As someone who trained in the humanities, specifically Literature, it’s not hard to guess that I enjoy reading. However, it seems that since switching career to become an iOS developer that hobby has moved away from reading books to collecting books. Think the need for a new bookcase, an unlimited list of links in your notes, podcast series you’ve been meaning to listen to, PDFs saved in bookmarks and on the Desktop. If I had all of them in print I would need to convert the spare room into a mini library.
After speaking to other juniors, it became apparent that we all feel a sense of guilt when it comes to reading. Weeks pass by and our lists continue to grow and collect dust. In all honesty, I’ve been meaning to read a book on SwiftUI since December and I’ve still not gotten round to it. We all have our separate streams of work but we also have areas of improvement that we want to devote time to in order to become a holistic developer or simply upskill — at least for me that’s true. Developers all share the same struggle that you’ll never be proficient in everything — tech is constantly evolving and new concepts and approaches surface around the clock. It’s also a contributing factor to the whole industry being affected by Imposter Syndrome. On the plus side, this drives developers to carry a positive/growth mindset; we are eager to learn but we have a learning budget and only limited time, hence why the lists of material grow every week.
Thankfully, I started my developer career in a company that encourages development. I’m in a fortunate position where I can spend 10% of my working time learning. At Gousto, we have a dedicated day to this called Tech Ten Percent (TTP). What this means is that every other Friday, everyone in the tech team can spend the day on something outside of their main stream of work. As long as it is Gousto related. One of the TTP objectives is to sharpen skills and cross train. This allows me to reduce that ever growing list of material, while putting what I read into practice and building something cool. Both of which are fundamental to me growing as a developer. Why are TTP days important? Well, you’ll regularly find yourself learning by doing in your work as a developer. It is a skill within itself. This is very well for the most part if you are pairing, allowing for discovery time and are able to absorb material quickly. But most of the time, you might implement something that you don’t have a complete understanding of and you come away having achieved something, but with a slight headache. This is why having a day like TTP to revisit concepts is valuable. Or simply getting into the mindset that spending time to read, plan and absorb in your normal daily work is as crucial as developing and shipping features.
Here are a few simple tricks I have to keep on top of your learnings:
- Every Friday (not just TTP), review your week and note down anything you could benefit from spending some more time on. I do this so I can prioritise reading material by relevance. It also forces me to go into those lists and remove what I’ve already read or now might feel comfortable with.
- Go on a walk if you’re struggling to absorb what you’re reading, you can use this time to think and digest. There are also techniques you can practise like Pomodoro if you want to improve how you absorb information.
- And most importantly, collate those pesky lists into one place and do not save them in all the places I mentioned when you first starting reading this, it will make you feel more organised and help you keep track of your material.
Try to feel less guilty, myself included. You know more than you think you do. Just because you haven’t read every textbook or listened to the most recent podcasts doesn’t make you any less of a developer. A lot of learning and development comes from getting stuck in and you will learn concepts when you have the chance to work with them. Just remember to pair and ask questions :)