What is a code review and why is it important for every junior?
To build high-quality software, teams must regularly review and test their code. Code reviews are an integral part of the software development process as they enable developers to approach their work from a critical lens, fix errors, improve code quality, as well as learn from one another while doing so. Code reviews are widely used not only by software developers but data scientists, analyst, data engineers as well!
Although it may seem like code reviews should only be performed by senior developers because of their expertise, that’s far from the truth. Code reviews are excellent peer-to-peer learning opportunities where more students are allowed to review code for their juniors. The juniors, in turn, do the same for their juniors which effectively creates an expansive review chain. Let’s deep dive into code reviews and their benefits for junior developers.
What is a code review?
A code review is a process by which a developer examines someone else’s code to check for bugs and inconsistencies and to make sure that it complies with relevant code guidelines. The reviewer scans the code to ensure that it is free of errors and ready to be implemented.
The reviewer must possess sufficient knowledge to pick up on errors or gaps in the code. This does not mean that code reviews fall solely under the purview of senior developers. Less-experienced team members are also often domain experts that possess the programming knowledge required to run code reviews. By not limiting the distribution of reviewing duties to a select few, teams can also make the review process faster and more efficient, preventing delays and blocks in other aspects of the software development life cycle.
Why should junior developers do code reviews?
The bottom line is that code reviews are crucial to preventing error-laden and incomplete code from slipping through the cracks and affecting the quality of your product. In addition to revealing bugs, code reviews are also instrumental in helping identify edge cases and ensuring that the code is written such that it is readable and can be maintained in the long term. By helping developers catch and fix errors earlier rather than later in the development process, reviews also save companies the costs and compromises in quality that come with quick fixes in later stages.
While code reviews are an essential component of any quality check process in the software development life cycle, here are a few ways in which they contribute to a junior developer’s learning and growth, as well as help them make meaningful contributions to the development of the product.
Code reviews are learning opportunities
The point is not to leave as many comments as possible which are likely to demotivate the new developer but to familiarize them with coding best practices. They should see if there are any learnings they can take back with them and apply in following assignments.
Since many companies expect developers to be able to conduct reviews, junior developers, especially, find it difficult to fit in if they don’t know how to conduct code reviews. However, learning from an online school like Turing College can help them fit in since we give our code reviews and teach them how to do it for younger developers.
Internalize coding standards and best practices
Different teams may prioritize different aspects of code, such as scalability or style. By performing code reviews for junior developers, senior programmers can teach them what best practices look like when put into action. This can help reduce any confusion they may have and inculcate in them the practice of ensuring that their code meets team standards.
Contribute a different perspective
Once a piece of code is written into the larger codebase for the software, it no longer remains the sole responsibility of the developer that wrote it. In the future, the team may want to make changes to it, or simply need to understand it. If the code is written in a way that only makes sense to the original developer or a few people around them, this can prove to be a bottleneck in the team’s development long-term activities. Junior developers, for instance, may not have the context required to understand that chunk of code.
To avoid this, it is good practice to not only keep in mind that the code needs to be easy to maintain, but also to encourage newbies to review this code. Reviews from the perspectives of senior developers can enable newer team members to write the code in a more digestible manner.
Providing and receiving constructive feedback is an important skill to develop, and code reviews offer the perfect opportunity for junior developers to do so. They can contribute to a culture where asking questions and sharing knowledge among team members is the norm. Encouraging junior developers to perform code reviews for their juniors also helps to increase their confidence so that they make better, more impactful contributions to the software with time.
Increased familiarity with the codebase
Only when developers are trained to look at others’ code can they develop a better understanding of the larger codebase. Reviewers also get to know other developers and their workflows better, including where their expertise lies. This information is especially useful for newer recruits to the team as they can begin to familiarize themselves with the rest of the team, their workflows, and the code. It makes it easier for these developers to know who to reach out to when they have a particular question or problem.
It’s a win-win situation
From increased knowledge of coding practices to meaningful contributions by way of feedback, there are quite a few reasons for junior developers to incorporate code reviews as part of their role. Turing College ensures that its graduates feel confident as they start their first tech jobs. The prospect of providing feedback to developers from working day 1 may seem intimidating now, but our career courses offer the guidance you need to get off on the right foot. By the end of the program our students have received +20 code reviews from more experience or senior developers. Additionally, they do code reviews themselves!
Teams also benefit from distributing that workload and working together to write readable code and improve the software. Although each team may choose to ease new developers into the practice differently, we strongly suggest that they do so. Code reviews are essential to building better software and helping developers grow!