10 Tips for Becoming a Better Software Developer
As worldwide demand for software developers grows, it’s easy to think that all it takes to compete for these high-paying and nightly coveted jobs is to learn a coding language, or a few, get good at writing code, and go pick up your paycheck.
While this might work for some, if you want to be the best software developer you can be, and thus command the highest software developer salary, and be a developer at the most interesting company, working on the most interesting projects, then it’s going to be in your best interest to do more than just code well.
For this reason, we’ve compiled ten tips for things you can work on to become the best software developer you can possibly be -- aside from but including being the best code-writer around. Check it out, and let us know what you think below.
- Pick the most in-demand programming languages
There are literally hundreds of programming languages in use today, from the evergreen languages that have been in use for fifty years, to those that are currently being developed for new projects as-of-yet unseen.
While there is nothing wrong with learning any language, what languages you know and how proficient you are in them will determine what kind of work you can do, and what kind of jobs you’re eligible for. So do your research, think broadly, and pick a constellation of languages that make you eligible to be the kind of software developer you want to be.
Tip: a great language to start with is Python. It’s powerful, common, and is written like “simple” English, without the complex syntax many languages use.
- Get a comfy set-up
Oh, so you’re planning to practice coding so much that you make few mistakes, can write in many languages, and can snag an amazing job for a top tech firm? Well, my friend, you better figure out how to spend 8-12 hours a day sitting in front of a computer without ending up bent, in pain, and unable to stand.
Perhaps this all seems obvious, but if you want to be able to become the best software developer you can be, then get the best tech set-up you can get: a fast, new(ish) computer, a large monitor (or better, two), a comfortable chair or standing desk, and a clean, quiet space to get to work.
Tip: This may not seem like the #2 priority -- but without this, the rest won't matter much!
- Learn Excel
Counter-intuitive though it may be, a software developer isn’t just a software developer: they’re also a teammate, an employee, and an interested party in the improvement of a product. And nowadays, anyone working in those capacities will be better equipped to make significant contributions to a company with proficiency in Excel.
Now, don’t get discouraged: this doesn’t have to be your full-time job. But nor should it be forgotten. It can make the difference between a programmer who just codes, and one who can grow and thrive as a developer.
Tip: Take a free online course so you can learn how to do some advanced tasks like sorting, filtering and VLookup. You won’t be sorry.
- Pick a great Text Editor
The programming language you write in will be the “what” of your work -- but the Text Editor you use will be the “where” that helps you record, quality check, and present this code to your teammates and employers.
The company you work with might have a preferred editor, but you might also find your own. And if you know how to use it well, it’ll help ensure you write better code, faster code, and spend less time doing both.
Flawless, easy-to-read code that is shareable, and clean? Yes please.
Tip: Not sure where to begin? Explore classic code editor VIM, Notepad++ for ease of use, or Sublime for what the cool kids are using.
- Sit up straight and stretch
Stop! Coding can be arduous, especially when you’re working on taking yourself from beginner to master. So ensure you take time to turn off the computer, stand up, move around, and stretch.
No joke: taking up yoga, running, swimming, or even doing simple stretches every hour or two can have a huge influence on your ability to become a master software developer.
If you can’t work, you can’t write code. Take care of your body and it will take care of your mind.
Tip: This doesn’t have to be a big deal. Try some simple yoga at your desk:
Coding may feel easy once you get in the flow of it. But beware of false confidence: it's easy to be “good enough” -- and hard to be great. Some of the best resources for software developers looking to rise to the level of master are written in simple human language.
Books, blogs, newsletters, Medium articles -- all can be powerful resources to get you on board with tricks, skills, and “what’s next” in the field.
Stay open, stay curious, and stay reading. You never know where the next up-level push will come from.
Tip: Consider following well-respected software developers on Medium. The articles tend to be good quality, and the authors get paid when you read their work.
Sometimes the best ideas we have live in our minds as genius particles of sparkling thought…until we try to express them out loud and realize, “Oh, wait. This is not smart at all.”
That’s why pushing yourself to write about your learning, your thinking, and your ideas will push you to ensure those ideas are concrete, original, and worth your time. And when they are, sharing them will make your learnings stick -- and possibly even help you enter into a community of top software developers who are moving the field forward. (Or snag you your next job!).
Tip: Start your own Medium blog -- but don’t pressure yourself to become a writer. Just try to make sense of what you’re learning so you can share it with others.
- Become fluent in Git
As you work with others to develop products that are getting shipped, you’ll start to see the importance of source and version control to ensure what you’re working on isn’t redundant, or worse yet, out of date.
For this reason, GitHub and other online source control tools are essential for software developers who want to do more than just learn languages as a hobby. It’s not an add-on, it’s a must.
Tip: If you plan to work with North American companies, Git and Github are the dominant choices, with over 70% choosing to use these. So don’t skip them.
- Form a community
Many people are called to work in software because they love the freedom and independence that comes from a creative application that can be done alone, or in silence, or from a remote Mediterranean island while in a swimming suit (or, let’s be honest, jogging pants).
And yet, one of the best ways to improve your software development skills isn’t to hide from others, but to join others in discussion, support, and co-learning. This could be done via an informal Discord, through in-person local friends who you meet and get to know in person, through formal learning, or through many other ways.
Tips: Try taking a course and befriending fellow students, or taking part in a StackOverflow forum and sharing, reading, discussing, and building community there.
- Code, code and code some more
Well, no advice about becoming a better software developer would be complete without this admonition: want to code well? Code often. And then code more. And then code again.
No one gets better without practice, and while practice may never mean perfect, it’s the only way we know how to ensure you get to and stay at the top of the profession.
So go to it! And let us know how it goes.
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