How to avoid complacency as a developer

How to avoid complacency as a developer

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by.

Do you remember the first days of your journey as a coding professional? Regardless your field, I bet you were fascinated by the endless possibilities of what you can build. It was most likely followed by years of hard work to master your weaponry. By this, comes however the threat of using more and more of what you already know and learn new techniques less frequently as in the early days. Here comes my advice of how to stay on top of your game for years if not decades.

My story in a nutshell (skip if you like)

London Underground — AKA classroom

I started off as a digital designer studying for 2 years on the London Underground. It took me over 2 hours to get to work each day, so it gave me 20+ hours/week dedicated study time each week. Early on, I studied various elements of Adobe CC in depth (which surprisingly pays dividends almost every day since as a full stack developer). It was a natural thing to continue on with this habit after I felt I gained enough knowledge in Photoshop and its friends, so moved onto the basics of web development. (I mean really the basics like core concepts, html, css and basic vanilla JavaScript)
The very concept of learning something at my own pace and self-managing it had a huge impact on my life.

Fast forward a few years later I was first hired by a warehouse to maintain the company website and build a few internal services as a sole in-house designer and developer. At this time I confronted with the concept of becoming complacent the very first time.
This job was only challenging for a little at the beginning and then quickly turned into a repetitive boredom with a little extra time at hand. Make no mistake, my job was executed and done well, but I could also spend some time experimenting with new techniques and built tools for the company proactively using my newfound knowledge solving problems outside of my job description. This led me to eventually leaving the company and working on much more complex web applications for a fintech startup. This was many years ago and the story goes on, but it would not be relevant, so let’s leave it here.

The main takeaway (do not skip)

To learn something as powerful and ultimately quite complex as a sophisticated MVC framework felt difficult and confusing at that time. Looking back it is hard to believe that once I thought it was difficult…until something else comes along. :)

The experience however boosted my confidence to get into and master virtually anything I consider beneficial and doing it over and over again. (AWS, Microservices, Mobile App development, React, Spring Boot and Android in Java etc.)

It is always the exact same sequence

  • Studying and secretly panicking of not being able to remember and use anything in the courses
  • Finishing all courses I thought I need (barely able to say 2 coherent sentences about the topic)
  • Taking 3 days holiday from work dedicating them to experiment with the new technique/programming language/tool/framework etc.
  • Day 1 is utter mess, nothing seems to work
  • Day 2 is much better, things start to make sense. (After a night full of dreams of code and problems I faced the day prior. :) )
  • Day 3 the skies are clear. Things fall into place and everything - rather miraculously -, start working as they should.
  • From this day onwards the new thing becomes part of my daily routine for a while and each day I take it one step further. It takes discipline and more importantly a cool exciting project that is just complex enough to be challenging but not overwhelming for a single person to complete.

The above is hard to the point that it takes more and more determination to get started on the sequence again, until it is clearly understood that it is a key element of long term success in one’s field.

I can assure you that if you do it over and over, you’ll experience speed of professional development that you never thought possible. It is exhilarating but also means that nothing stays the same in your work life.

The other side of the same coin is quite dark, but is essential to be considered.

I firmly believe that there is no such thing as job security in the coding industry. Things change so rapidly that is unheard of in other fields. In other words it doesn’t matter how much you know now, your knowledge becomes irrelevant and obsolete in the following 1–2 year(s) from the point when you cease learning new things.

This is hard to swallow and by no means I meant to scare you. The intention is the exact opposite. I’d like to take the opportunity to encourage people to stay relevant and never stop learning. It is increasingly more appealing to stay where we are, but learning entirely new things from scratch comes with a benefits package.

Conclusion

I am on my Day 3 with Spring Microservices and so today is a happy day for me. 2 days ago I felt I won’t ever be able to wrap my head around it even after religiously following through 4 courses (70+ hours total) and here I am today preaching about how cool the whole experience is. :) I absolutely mean every word. Take it and use it for your own benefit!

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Hello. I am The Caring Developer. Web and mobile application developer, specialised in e-commerce, Laravel, React and React Native. I am naturally curious. :)

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Roland Treiber

Roland Treiber

Hello. I am The Caring Developer. Web and mobile application developer, specialised in e-commerce, Laravel, React and React Native. I am naturally curious. :)

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