June 15, 2023

Tips for a Thriving Career in Software Development

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Are you an aspiring software developer facing the challenge of learning the art of programming? 

There are multiple aspects that developers need to consider when embarking on the journey of building a career as a software craftsman. This article outlines some tips for becoming a successful software developer.

Practice makes perfect.

The best way to learn programming is by doing. Learning a new programming language quickly won't necessarily make you a good software developer. Understanding the "why" behind your learning is essential, and practice is necessary to become a good programmer. Once you know the basics of a language, find something of interest that you can develop.

There's more to it than just a programming language.

Programming language proficiency alone is not enough for a successful career in software development. It's crucial to have a broad understanding of the different technologies and components that make up a system. Being a full-stack developer is challenging as the tech ecosystem constantly evolves and expands. Understanding the SOLID principles, architecture- and design patterns will help you create reusable code that is loosely coupled. 

HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and a web front-end framework are essential for web development (Try out Flexbox Froggy and put your CSS skills to the test). SQL and database knowledge are necessary to understand how the data relate, how it’s stored and retrieved, and to troubleshoot performance issues such as long-running queries. 

Understanding infrastructure basics, such as networks, firewalls, etc. 

Productivity tools

Familiarity with the IDE, operating system, version control software, and continuous integration/deployment (DevOps) is crucial. Entry-level cloud certifications like AWS Cloud Practitioner or Azure Fundamentals provide useful knowledge about infrastructure.

ChatGPT and other AI-assisted coding solutions such as Microsoft Co-Pilot are a must. IDEs such as Visual Studio and JetBrains have increased productivity for many years.

Dealing with complexity

The more complexity you learn to deal with the sharper your skills will become, but at a certain point, you will realise that you can only deal with so much complexity and that the new skill you will need to learn, is that of simplification. When to simplify and how to manage the complexity.

Find a mentor. 

In becoming a mature software developer, finding a mentor can be a game-changer. Mentors offer guidance, share industry knowledge, and help identify areas for improvement.

Remember, finding a mentor is an ongoing process. Stay open to new connections and pay it forward by mentoring others when you're ready. Embracing mentorship can unlock opportunities and accelerate your growth as a software developer.

Find opportunities.

It's essential to find new opportunities and not fall into the trap of doing the same thing repeatedly. Be proactive in seeking new projects and experiences to continue growing your career. Have a heart-to-heart with your manager if you are no longer growing. If your manager can't address your concerns, don't be afraid to look for another job. Look for opportunities that align with your values and interests. Consider contributing to an open-source project or participating in hackathons to gain new experiences.

Design your career.

You own your career and are responsible for your decisions and investment in your career growth. Finding a mentor and looking for learning opportunities is important, but ultimately you must take ownership of your career. Don't expect your dream job to be handed to you on a silver platter; you must work for it. Create your career plan and seek people who can help you execute that plan, but don't expect them to do the work for you.

Get involved in a community.

Discover the software development community and engage with like-minded individuals. Attending events and meeting new people help build your network, an important component of your career. Once you feel comfortable attending events, consider submitting a talk and presenting at an event to develop your personal brand. Start with doing talks in your company, then user groups and then bigger events.

Share what you learn.

Sharing what you learn is essential for personal growth and building a brand. Don't just look for answers; try to answer questions on forums like StackOverflow. 

Becoming a well-rounded software developer requires technical skills, soft skills, continuous learning, and professional growth. By following these tips, you can set yourself on the path to a thriving career.

Events to look out for.

Some events in South Africa worth attending include the DeveloperUG, Jozi Java User Group, DevConf, Google Developer Group Devfest, Global Day of CodeRetreat, and The Scrum User Group and Regional Scrum Gathering. If you're not based in South Africa, search the internet for similar events in your city or country.

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Botha van der Vyver

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