Being an amazing developer doesn’t start and end with just learning to code. Here are online AND offline habits to form to soar as a developer:
1. Experiment and Don’t Be Afraid to Break Things
A major part of being a developer is being willing to experiment, understanding how things function, and sometimes, messing up. Whether you’re a beginner or senior developer, you’re allowed to make mistakes. In fact, you should make them. Experts in any industry still mess up from time to time. It shouldn’t be viewed as a weakness or counter-productive because it drives us forward and pushes us to improve.
The people who try, mess up, learn from it, and keep going are the ones who will achieve success. Making a mistake could actually be the best way to find a solution that you may not have thought of on your own.
2. Develop Debugging Skills
Web developers spend a ton of time debugging and most of them dread it (at least at the start of their code careers). But the truth is that debugging is a core skill for every successful developer which means it’s essential for you to become pretty dang good at it.
What’s debugging? It’s the process for identifying and solving errors in software. Maybe your app crashed or didn’t do something it’s expected to do. Your job is to go through and fix it. The better you get at debugging code, the better you get at writing code.
If you’ve read any of our other blogs, you probably know how much we emphasize networking as a web developer even if you’re not looking for another job. We all know how fast innovation is happening and technology is progressing. There are tons of people who are terrified of getting left behind because they don’t have the skill set to keep up. How do we kick that fear to the curb and make sure your skillset stays up to date?
One way is to network. By making friends within the industry, you’re branching out from where you work to make friends and learn more in a social setting. Networking makes it easier to discuss things freely and not feel scared to ask questions. Talk to your colleagues about what they’ve been working on and learning. You could even ask them about any recent challenges and how they got through it.
You can also head to different trainings and conferences to get a better understanding of your industry straight from the pros and, of course, make new connections while you’re there. If you want something a little bit smaller (and free), check out local Meetups that are going on in the community.
4. Be Generous with Your Knowledge
Share your knowledge even if you’re just getting started. You might be thinking: “Huh?? I don’t have any knowledge to share because I’m just starting out!” The point is that you got started. You don’t have to be a best-selling author or a major tech event speaker. If you got started in web development and just made a Hello World website, you’re already more knowledgeable about the subject than others.
Sharing what you’ve learned not only positions you as a leader and someone who can be trusted, it also helps reinforce your learning and helps you remember what’s important. After some time, you’ll develop a deep understanding of the concepts you were taught just by walking others through it.
5. Work as a Team Player
Once you’ve landed a job as a software engineer, you’ll be working with other developers and engineers and may even work with marketing, sales, or directly with clients. If a company’s team doesn’t work well together, it’s going to be a nightmare to get projects done. This goes for those who work remotely, too. Being able to work on a team is vital to success. I’ll pause here so that you can read that again.
But working as a team player extends into your code. Someone else, at some point, will end up reading or working with your code (plus you’ll thank yourself later when you have to come back to it).
How do you write clean code? The first and easiest way is to use whitespace. Make your code easily read by using indents, line breaks, and blank lines. Also, be sure to use clear names for different variables and functions. Even when you do this, there are some things may still require further explanation. Use comments to clarify.
Finally, no matter what your style is for coding, make sure that you stay consistent. Pick a set of practices and stick to them throughout the entire project.
6. Remember Accessibility
The beauty of the internet is how it’s given people around the world the ability to access information. Think about it… You can even pick up an entirely new skill completely online now. This brings up the importance of web accessibility. Accessibility means making the internet available to be used by everyone regardless of disabilities.
Unfortunately, web accessibility is often overlooked especially considering how simple the standards are.
It’s going to take a little extra time to include web accessibility, but it isn’t hard to do. It’s much more work to go back to old projects and update them to be accessible which is why I’m emphasizing the importance of remembering it and making it a habit. You’ll follow web accessibility standards right off the bat any time you start a new project and never have to backtrack.
To put it simply- taking the few extra hours to make your site more accessible makes the difference between thousands of people being able to visit and interact with your site to get the information they need.
7. Willingness to Evolve
Continuous learning and adapting is crucial to your success as a web developer. We all know how rapidly technology is evolving. The only way to stay afloat in this industry is by being a lifelong learner. Lots of people risk their job and feel threatened by not making an effort to stay up to date on the latest tools and technology.
To keep up, web developers and engineers have to keep improving, learning, testing, and updating. In other words, we’re emphasizing continuous learning and not continuous education. It’d be impossible for developers to go back to school every time they need to learn new skills. Continuous learning doesn’t need to be complex. Staying up to date with industry trends can be a simple, regular thing that you do in your daily life. For example, subscribe to relevant newsletters and blogs. Take some time to read blogs and forums.
Let’s quickly go back to the topic of debugging. Once you’ve fixed the bug, it’s important to understand why. Your first instinct will probably be to move on since you just spent hours figuring it out and don’t want to continue dwelling on it. But it’s important to go back and analyze the situation, figure out what exactly happened to break AND fix it, and list actionable steps for you to follow to not make the same mistake again. Glossing over mistakes and issues guarantees that you’ll make the same errors over and over again.
Hopefully from this list, you were able to identify where your strengths are and what areas you could improve on. But the very first step to being a great developer is getting started.