Published: August 1, 2020

• 4 minute Read

5 Tips for Becoming a Better Developer

After working as a professional developer for some years now, there are some things I wish I knew in the beginning that I had to learn along the way.

Tip #1: Be okay with not knowing everything

There are so many different programming languages and frameworks and technologies, it’s nearly impossible to know everything about every single one of them. Even if you choose one language or one framework , assuming it’s a currently maintained one, it's constantly changing and being improved upon.

Take iOS development for example. Developers needed to know Objective-C when the iOS SDK first became available in 2008. And in 2014, Apple released Swift, an entirely new language, and that became the new standard for iOS app development. Then in 2019, Apple introduced SwiftUI that had its own new ways of how apps are developed and even thought about architecturally. Even through the years where there were no drastic language changes, there were languages and feature changes as the iOS version increased every practically year.

There is always something for developers to learn, so if there is something you don’t know, that is okay. If you have the time, learn it. If not, that’s okay too. There’s plenty you do know.

Tip #2: Learn how to Google

Building upon Tip #1, if you don’t know the right code to accomplish xyz, that’s okay, but you should know how to find the answer. Knowing how to google is one of the best things to know as a developer since things are constantly changing. And what’s great about programming, is that you’re probably not the first person to encounter the problem you're having so there is more than likely a written solution out there. You just have to know how to find it.

My Google tips when I need a little help: Put the language (and version, if possible) I’m programming in as the first word. There are many programming languages that do the same thing so I want to get only the language that applies to me. Concisely describe the solution I’m looking for. Do not just copy the code snippet you find on the internet. Read the code, and understand what’s happening. That’s how you learn!

Tip #3: Ask Questions

As a junior developer, you aren’t expected to know everything about a task or project you are given, see Tip #1. And if you’ve spent some time and followed Tip #2 but still haven’t found the solution you are looking for, then it may be time to ask a more experienced developer.

My rule of thumb for myself when working at my job is that if I am spending more than an hour on a problem that I just can’t figure out, then I’ll go ask someone who might know. Why waste time from the rest of the project when there is a more senior developer that can find the solution for me in 5 minutes or less?

If you’re working on a personal project or just learning to code, these senior developers can be found on Twitter or in language/framework specific Slack groups.

Just make sure you put in the work to find the solution yourself, first.

Tip #4: Ignore Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome or psychological pattern in which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud, is a very real thing that a lot of developers experience in their career. This feeling can make you only think of all the things you don’t know, rather than what you do know, and make you feel incompetent against other developers.

To ignore and overcome imposter syndrome: Write down your accomplishments and reread them when you’re beginning to doubt yourself. You’ll realize you are good! Get feedback from your manager, or mentor, or a senior developer. They should tell you all the things you are doing right and some tips to improve. Remember that every developer started from 0 and that being a developer means you’ll constantly be learning new things, no matter how senior you are.

Tip #5: Take Breaks!

How many movies or TV shows can you think of that feature a programmer typing away at their computer day and night until their problem is solved? I can think of a few. But that just isn’t realistic.

There may be times where you get in a coding flow and you’re locked into your work, and that’s fine. I get in those zones sometimes and they can be my most productive moments. But if you are stuck on a problem and you can’t find an answer to the point you are getting frustrated and overly stressed, it may be time to take a break and that’s okay to0, in fact, it’s the healthy thing to do.

Go for a walk away from your computer to get some fresh air, or get a drink and a snack, or work on a different task, or just go to sleep if it’s late at night. Just step away from the current task so you can come back with a clearer and calmer mind; you’ll be able to think much better when you do!

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