Last year, as part of a series of posts, I asked: “Are you investing in your own career?“. This, in part, came about from a great quote that heard:
Do you have 10 years experience, or 1 year’s experience repeated 10 times?
I think the majority of developers starting out are fired up and excited every day. Everything is new, everything is a challenge. Just getting something to work, no matter how is a success.
It can also be amazingly frustrating and tiring to be constantly learning and actively building your knowledge / skill-set. It’s probably not a surprise therefore that it is so easy/appealing to back off a little bit for a break once you have learnt enough to satisfy the day job. Similar to overtraining in sport, it’s probably even a good idea – no one can do anything flat out indefinitely.
But what happens when you just continue backing off? The hard truth is, rather than continuing to build your experience, you do slowly start to fall into the trap of just repeating the same year over again. Yes, in the second year, you feel more productive in that your starting point is higher, but for the most part that’s it – you don’t really become any more productive or learn anything new over the course of that year.
So what’s the solution? I personally think the answer boils down to these two points:
- Know the frameworks that you are using inside out, and
- Continue learning new stuff like you’re a junior developer again.
If your company/team uses Entity Framework, Angular, ‘insert any framework here’ then read up about it, try new things to see what else it can do. Maybe even schedule a team hackathon to learn together. But don’t stop there, look at the everyday stuff you use all the time. Are you just scraping the surface of C#, ObjectiveC/Swift, Java or whatever language you use in your day job? Look at the “What’s new” for each release, find blogs, podcasts, etc to help widen your net of information.
Pick something new to learn, maybe native mobile development (if you’re a web developer) or a completely new language (F# if you’re an accomplished C# dev). Maybe even look at a common time sink in your day to day coding and look to see if there’s a new or different framework/methodology that would improve your and your team’s productivity.
No matter how many races a runner may have won in the past (and records they’ve set), if they’ve stopped putting in the training miles then they should expect to be beaten in a race by someone who is committing the effort and is, therefore, better prepared. Being a developer is no different – but it is our brain, not our legs, that we must be constantly training to stay ‘match fit’.
The one bit of advice I wish I’d received much earlier in my career is: Saying yes to one thing means that you are always saying no to something else! It seems pretty obvious when you think about it, as time is finite. So every little task you take on is consuming a part of that finite resource. When you’re starting out, you’re probably ‘time rich / cash poor’ which is probably the worst combination . . .
I can still remember my first phone interview for a job. I had no idea what to expect so really wasn’t looking forward to it, but it can’t have gone too badly because I got the job. Now that I’ve been lucky enough to progress in my career to positions where I’m conducting the other side of the phone interview I’ve been quite surprised how little it takes to stand out from the crowd: 1. . . .