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Experiences in software development

My advice to (junior) developers about their career

Posted by Patroklos Papapetrou on February 7, 2014


The last couple of months I have met several young developers that either looking for the first job or are still trying to get their bachelor degree. Many of them asked me to give them my advice on how they can make their first steps in the software development career. It’s really nice to see young people to care so much about their career. I don’t remember that the guys of my age had the same mentality. I assume it’s the economic crisis that made all these young people act so maturely, but I like it :)

In this post I summarize my advice to all these “young” and ambitious developers. Don’t be fooled by the word young. Even you have already 10 years of hands-on development on your back, you’re still young. At least, me, I feel this way.  

The first thing they ask me is to tell them which language or framework should they learn. I can give you a hundred of different answers but the key is not which language you already know but how quickly you can learn a new language. Do you think that Google, or eBay, or Amazon care if you’re a Java or JEE or JavaScript expert? Send your CV and have an interview with some techie guys … :)

IT companies should hire characters and train skills. Ok, I know that this is not always the case but sooner or later, nobody will ask you to list all the programming languages or frameworks you know. If you are a “Lucky Luke” character no-one will ever want you in the team. The age of super-hero-programmers has passed and I don’t see it will ever come back. Teamwork is one of the keys to success and you should be prepared for that. And what about skills? If you can’t learn a new tool, a new language or a new framework, you still have enough time to pick up a different career. Companies will invest on you to teach you new skills but you should be a fast learner and be able to adopt these new technical skills in your everyday work.Think for a second about the definition of “investment”. Yes, you are right. Companies are not offering this education as a gift. They expect from you to pay back this new knowledge by increasing your skills, your productivity and eventually the company’s value.

Another great idea is to be open-source friendly. Pick up an open-source tool you like, you know well, or you just find it interesting, and join the community. Try to be active, to participate in forums, and why not, contribute on the project. There’s nothing better than showing to your future employers your real work in an open-source project. Moreover, open a github account, if you haven’t done it already. Push your personal projects. Let others see that you’re passionate about software development and you’re not just consider it as a way of getting some money. And since you have your github account read others code. It’s a great way to open up your mind and learn new things for languages you’ve never seen.

Be agile! Learn how to write clean code, no matter what’s the language you’re writing code. Learn how to respect yourself and the other developers of your team. Your code reflect your personality. A messy code will probably make your colleagues think that you’re the same in your personal life. You don’t want to hear from your co-workers “WTF is this?” when they read or review your last commit. Learn design patterns and re-factoring. You can apply them to almost all famous languages and they surely make you write cleaner code.

Join local user groups and go to some conferences. It’s incredible how many things you learn when you meet people from different cultures, backgrounds and knowledge. You have nothing to lose. On the contrary I can assure you that it’s a win-win situation. Not to mention that you will increase your social circle and maybe improve the chances of getting a new job.

Finally build your brand. I may sound like a marketing-guy, but I’m not. Advertise yourself with your achievements, even if you’re the millionth guy that did it. It doesn’t matter. Let others know your interests and that you’re active in software development. LinkedIn, Twitter and other professional networks can help a lot. Start blogging and post little articles about your experience and knowledge, even if they’re for beginners. Again, it doesn’t matter!!! You’ll find yourself very soon posting more and more advanced stuff. 

And one last thing… Don’t you ever stop learn new things. You decided to become a software engineer. This is your destiny. To continuously learn new things. 

 

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