If you’re a software developer, it’s not uncommon for you to think about how you can grow in your career track. This is especially true during a time when remote work is becoming increasingly common, developers are more in demand than ever, and it’s increasingly difficult to compete in a fierce job market where only the most talented coders are considered for six-figure positions.
With the aforementioned points in mind, you’ll likely reach a point where you realize your technical skills shouldn’t be stagnant. Your knowledge of Docker, Java, Kubernetes, or a detailed Helm chart can only get you so far. If you want to learn how you can become a better software developer, here’s what you can do:
Open source projects are a great way to refine your technical skills. You can open issues for bugs you find, contribute code to open source, and become a maintainer or collaborator. There are many developers that shy away from open source because it requires an unpaid time commitment, but you’ll find that there are far greater rewards—even if they lack immediate financial benefit.
Contributing to open-source software allows you to better read and decipher code, gain feedback from other programmers, and increase peer and community recognition. Furthermore, it can be a highly rewarding experience that can even improve your job prospects. Many tech companies scour an applicant’s Github history to see what they’ve worked on and contributed to. This is a great place for you to prove your abilities.
Focus on the User Experience
As a software developer, it can be difficult to really understand users beyond the data you’ve collected and metrics you’ve measured. Perhaps honing in on the user experience is a job that’s delegated completely to your marketing department and your role is too far removed from real users. However, if you make an effort to close the gap between yourself and your users, not only will it help improve your product, but it can also show initiative.
There are many ways you can approach this. For example, you might want to interview a real user to gain an in-depth perspective of what it’s like to navigate your software. You could also spend some time attending to support tickets to give you a first person glance at your customer issues and user experiences. Did you know that Jeff Bezos routinely addresses customer service emails and calls to gain a better understanding of user roadblocks and how he can better solve their problems? The same concept can be applied to your development growth.
Join a Community
Learning new skills alone isn’t always fun. Furthermore, the software development process can be isolating. To combat this, consider joining a community that aligns with your goals to grow as a software developer. If you’re tight on time, you can join tech-related online chat forums and groups online.
Otherwise, you should participate in local meetups which you can find on platforms like Meetup.com. Another great place to network and meet like-minded people is at technology and industry conferences. When possible, it also helps to find a mentor who can provide invaluable feedback that will aid your growth and trajectory.
Although you’re encouraged to broaden your horizons and learn different programming languages and stacks, there’s much more to being a great developer than having a general knowledge of different things. At the same time, you should also hone in your technology and layer of choice. Once you’ve decided on a layer, start adopting best practices and acquire a deep specialization in your stack.
Focus on specialized fundamentals—the specifics surrounding certain frameworks and languages used within particular contexts. For instance, it might be easy to think that you have a thorough understanding of how to write functional code and that you also understand the underlying processes behind it. But many developers don’t understand why or how things work. If you’ve ever arrived at the right conclusion for a math problem but couldn’t show your work, this is a great example of knowing what to do but not how it happens. Having a solid foundation in a niche also makes it easier to pick up new technologies later down the line