10 ways to grow as a developer in 2017

As 2016 winds down and work slows down, hopefully you’re starting to feel those New Year jitters kicking in.

That little voice in your head reminding you that you’re capable of more. That your potential has yet to be truly unleashed.

If you’re looking for 10 ways to start planning to grow as a developer in 2017, then continue reading…ONLY…if you promise to commit to at least one.

Deal? Let’s do this then.

#10: Submit a PR to an open source project you use

Giving back doesn’t just have to happen at Christmas time.

There are tons of open source projects with thousands of open issues waiting to be grabbed.

How you’ll grow:

Contributing to open source lets you code on the world’s stage.

Feeling the pressure that potentially thousands of other people might end up using your code (rather than only considering the 10 dudes on your team at work) is critical to your growth as a developer.

Think of contributing to open source as insanity mode for honing your craft; do it consistently enough, and that pressure from the mass accountability will become second nature on any project.

Plus, you’re helping out a project that’s making your job easier. Give back 365 days/year, not just in December.

Double plus, if you’re the type that starts and stops side projects often, this is a great way to be involved in a side project with little commitment.

I also wrote a whole post on how open source helps you grow that you should check out. (It also features Evan You from vue.js)

And then get started with this guide by Vadim Demedes.

And then follow @yourfirstpr to be reminded all year of PRs available.

#9: Go to a dev conference

“But I can watch all the sessions at home.”

Indeed you can, but there are 2 particular benefits you’ll never get at home:

  1. You won’t meet new people and have awesome conversations that can impact your career, projects you’re working on, and more.
  2. You won’t be in a new environment, the key to opening up your mind to new inspiration.

How you’ll grow:

We send X-Teamers to conferences quite often and every one of them comes back from them more refreshed, inspired, motivated and passionate about what they do.

There’s a lot more that you gain from attending conferences than you think though. On top of all the knowledge gaining you’ll get, the social skills you pick up can help you:

  1. Better lead teams and build relationships with other developers
  2. Start/join/get involved in dev communities
  3. Learn how to speak at conferences, which the more times you do that, the more you build your reputation in the industry and better understand the work you do.

Lanyrd should help you find one to attend.

#8: Make a tutorial

Making tutorials should really be a monthly goal, as it’s a great way to:

  1. Document your learnings for future use.
  2. Better solidify your knowledge around something you know and love.
  3. Build your reputation as an expert (great for remote devs especially).

It doesn’t matter if your tutorial is a blog post, a video, a talk at a meetup, or even a well-written e-mail/Slack message you send to someone. Just. Do it.

I just ended my year doing one (you can watch it here) and it was one of the highlights of the year for me to get the opportunity to inspire just one person out there.

#7: Get an Egghead account

If not having time is your reason for not growing your skills often, then Egghead is for you.

If you don’t already have an account, get one. If you’re a JS developer especially, it’s worth it — trust me. Only $200/year to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry.

How you’ll grow:

  1. You’ll learn new skills, faster. The kind of skills that get you hired more. Need I say anything else?

#6: Answer more questions

You know those questions that pop up in your team’s channels all the time asking for help? And you know how you let them pass by 90% of the time? Well, 2017 will be the year you answer more questions.

Answering questions might take up time, yes, but doing it comes packed with value for your growth.

How you’ll grow:

  1. You’ll start to learn how to be a mentor, a valuable skill should you become a lead someday.
  2. You’ll build a stronger relationship with your team and people who could end up helping save you time on a challenging bug in the future.
  3. Helping others is actually great for your health and makes you happier (proven to reduce stress and increase longevity of life).

Whether it’s the questions that pop up in Slack, or if you go out and find questions yourself (Stackoverflow, Quora, etc.), it doesn’t matter how or where, just commit to trying it in 2017.

#5: Get active on Twitter/Gitter/Slack

Another great way to answer questions is by getting more active on Twitter, Gitter or Slack communities.

One thing all of today’s most well-known developers have in common is that they are super active on Twitter. Every day.

Getting active on these channels helps you get to the next level because you’ll always:

  1. Be on the frontier of new tech/projects
  2. Be inspired by the leaders in the industry to grow in new ways every day
  3. Be among the best minds in the world around development
  4. Be able to get help with anything you’re working on

To be honest, if I had to pick only one thing from this list to commit to, it would be this one. It’s so packed with value and truly is the one common thread among all of the most prolific, well-known developers today.

Here are some places to find communities on Slack and Gitter:

Explore Gitter (Gitter)
Chit Chats (Slack)

#4: Learn CSS Modules before you get told to

There’s a revolution happening with CSS courtesy of the CSS Modules teams and it is inevitable that CSS Modules will become mainstream. You’ll be grateful for this one this time next year.

Start learning here: https://github.com/css-modules/css-modules

#3: Read a book that has nothing to do with code

Not that you would ever read a physical book that has anything to do with code (ah, how I miss you Visual Basic 6 book with 1,000 pages).

But seriously — your brain needs a break sometimes. The best way to get a break is to completely disconnect from the world of development by reading about an entirely different world.

Perhaps that world is business (go read Shoe Dog about the story of Nike, freakin’ awesome book), or perhaps that world is an epic fantasy like The Name of the Wind (yes!).

Hell, watch some movies at least (Rogue One on repeat preferably), but please commit to making time to let your brain escape in 2017.

How you’ll grow:

  1. Getting your brain out of ‘the zone’ is essential to bringing creative, new ideas to our industry, and the best way to do that is to let your brain roam and swim in fresh new territory that inspires you.

#2: Focus on the essentials

If you’re going to make time for growth, you’re going to need to learn how to focus on the essentials.

The book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” is an awesome read that will help you create time for growth in your life by “focusing on the essential few, rather than the trivial many” of the tasks in your life and job.

How you’ll grow:

  1. You’ll create time for growth so that you can grow.
  2. You’ll become more disciplined at how you spend your time, and any time you become disciplined at something, it inspires you to become disciplined at other areas of your life. Who knows, you might finally pick up a TDD discipline thanks to this concept.

#1: By helping others grow.

Time after time, you know what inspires and motivates me to grow more than anything else? When I help someone else grow, or see others growing.

Perhaps it’s jealousy, maybe it’s inspiration, or perhaps it’s just a magic that gets created when someone unleashes their potential.

But if you want to stay motivated with your growth in 2017, then commit to helping others in your life grow.

Your coworkers, your family, your friends, your Twitter followers…there are plenty of people in your life who you can help grow. And I promise that helping them grow will only end up equipping you with rocket boots to accelerate your own growth.

So, what are you committing to first? :)

Commit. Push. Unleash. 2017 will be epic.

I put heart into every post I write. I’m incredibly grateful to anyone who returns the favor by clicking 💚 :)


Ryan Chartrand is the CEO of X-Team, a global team of extraordinary remote developers who can join your team and start executing today.

Check out and subscribe to X-Team’s blog at http://x-team.com/blog