Key habits and things I wish I knew earlier as a developer

Rafiullah Hamedy
Jan 8 · 9 min read
Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

Summary

Here is a quick summary of habits and things that in my opinion would make a huge difference if known earlier as a developer. It is worth-mentioning that, It is never too late

  • Efficient use of search engines
  • Use modern IDE for increased productivity
  • Learn Linux
  • Learn Git
  • Teach yourself & Follow tech trends
  • Become proficient in at least one programming language
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Join communities/forums
  • Create professional profiles
  • Ask, Ask, Ask
  • Solve it in paper first then convert into code
  • Follow style guides, document and write tests from start
  • Solve puzzles/challenges on regular basis
  • Start whiteboarding early on
  • Manage your time efficiently
  • Protect your personal information
  • Follow influencers & companies that inspire you
  • Attend tech events, workshops, talks, and hackathons
  • Embrace error messages ❤
  • Choose the right type of company for internship/career
  • First develop a working solution then perfect it iteratively
  • SEO yourself

As as usual watch out for the following habits/patterns

  • Do not give up so easy! ❤
  • Do not copy assignments/projects
  • Do not procrastinate — if not now, when?
  • Do not ignore other subjects
  • Do not get addicted to social networks
  • Do not lose hope

Keep reading for more details on how they can help you become a better dev.


Learning

Learning is a prerequisite to thriving in tech due to the speed at which the industry is evolving. There is always something new to learn.

Once you stop learning, you start dying — Albert Einstein

Search efficiently

As a developer, you will use search engines very often, and a majority of search engines offer advanced features. See tips and infographics

It is important to be able to search and find what you are looking for with the least amount of effort.

Development IDEs

Research existing IDEs that suits your requirements best. The IDEs come with shortcuts, plugins and features aimed to increase your productivity. Be open minded and try new tools and frameworks.

Been there countless times

Learn Linux

Installing Ubuntu natively, using VirtualBox or Windows Subsystem for Linux is a piece of cake. Knowing Linux is a huge plus!

Learn Git

Git is one of the most popular code versioning tool.

I would definitely recommend using Git with your projects and assignments. There many hosting services such as Github, Bitbucket and more.

There are other code versioning systems such as Mercurial, SVN, CSV and so on that you don’t have to learn. See this very easy to follow article for basic most commonly used git commands.

Teach yourself

Fact, your program of study does not prepare you for real world regardless of university’s ranking, depth of the curriculum or caliber of the professors. Nowadays there is no shortage of learning materials both offline and online.

Paradox of Choices

crunchzilla is a step by step how to code games for beginners.

My favourite Youtube channels are Derek Banas, LearnCode Academy, FreeCodeCamp and CodingTech. Finally, a listing of open course-ware on EDX, Stanford Online, and MIT OpenCourseWare that you could learn from.

Learn at least one language concretely

At university, I studied C Programming for 2 years from Basics to Advanced Data Structure. It helped build a strong programming foundation and every other language become a mere change of syntax, terminology and structure.

Focus on Simplicity

You will be surprised how in-demand simplicity is when it comes to coding and no one admires code that is complex, hard to understand and maintain.

Simplicity is a prerequisite for reliability. — Edsger W. Dijkstra

A great talk by Rich Hickey on Simplicity Matters

Original link Simple Made Easy


Communities & Profiles

Communities are where you network with like minded professionals, learn and give back.

Github

Creating a profile allow you to setup your own repos, follow inspiring contributors, appreciate others work by staring their repository, and most importantly contribute back to the open source projects.

How to contribute? You can report a bug , write documentation, answer questions , fix issues and create new features.

It’s worth-mentioning that, employers favour open source contributors.

StackOverflow

StackOverflow is the largest Software Development Q&A website. A SO profile is good to have. See Rob’s comment on it’s significance in interviews.

  • Ask difficult & meaningful questions
  • Answer questions
  • Upvote useful questions/answers

LinkedIn

A LinkedIn profile is the first step towards building your online presence.

  • Build your professional network
  • Subscribe to updates from companies & influencers
  • Explore jobs, write and read posts

Similarly, AngelList and IndieHackers are great communities to be part of.


Habits

Developing a few habits early on would greatly help you down the road. I highly recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

  1. Tech is a fast-paced industry. Stay up to date with social networks & sites such as slashdot & techcrunch
  2. Don’t be shy! Ask for advice from those with expertise
  3. Always plan and solve the problem in paper and then write the code. This is very powerful.
  4. Write code that aligns with industry adopted coding standards. Start writing tests early for assignments, projects.
  5. Develop a habit of solving puzzles/challenges on regular basis. This will serve you dearly whether it’s interview, your job, side project, etc.
  6. Whiteboarding skill never let you down whether it is interview, on the job. Probably one of the most overlooked skill.
  7. Understand how much time you have in your hand and use it wisely. Do the math, calendar block tomorrow and use RescueTime if you are comfortable with their Privacy Policy.
  8. Protect your identity by reading privacy policies, terms of services, using VPN & Encryption, password manager, enabling 2FA, and so on.

Socializing & Networking

There are many benefits to networking and socializing such as

  • Build your professional network
  • Get inspired and inspire others
  • Learn about the dev communities, jobs, mentoring, volunteering, etc
  • Find your co-founders and project partners
  • Improve your soft skills i.e. speaking, active listening, and so on.

We are well past the era of one man army, it is all about teamwork now. Get to know people of all expertise i.e. legal, finance, sales, marketing and so on. It will come handy in the future be it side projects, change industry, etc.

If you find networking difficult, I recommend reading self help books i.e. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and there is a ton of tips and advice on internet.

Follow Influencers & Companies

Put social networks into good use. Follow people and companies that inspire and remind you of your dreams and goals. I use social networks to

  • Stay connected with family and friends
  • Read updates from companies such Google, Microsoft, Apple, United Nations, Amazon, Netflix, SpaceX, Tesla, and so on.
  • Follow public figures like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeff Atwood, Dan Abramov, Dave Syer, Evan You, Vitalik Buterin, …
  • Attend monthly meetups (i.e. Hackernest), workshops, talks, hackathon

Side Projects

Act on your ideas. The chances that someone else is thinking about it is very high.

  • Pick that great idea and do a feasibility and market research
  • Connect with your professional network to find partners & co-founders
  • Work in your free time & don’t forget to see the idea through completion
So many ideas — pretty common among devs

Researching

As a Software Developer you will be constantly learning and researching. Give yourself the habit of reading the documentation first and if that did not help then search for other learning materials such as examples, tutorials, etc.

Error Messages

Don’t be disappointed when you come across an error message. Learn What is it about? When does it happen? and How to handle it gracefully?

Choose the right Company

Recently, I came across this article by Brenn where he explains the benefits of working for a Product vs Consulting company — Might help decide your next career/internship option.

SEO Yourself

Have you ever googled yourself? Is your personal information safe? Is your public information easily accessible?

Use the magic of search engine to achieve your objectives whether it’s sharing wisdom, promoting your brand, attracting followers, or spreading awareness.


Things you should avoid

It takes time to build and remove habits.

Do not give up easily

There are different cues that lead to giving up. As a software developer you will easily come across

  • Annoying issues
  • Poor legacy code
  • Learning other languages, tools, and domain knowledge
  • Working with people who have different coding habits, opinion, etc

It is generally a good habit not to give up and keep trying but, don’t be stubborn and understand when is the right time to let go and move on.

When it comes to coding, if you are on the verge of giving up, try following

  • Take a break and come back later or the next day
  • Try solving it on paper
  • Ask for help from those with expertise

Do not copy assignments

When I started my computer science degree, the first C programming assignment was “Write a program that computes x^n (x to power of n) using + (plus) and — (minus) operators where x and n are integers provided by the user”.

It took me a long time with no access to internet to find a solution on paper. I learned not to give up and keep trying and the following assignments become easier and easier.

Do not fall for social network addiction

Believe it or not, a majority of social networks are powered by algorithms that have one goal — Increase the ROI for the company using your time.

I recommend to come up with strategies on how to use social networks to get closer to your goals — think of your own ROI when you invest your time.

Do not lose hope, you are smarter than you think

Lastly, feeling hopeless and worried is going to be a frequent visitor and you will have to learn how to deal with it. Here are a few points in your defense

  • Don’t let knowledge gap make you worry or hopeless — see article below
  • Don’t be intimidated by those who are better — You will get there
  • Don’t lose hope for not knowing everything i.e. AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain, etc — you will learn them eventually

Dan Abramov, one of the developers I follow is the co-creator of famous Redux framework wrote the following article that I consider a great read.

Here is an amazing documentary called Do You Trust This Computer? on AI and it’s future implications if you are interested.


Relevant articles

  1. Finally, some relevant articles for those who wish to read more. One of my favourite articles on 25 Tips for New Developers by Ali
  2. A must read article Advice to new software developers where he touches on Product vs Consulting company for career/internship.
  3. What New Developers Should Really Focus On by Lydia who also wrote another article that might resonate to new developers.
  4. Some great tips by Stephen on his blog post (Code by hand — my absolute favorite, take breaks when debugging)
  5. Another 15 Tips for Junior Developers by Natasha on her blog (Separate your concerns i.e. SRP, write short methods, find a mentor)
  6. Some amazing tips by Emad on his blog (i.e. contribution to open source, asking asking, writing blogs, etc)

Rafiullah Hamedy

Written by

Senior software developer | Co-founder in making | Traveller & blockchain enthusiast

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