Category Archives: Education

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… 

Don’t waste another year

Ok, I know it is cliché and everyone knows they don’t work. But you know that you are making new years resolutions this year. If you are anything like me, you made a few last year along the lines of “Lose weight” or “Get Organized.” The jokes are already flowing about the gym the first week of January filled with new people who will disappear by the end of the month. And we all know, that is exactly what will happen.

Ok, so here is the deal, New Years Resolutions don’t work! You know that already, but we continue to fool ourselves. The question is, why? Most of you are very intelligent, successful individuals. Why is it so hard to commit to a resolution?

It’s all about the feedback loop. The reason year long resolutions don’t work is because if we are only measuring a year at a time, it is way to easy to fall into a trap of procrastination and eventually dropping it altogether.

So, how do you fix it? Its way easier than you think. Start by shrinking the feedback loop. Make your yearlong resolutions. Think Big! Way bigger than any simple resolution you may have had in the past. But don’t stop there; Make a New Month Resolution for January that takes you in the right direction. But wait, there is more…. Make a New Week resolution that will take you in the direction of the month resolution. Ok, one more…. Every Day, make a new day resolution. What is something you can do today that will advance your goal? Measure your success by that one goal, every day. NO excuses, every day, measure how you did with your goal? At the end of the week, measure that, and make a new weekly goal for the next week.

When you measure progress in small chunks with clear and precise objectives, you will be amazed at the massive feats you can accomplish over the course of a year.

So, go ahead and make that new years resolution. Then break it up into small manageable, measurable objectives and get to work.

Really. Right now. Why are you still here?

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.

iOS from Stanford, Python from MIT

One of the coolest things about the internet is the immense amount of information that you can find. As a self professed academic, I stumbled across the mother load the other day. Open Culture has a list of over 700 college courses available for free on line. These are not courses from some random local college. These are classes from Yale, Stanford, MIT and Harvard to name a few. Full video lectures, handouts, and assignments, all available to you for no cost. Its crazy. If you have iTunes, check out the listings in iTunes-U. My oldest son (a freshman in high school) is currently working through a Python course taught by the department chair at MIT. I am doing a game theory class from Yale as well as an iOs class from Stanford.

For all you developers or tech geeks out there. There is no excuse for letting your skills get stale. Go out and watch some lectures on a topic of your choice and put your brain to work.