Day in the Life of a Startup Software Engineer

Alan Truong (Head of Engineering @ EntryLevel), Adrian Groch (Software Engineer @ Pendula), Dale Baldwin (Senior Software Engineer @ Culture Amp), Jared Fraser (Director of Engineering @ Mr Yum), Khushbu Patel (Software Engineer @ Atlassian), John Wesley Salvador (Senior Software Engineer @ Zeller), Pratik Ghimire (Engineering Manager @ Car Next Door)

Authored by engineering leaders from Culture Amp, Mr Yum, Atlassian, Car Next Door, Pendula, Entry Level and Zeller

Day in the Life of a Startup Software Engineer

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Alan Truong (Head of Engineering @ EntryLevel)

What is the first month like?

Depending on the stage of the company, this might be different. Some companies might be hiring because they NEED some work done in a short amount of time so you may be thrown in the deep end without much help (I’d be wary of companies like this as this mean they often don’t have good management)

Other companies may be hiring because they raised and need to expand their team but will step through through the hoops in a more organised manner

Most (reasonable) startups won’t throw a junior developer in the deep end and expect them to know everything within the first month.

What you should cover in the first month: 

  • Get to know the team members: Understand the roles and responsibilities of members on your team. Introduce yourself to others on the team 
  • Set up a few 1-1s with your engineering manager: It is a good idea to reach out to them if they haven't’ already done so and tell them you would like to plan a roadmap of how your first 1,3,6 months look like, any goals you want to achieve within the company, their expectations of the work and what success looks like to them
  • Familiarise yourself with the engineering processes and codebase: How development methodologies does the engineering team use to develop, iterate and push out features - agile (most popular),  waterfall etc. Familiarise yourself with the codebase.  
  • Start developing and pushing code: You might be assigned to a small feature, probably something not too critical if you don’t do it well. Some managers might not give you a lot of scope or assistance to see how well you naturally work. But remember to ask a lot of questions - there is no such thing as a dumb question.

Adrian Groch (Software Engineer @ Pendula)

What is the first month like?

It really depends on what stage you are in in your career, and what stage of its maturity the company is at. This is actually a great question to ask in the interview - “What do my first 4, 8 and 12 weeks look like here?”

I’d say the first month, you’d spend about 1-2 weeks getting familiar with the code base, tooling, and engineering process. Within the first 3 weeks you’d have been expected to have opened your first PR and reviewed someone else’s PR. 

What does a normal day look like?

Honestly, it’s probably most like other dev jobs.

In the earlier days of a startup, it’s probably more chaotic/has more emphasis on what’s happening with the companies/sales - i.e. working on something for an upcoming demo/pitch, but in the dev side it’s much for muchness:

Get into the office, get a coffee, check emails/notifications/slack etc, have standup, review some PRs, work on tickets, lunch, review PRs, work on tickets.

Taken from (https://qr.ae/pGqEeg):

  • You may be coding all hours to get the product ready for release.
  • You may be designing software architecture, or told how to build things.
  • You may find yourself doing IT support type work alongside coding.
  • Maybe you'll be needed to be involved with buying equipment or doing accounts.
  • What I'm trying to say is, if you're early in, you may be doing pretty much anything.

Dale Baldwin (Senior Software Engineer @ Culture Amp)

What is the first month like?

This will vary greatly depending on the startup. A good startup will give you time to settle in, meet people and get an understanding of the company and its culture. 

Others will expect you to get code and local environments up and running within the first week if not the first day so you can start at least understanding the codebase. 

This is definitely something you should be asking about during interviews. If you don’t get a solid answer then I would be wary. 

What does a normal day look like?

No two startups are alike so this will change between companies but I would assume at least a standup meeting with the team and then most of the day diving into delivery code. If you are just starting out don’t expect to be flying in and out of meetings all day.

As a junior engineer, I see your primary responsibility being to learn as much as possible and try to grow as an engineer. Secondary to that is assisting your team in delivering on their goals and deliverables.

Jared Fraser (Director of Engineering @ Mr Yum)

What is the first month like?

This will differ per company and role, something you should clarify during the interview. 

For those breaking into the industry the first month will be pure learning.  You will learn how the company communicates with different departments, how the engineering team writes code, and delivers products to production.

What does a normal day look like?

Generally the morning is typically taken up with discussions on work in progress and solution design. Use this time to understand what you are building and how you're going to tackle it, get your team members across it for their feedback early in the process so you don’t have to rewrite code after you’ve put too much work into it. 

Take time to review other developers' code to understand how their features work and learn from their solutions. 

Ensure you can get a few hours of productive development time during the day.

Pro tip: Book development time into your own calendar will allow other people to schedule meetings around your development, allowing uninterrupted coding time!

Khushbu Patel (Software Engineer @ Atlassian)

What is the first month like?

The first month will be hard. 

Everyone around you will be working like die hard and you won’t know what to do as you are still learning about the steps ahead. 

The first month will be about:

  • learning what’s going on
  • adjusting to the speed
  • learning the processes (which are sometimes missing or not as proper as you would see in big organisations)
  • learning the environment.


There will be more self-learning but it will help you to be independent for tasks and make your own mistakes to learn.

John Wesley Salvador (Senior Software Engineer @ Zeller)

What is the first month like?

  • If you’re a junior, lots of training
  • If you’re a senior, just an introduction and will be given your first task on the same day you joined


What does a normal day look like?

You usually start with a standup meeting (talking about what you’ve done the previous day, what is the focus today, and if you have any blockers that’s preventing you from doing your tasks). Pre-covid, there’s a lot of face to face impromptu discussions about tech and tasks, now it has gone more quiet and you can get.

Your responsibilities would be:

  • Build new features
  • Maintain current features
  • Unit test everything :)
  • Suggest improvements



Pratik Ghimire (Engineering Manager @ Car Next Door)

What does a normal day look like?

A typical day would involve working with a product manager or business analyst, team lead and fellow team members. The scope of the responsibility is generally within the task or team. The tickets are kicked off with a team lead who would already have a solution ready and with their guidance you would be developing a solution. Code review of fellow team member’s work.

You responsibilities would be to:

  • Write efficient, maintainable and tested code that the rest of the team can rely on and refactor
  • Review peer code
  • Refactor and optimize code and database queries
  • Fix bugs and support team members

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