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How the best developers overcome their dev daemons

Dev Daemons Blog 

By Sabrina Westhaus, Supervisor Information Technology, Hays

Everyone likes a challenge every now and again, even at work. It can get your blood pumping, your brain ticking, and reignite your passion for what you do. And, overcoming a challenge successfully can often serve as the reboot your career needs.

But there’s a fine line between a challenge and a struggle.

We’ve all been there – you’re asked to work on a development project that uses a technology you don’t know, or perhaps a project has been dumped on you with a poorly defined technical scope. This leaves you floundering and frustrated, and it’s on you, and you only, to come up with the goods. So, what do you do now, bar resisting the temptation to run for the exit?

Whatever you do, don’t run.

Feeling stumped is a common feeling for most developers. Every day, you’re faced with problems where you have to find a solution. And the best developers are those who can find these solutions quickly and with a cool head. Here are some of their tricks:

1. They know that it’s impossible to know everything

First up – resist the temptation to panic. Take a moment to get some perspective and stop being so hard on yourself.

No matter how it might feel, you’re not expected to know everything (No, really, you’re not.) So, whatever you do, don’t dwell on what you don’t know. Nothing good will come of that. Instead, focus on overcoming your pride and being proactive in finding the answers you’re looking for.

Changing your frame of mind is the first battle. Switch your perspective and focus on finding a solution, not on dwelling on the problem and how poorly equipped you feel to tackle it.

2. They ask for help

There’s no shame in asking for help and it’s one of the only ways you’re ever going to really learn. The best developers know how important it is to use all the resources they have available to them. And, over time, they are able to quickly build their knowledge, and their confidence, helping them to better tackle issues head-on.

So:

Tap into your external peer network: There’s no shame in it. In fact, one-in-five developers tap into their network of tech-based friends, family and peers to aid their learning. You could also try some pair programming if you’re struggling with a specific issue and want to see how a fellow developer would approach the problem.

Ask your manager or colleagues: As a developer, you’re expected to work independently but not in complete isolation. It’s not a sign of failure to ask for support from co-workers. Reaching out to your peers or your boss may open a dialogue that is helpful to the whole team.

Find yourself a mentor: Choose someone you feel sure you can learn from, you respect and has a career you would like to emulate. This could be a person within your organisation or a member of your wider development network.

3. They take control of their own learning

Your learning is exactly that: your learning and no one else’s. So, own it. The best developers know this, and this mentality serves them well for a successful and fruitful development career. And, by adopting a lifelong learning mentality, they feel more confident in dealing with difficult situations as and when they pop up.

They know that they cannot, and must not, rely solely on their employer to give them the training and support they need now and in the future. They are always proactive about filling the gaps in their knowledge and keeping up with rapidly evolving industry trends. In fact, the 2018 Stack Overflow Global Developer Hiring Landscape report also revealed that almost 90% of all developers have taught themselves a new language, framework or tool outside of their formal education.

There’s nothing stopping you doing the same. Make the time to stack and build your own projects. And keep upskilling so you are ready to fill any emerging skills gaps as they appear. Teaching yourself new skills by working on a real-life professional challenge is often the best way to improve as you are learning by doing.

They are so many tools out there to help you do this, so use them.

4. They try Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and hackathons

And that leads me nicely on to my next point. You must also consider longer-term investments in learning. Among professional developers, almost half have taken an online course like a MOOC, and about a quarter have participated in a hackathon.

An (MOOC) is a flexible and accessible online course that you can complete at your own pace. This option is a good method to help you update your skills and is usually available without charge.

A hackathon can also boost your development skills and your employability. In addition to building your technical prowess, it’s a safe environment to enhance your soft skills such as communication, presentation and collaboration.

5. They build a strong network of contacts

MOOCs and hackathons will help you build your development network in the online and offline worlds, respectively. But there are many other routes to build this network, as I outlined in my previous blog.

You could, for instance, connect at an organised meetup, attend industry events or join an online community. What’s more, by getting involved in the wider development community, you will be building your soft skills at the same time. This participation has the knock-on effect of improving your ability to communicate your concerns and challenges at work to help you get the help you need.

Be part of the future of development

As a developer, you are going to continue to face problems and challenges, especially as digital transformation takes hold. But, as shown above, you can protect yourself from becoming obsolete by changing your perspective, asking for help from relevant sources and continuing to learn.

Remember that this is an ongoing process. Feelings of inadequacy will recur if you neglect to evolve your skill set, keep up with the changing pace of technology and fail to remain relevant in today’s workforce.