Becoming a better developer...

Published on 30 July 2011

While I was at DDD South West I had the pleasure of listening to a number of 20-20 presentations (20 slides, each one timed to last 20 seconds) and one that really stood out for me was Mark Rendle’s “Kaizen For Coders”.

I have now had the chance to listen back to this presentation thanks for Guy Smith-Ferrier, who has downloads of four out of the six 20-20 presentations available on his blog. I would highly encourage everyone to take 6 minutes and 40 seconds out of their day to watch this presentation.

NOTE: For those who are easily offended, there is one section where Mark let’s out a swear word.

In this presentation, Mark summarises a number of things that developers can be doing to improve themselves, some of which I was already doing, but others that I wasn’t, and it has made me stop and think about how I can improve myself as a developer.

Some of the main points of the presentation were:

“Learn something new every day”

I am finding that I am doing this more and more now. Now, this might sound a little bit weird, but it’s true. I have been developing in .Net for around 8 years now, and it is only lately that I feel I am truly, regularly, learning new things. I don’t know if this is as a result of my increased involvement in the .Net Community, or whether data is simply more readily available, through mediums such as Twitter, but it is happening. It is all too easy to become complacent about things, but going out of your way to learn new things is a great way to inject some life back into your development.

“Always, always be learning a new language”

Now this is something that I don’t do, but something that I am looking to change. I guess you could say that I am “stuck in a rut” in this regard. During my time as a .Net Developer I have done both Windows and Web Development, using both VB.Net and C#, and over the years I have picked up other things like SharePoint and Silverlight, but predominantly, this has all been using C#. In order to become a more “rounded” developer it is clear to me now that I have to start learning other languages and frameworks. The problem that I now face is deciding on which ones, as there are quite a lot out there!

“Possibly the most important part of this entire presentation, read books!”

My work colleagues will testify to the fact that I have this one covered! I own a lot of books, and since purchasing my Kindle, I now own a few more. The problem here, as Mark points out, is that it is not enough just to own books, you also have to read them to. For a while there I was guilty of doing that, buying a book and never reading it, but I have learnt the error of my ways.

“Listen to podcasts”

Again, this is something that I haven’t done a lot of, but I have now started listening to a few on the commute to work. At the minute, this consists of the likes of This Developer’s Life, Hanselminutes, and Windows Phone Dev Podcast. Since I am new to this podcast “thing” I would welcome any additional recommendations.

“Read code”

This is also not something that I have done a lot of. When I was first getting into ASP.Net development I used the original BeerHouse sample kit for ASP.Net 2.0 which I still believe to be a great example of N-Tier application development, however, since then, I haven’t really “read” any other code samples. Again, this is something that I aim to change going forward. With open source repositories such as GitHub and BitBucket, there is plenty of code out there to take a look at.

“Be prepared to invest some money in this process... you are a commodity, and you need to make sure that you maintain yourself as a commodity”

For me, this was the defining point of the presentation, and one that really resounded with me. Now obviously it isn’t always possible to fork out loads of money to keep up to date with the latest technologies, however, I think it is fair to say that you need to invest something; be it time or money.

This could be the travelling costs to get to free conferences such as those from DDD, or something simpler like getting involved in your local .Net User Group, you need to do it.

With this in mind, I have now made the decision to attend the Progressive .Net Tutorials in London in September. I have never attended anything like this, but I was very intrigued by the offer of 4-hour in depth tutorials, and having looked at the session list, I decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss!

comments powered by Disqus