Category Archives: Career

Seek out and Learn from feedback

Nothing is more scary than the criticism of your peers. Well, except maybe never improving on your skills. One of the most important steps you can take to improving yourself as a developer (or in anything really) is to actively seek out people to review what you have done, and honestly listen to what they have to say. We have all sat in code reviews where you hear people tearing down what you have done, or questioning everything little thing. The first gut reaction to that situation is to throw up a wall, dig a trench, and defend your code to the death. If we want to improve, I mean really get better at what we do, we need to embrace those opportunities to have other people look at our stuff, and listen as they tear it apart. Yes, they will not always be right. Sometimes people are just nitpick everything. But going in with an open mind and a desire to learn will drastically change your outlook on those situations. 

If you really want to get better, push some code out to github and send a tweet like this… “Just tried consuming secure rest apis using auth-tokens in angular and would love some feedback.” #Angular @angularjs…. Or post to reddit programming or stack overflow with a request for feedback. No matter what you do, actively seek constructive feedback from others. Its absolutely the best way to keep yourself moving forward.  

Don’t Get Stale

Let’s face it, the career we have chosen is a fast paced, rapidly changing one that requires immense amounts of research and learning to keep up with. In my current position, I get the opportunity to talk daily with developers from all skillets and career objectives and I am regularly frustrated by how many of them don’t attempt to stay on top of whats going on in technology. Phrases like “I have not gotten to use that in my current job” just don’t cut it when you are looking to advance your career. We all need to remember that it is not your employers job to keep you up to date on our skills. Ultimately, you are responsible for you.


The good part of this conversation is that keeping up with technology is not really even that hard. The resources available to you are almost limitless. Here are just a few examples of tools that will get you moving. 

This is a very short list of the massive amount of options that exist to keep your skills sharp. As a dev, I set aside at least 30-45 minutes a day to exploring the new tech that is out there It is a very small investment that could vastly improve your career… 

Who Are You?

Think about that question for a minute. If you had to describe yourself to someone (like maybe in an interview…), what would you say? We talk about brand management all the time when it comes to large corporations, but have you given much thought to your personal brand? When people think of you, what do you want them to think of?

Daniel Pink uses the question, “What is your sentence?” If you had to sum yourself up in one sentence, what would you say? For me, my sentence is this: “Jon builds and develops people and helps them to be the best they can be.” Thats what I do. Now, what is your sentence? Think about it.

Now that you have a sentence, that needs to permeate through everything you do until it becomes your brand. What you say about yourself is only part of the picture. Your brand includes what you do. For me, I run a consulting practice that mentors companies on software best practices, I coach kids basketball, I lead a cub scout den, I teach an adult sunday school class, I speak internationally on soft skills and process. Do you see a theme? Let me help, it has to do with the sentence I listed up above.

Lastly, use the resources available to you to make your brand clear. Linkedin, twitter, blogs, facebook should all be used to promote yourself. Perspective employers, partners, clients, etc, are looking you up on linkedin and twitter. Do they have a clear message about who you are and what type of person you are? They should. They are a fantastic free tool for you to use to promote yourself. Spend just a little bit of time on each to be sure your message is clear and concise.

Take 5 minutes right now and review your online presence. Does it paint the right picture of you? If not, fix it.

The Unemployed Generation

I read an article recently about the supposedly unemployed or underemployed generation of students graduating college. The idea that there are students out there graduating with degrees and not being able to find jobs is certainly a cause for concern, but there is more to the story than just a lack of employment opportunities. I ran into this in person the other day at a checkout counter at Best Buy. Lee and I were checking out with all the prizes for KCDC and as you can imagine, that sparked some interest from the checkout guy. He indicated that he was trying to get into software development and he had a degree in computer science. The rest of the conversation went like this….

Checkout Guy: How would I get into development?

Me: The first question I would ask is, what are you doing with your Computer Science degree?

Checkout Guy: Well, I am wearing a blue shirt at best buy….

Me: That’s your job, but are you doing anything on the side? In your free time?

Checkout Guy: I am doing some stuff with Netduino. I really like the device side.

Me: Great answer! That exactly right. *handing him my card* Give me a call or shoot me an email. I would love to help you get started.

Checkout Guy: Cool Thanks.

As you can probably guess, I never heard from him. Had he called me, would I have helped him out? Absolutely. The struggle is that most young adults have no idea what it takes to get into this business. Its not that they are not willing to do the work, they just don’t know what that work is. And mostly, that work is picking up the phone and calling people and asking them for help, or advice, or a direction.

As an entry level person, do you have a mentor? Do you have someone who you can ask for advice or a direction? Not a professor, or a counselor, but a person with feet on the ground doing the work you want to be doing?

As a senior dev, are you mentoring anyone? Do you have someone you are there for, answering questions and providing advice? If not, find someone. Either from a random encounter, or something more intentional.

So, how do you find these people? Simple, you ask… Find a user group, technical conference, or linked in group and start asking. Go to the people leading those things, and ask if they can recommend someone. The single most important thing you can do to get to where you want to be, is get out and meet people who are already there.