Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.
Paul J. Meyer
I have been working as a software developer for over fifteen years now. I have made a few mistakes and learned a lot of lessons, some the hard way. I want to share with you a few tips I have picked up over the years. I think if I knew these when I started I would have save myself some pain along the route.
1. Find a mentor or become a mentor
Throughout my career I have had many mentors that have given me guidance on all aspects. As my roles have changed at different companies I have reached out to may people for advice. I will say early on I thought I knew how to figure it all out, as I have gained experience I have learned it is beneficial to ask for advice. I have even wrote about this before here. Once you become established it will help you to find someone to mentor. This can be a great way for you to give back and grow even more.
2. Learn to ask good questions
I learned early on how you will reach the limits of your knowledge, so you need to search for answers. Developers are constantly searching for information the internet on how to fix or do something. One important skill is learning how to ask questions to other developers and experts online. Stackoverflow has a pretty good page on how to ask a good question. In my work before Stackoverflow it was usually spent in various different websites depending on the issue you were looking at.
3. Engage the local developer community
I live in a fairly small market town, Des Moines, Iowa. We have a lot of great developer communities here in Des Moines. For instance we have great Java and .Net user groups, as well as Agile, Quality Assurance, and Project Manager groups. The meetings for these groups are a great way to meet people who are encountering the same issues you are.
4. Get certified
One good way to set yourself apart is to get a certification in whatever field your in. As a Java developer I have twice completed the Java certification. I am actually in the process now to take my Java 7 OCA exam in about one month. The Javarevisited blog went over 10 reasons to become Java certified here.
5. Read the classics
I wrote a blog post about 3 classics for every developer, but there are many more out there. The three I spoke about are a good start for any young developer. We must keep reading as go through our developer career as new technologies will come out and we must keep up!
6. Understand your team roles
A few years ago I was having issues with coding some changes and they were creating defects. I finally decided to sit down with one of our Quality Assurance team members and review their test plan. Once I understood how they tested the application I was better able to develop better quality solutions. Then later on I became a Scrum Master for our team and learned even more about each team members role. This helped me put together the whole puzzle and understand how it all fits.
7. Present on a topic
If you want to learn about something present it to group. It can be intimidating to do this but, it will force you to put the time and effort into learning something. I have done this at work and for a few conferences and it will push you to develop your communication skills that are very important for your career to grow.
8. Start a blog
I started my blog about a year ago and when I first started 200 words seemed like a lot. Now that I have done this for awhile I can knock out quite a bit more in no time. Along with your spoken communication, the written word is helpful in conveying your message to other developers and to your colleagues at your company or organization.