How to step up your game and become a great software developer
So, how do you keep improving as a software developer? In this blog, we take a look at some bits of advice, guidance and suggestions that are valid no matter whatever your experience level and will always help you in your career.
If you are a developer at the beginning of your development career – then simply learn the language, frameworks and tools and increase your experience with a variety of diverse projects. And, if you are an experienced software developer then you must regularly try to find new ways to enhance your code for readability, performance and maintainability, and then practice taking rational decisions whether they are for testing, performance or optimization.
Every developer will find these suggestions to be some good ideas for self-improvement whether you have five or twenty years of programming experience or even if you don’t have any experience.
Know the Process End-to-End
Many developers deliberate that software development is all about coding. However, before you code a piece of software, it undergoes a process of transformation from a vague idea into a cautiously designed solution ready for implementation. Then, the software is tested, deployed, monitored, analysed and improved. Coding is just one of the many steps in the process.
In larger organizations, different phases of the projects are commonly handled by different teams or even departments. Primarily, the business analysts gather the requirements. These requirements are then handed over to the designers (functional, UX, and visual). The developers do the coding and pass the results to QA engineers. If everything is satisfactory, the artifact is sent to the operations teams to deliver it to the end users. This process is treated as a set of distinct steps. Due to the lack of communication between the departments, their people often don’t understand the goals of others and this often leads to misunderstandings and sometimes even conflicts.
Know Your Client’s Needs
Clients don’t understand most of the stuff that you are doing. Agile, functional programming or non-relational databases is all dark to them. When working with new clients it is important to earn their trust. Make sure they understand how you operate and aim to deliver results in smaller but frequent iterations. So, they can see the advancement of your work, evaluate the intermediate results and provide their feedback.
Instead of going with the flow and just implementing whatever the client wants, it is sometimes useful to discuss the problem that they want to solve. When their domain knowledge is combined with your technical expertise, you are more likely to arrive at a better solution.
Know about Domain, Architecture and Design
If you understand your domain area well and are passionate about it, you will be a much more motivated developer. You will also be valued more and will be a more rewarding developer to companies hiring in your preferred domain.
Pick the right tools for your job
When attempting to work on a new problem, always think whether the tools available are really appropriate for this type of work. If you have any doubts, explore a little and come up with a list of probable alternatives. Generally, compile a list of questions and weigh diverse choices one by one. These questions can be different for each assessment, but can go a long way. Some prominent questions are:
What platforms or devices?
What are the non-functional requirements, for example performance or memory usage?
Will you need something free or open-source? Is buying a license an option?
Does the solution provide everything you need out of the box, or you will you need to code something yourself?
Do you have any limitations, like company policies, legal considerations etc.?
Seeking answers to this type of questions will help you structure your options and narrow down to choosing the right tools for the job.
Developers always upgrade themselves by reading books, blogs, tutorials, attending trainings, webinars and doing small projects etc. When confronted with programming glitches, developers often explore Stack Overflow for possible solutions and consult other developers. Although, it is possible to continue as a software developer without learning any new languages or technologies – the price is high for not upgrading yourself and sometimes has implications in the future.
Apply learned patterns
In software engineering, design patterns are mostly generalized and reusable solutions to repeated problems. Mostly, the best software developers study design patterns and understand which design patterns can provide a structured approach and they know when to apply which pattern.
The iterative approach is systematic, effective, practical and easy to implement. The basic idea of an iteration is to plan, execute, test and learn – the shorter the iterations are, the faster the feedback can be incorporated into the next development cycle. The current development approach favors shorter iterations.
An essential part of a developer’s job is testing. In spite of the fact that the code is usually written to the best of one’s knowledge, there will still be errors. These errors are caused by either unintended faults or flawed assumptions.
The objective of testing is to catch these troublesome bugs as soon as possible. The earlier the bugs are detected, the cheaper they are to fix. An error that takes just few minutes to be fixed by a developer; can sometimes cost a huge amount in legal damages, if it is detected at the client side. Thus, the earlier they are detected, the better.
Share your knowledge
Frequently, people think that concealing valuable knowledge will make them indispensable. Instead, share your knowledge with your peers and use this collaboration to build even superior code.
Code readability and maintainability
Good code is one which can be easily comprehended later by someone. If you ever had to go through incomprehensible code, you know why this is important. Some key practices are:
- Always name the variables so that other developers can understand your code better.
- Mostly using inheritance reduces testability and reusability of your object-oriented code in the long run.
- Use shallow code hierarchies instead of deep-nested code. Deep-nested code is harder to maintain, harder to reuse, and is more likely to have bugs.
Apart from technical skills, there are some soft skills that are equally vital for you to be great developer. These primarily include:
- Communicate clearly with your team. Your colleagues might have some ideas you would have never thought of on your own, and you might solve problems a lot faster.
- Admit when you don’t know something. Trying to hide your lack of knowledge will slow down your learning process.
- Be open to sharing your incomplete work with others frequently. Learning how to do something you haven’t done earlier and discovering best solutions from the collective intelligence of the developer community is half the battle won in coding.
- Also ask questions, get feedback, make mistakes, etc. and compare it to your existing knowledge and just keep on going.
Do not fall in love with your work
Regardless of having a passion, great developers are not attached to the work they yield. Great software developers exercise a very significant distinction – they are passionate about what they do but they do not fall in love with the work they produce.
This approach offers several advantages, especially when your job requires you to be innovative. Some key advantages are listed below:
- Be more open to constructive criticism from others.
- Be more objective when evaluating alternate solutions.
- Have a higher chance of trying a radically different approach in the next iteration or version.
- Be more willing to try out drastic ideas, despite knowing that there is a high risk of them being discarded.
The best thing about development work is that it does not have a limit. There are always new things to learn, new roads to travel and new obstacles to eliminate. Whether you are just at the beginning of your development journey or an experienced developer, always try to keep these things in mind and they will surely help you to find your way and become a great developer.