite.
Meeting in person for an offsite gave us the chance to share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, with the aim to enhance our team spirit and improve our work.

Today, there are more than 850 Grafanistas in 40+ countries around the world, with different cultures and ways of thinking. This goes to show that the environment is open-minded, friendly, respectful, and supportive. Every comment is accepted and considered; every mistake leads to learning, not blaming; every question has an answer; and every time someone gets stuck, there is a hand to help.

Working remotely is a core aspect of our company and not just a way to avoid daily commutes. Born as a remote-first company, Grafana Labs allows for flexibility in balancing professional and personal responsibilities. As a mother of a three-year-old kid, I greatly appreciate the ability to adjust my work schedule for doctor’s appointments, to take time off for childcare, or even to skip a meeting if I don’t feel 100%. For me it is a 50-50 relationship: I try to do my best and my company understands and respects my commitments and needs.

Every single day I enjoy the challenge of getting used to this new way of working.

Trust through transparent and honest communication

Grafana was created as open source software, and transparency and honesty are core values that are deeply ingrained in the company’s DNA. We are proud of the strong and supportive community that has developed around Grafana and grateful for their support and contributions. It has been inspiring to see our community members actively collaborating with us. To nurture this relationship, open and honest communication is essential.

When it comes to teamwork, the fact that each member is working from different locations and has their own obligations highlights the importance of effective communication. As a team, we strive to not only deliver great products together, but to grow personally and professionally as individuals as well. By fostering an environment of mutual respect and honesty, we are able to give and receive effective feedback. This has proven to be a valuable tool for me in overcoming the impostor syndrome.

On overcoming imposter syndrome

Have you ever felt like you are not as efficient as you should be? Blamed yourself for not knowing something your colleagues did? Or just felt you are not good enough to be working at your current company?

This is very common. My key to overcoming it is to remind myself that I’ve passed the interviewing process by being totally sincere with who I am and what I can or cannot do. I also make it a priority to trust and value the feedback of my peers and manager. This way, if I ever start to feel lost or unsure, I know they will be there to guide me back on track.

Being honest with oneself is also important. Admitting when we are stuck or unsure allows us to ask for help. This is fundamental, especially in remote work.

A never-ending field of knowledge

As someone who possesses a strong passion for learning, I have always been driven to create, build, and make things. From a young age, I have been drawn to a wide range of activities such as constructing 3D puzzles; painting with acrylic, oil, and watercolors; baking; dancing; and sewing. And it’s not just a hobby for me, as my three professional certificates in audiovisual, graphic design, and web development can attest.

Now, imagine joining a company where, as a junior, the primary expectation is to immerse yourself in learning and hands-on practice. It is a dream come true for me.

Grafana Labs encourages the professional development of its employees by providing a wide range of opportunities for knowledge acquisition. The company offers internal courses and workshops that cover not only technical, communication, and leadership skills, but also mental and emotional well-being. Furthermore, each employee is allocated a yearly learning and development budget for external resources that improve both team and personal expertise.

As I see it, Grafana Labs is an adventure in a never-ending field of exploration and learning, not only in terms of the knowledge it provides, but also through its community full of diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and personalities from which to learn.

Great people, amazing team

I recently had the opportunity to attend an off-site event and engage with members of the Grafana Frontend Platform team. I had a blast!

Despite being part of the same team, there were people there I had never talked to before the trip. As someone who tends to be shy, one might assume that I would have difficulty forming new connections. However, this was not the case. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, friendly, and excited to be at the offsite. It felt more like one of those family gatherings where no one has seen each other in a while but everyone quickly hits it off like no time had passed at all.

The Grafana Frontend Platform team socializes as part of its offsite.
An offsite is not just about teamwork, but also about enjoying time off together.

Meeting my peers face-to-face, without the barrier of a screen, was a strange experience. I could touch them! They were real and not AIs! They were just as friendly, kind, and fun to be with as they had been in remote interactions. That proved I had made the right decision in becoming a Grafanista.

Learn more about the Grafana Labs team and our remote-first culture, and find out how you can become an official Grafanista by visiting our careers page.