A few months back, I was invited to talk to a group of engineering students of a renowned college in India. I was supposed to interact with them, motivate them, and finally tell them, "What does the industry (the "job" world) look like?", "How can you get ready for it?"
After spending 15+ years developing software, releasing products, managing teams, clients, and expectations, I had a bagful of thoughts to share with the younger generation.
Fortunately, I was able to summarize everything in eight high-level points without making my audience bored with it.
I will share those points in this article to help you better prepare for the upcoming opportunities and challenges. All the points mentioned in the article apply to everyone, irrespective of their current experience in the industry.
Wherever I mention the term "industry" in this article, I mean the "Software Industry" as my experience relates directly to it. Happy reading!
There are Three Types of People in the Industry
We can categorize people working in the software industry into three major groups.
- Following: People who need career guidance and a path defined to accomplish their career goals. They are seeking feedback and validation from people already doing the required things to grow in the industry.
- Doing: This set of people is already doing things needed to grow in the industry. They stay
relevantto the latest and greatest things out there. They sharpen their
skillsperiodically and help their followers grow by sharing knowledge and information. There are fewer people in this category than in the
- Doing + What's Next?: This set of folks are not only doing things but also creating specialities for the future. They cultivate visions of
what's next?and work towards it with a lot of
passion. Their efforts don't necessarily have to result in some extraordinary output, but they keep trying. Again, fewer people are in this category than we discussed previously in the
Please note that these categories don't determine who is senior or junior in the industry or the organization. Instead, these categories exist in all job grades, levels, and work functions.
Also, the exciting thing is that a single person can play their part in all three categories based on situation, skill, and context.
For example, Ms X is
doing an excellent in web development technologies, solving problems, and creating tools to help things in the future. She is now starting her blogging journey to share her knowledge widely. She is learning from the technology blogging community by
following established bloggers.
So how do we make sure that we constantly build our presence in these categories and move the needle to get into the
Doing+ What's Next phases?
8 Tips to Help You Advance Your Coding Career
Yes, I want to summarize my tips into eight crucial points to focus on. You may be doing some or all of these already or haven't started on them. Either way is fine, and I hope it encourages you to step up further from here.
1. Build Habits
habits drive us in our life. We build many of them unknowingly, and we have to build some consciously.
A good habit helps you develop the right attitude towards solving problems, handling challenging situations, and making better decisions. It helps you set rational targets and get close to them. People with good habits are organized, thoughtful, approachable, and have a positive mindset.
So what are some of the good habits? There are plenty, and here are some basic ones.
- Writing, taking notes
- Physical exercise
- Setting a schedule
- Getting organized
- Saving money
Build habits, good ones. It will set the stage for you to decide between good and bad, short term and long term, dos vs don'ts, and right vs wrong.
But, how do we build good habits? Well, I can write a few articles on this topic alone, but I'll emphasize these points for now:
- Find a habit and a reason why you want to build it. What's the end goal?
- Find a trigger for it. A trigger motivates you to start and pushes you to stay on it. For example, listening to music could trigger starting physical exercise.
- Plan for it knowing your limitations and all the chances you have of failing.
- If you failed to sustain the habit, think about what went wrong. Do you need it? Readjust, replan and start again.
2. Find Your Passion
passion keeps you going and helps you live a motivated professional and personal life. Passion is an "individual" thing that may impact many people in your circles. You can be passionate about technology, health, writing – anything that you love to do constantly.
However, one piece of advice I got early in my career was, "don't follow your passion blindly". The passion should be linked with your goals, career, and work. It is essential to find the difference between a hobby and a passion. You may have a hobby unrelated to your career, but your passion should relate to it.
It is essential to identify your passion, fuel it with a lot of practice, and renew it from time to time.
3. Connect with People
Social networking for developers and the
developer communities are influential in building your career. You get to meet like-minded people, find role models, get opportunities to collaborate, learn, and find jobs.
Whether you are a student, a fresher, or a veteran professional, social networking for developers is undoubtedly a great option to consider. The platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Showwcase, and Polywork are great ones to check out. You can connect with people of interest, learn from them, and contribute.
Learning and sharing is a wonderful cycle that builds knowledge. It grows when we come out of silos and learn in public. Also, learning from the experience of others will accelerate our growth. So, connect.
4. Stay Curious
Curiosity is the desire to learn something new. Stay curious and be open to learning. Curiosity brings questions and doubts to mind. The fun is in finding the answers.
So, please ask questions when you have doubts, don't be shy thinking about whether it is a silly question, what people will think, and so on.
Staying curious will help you find how things work under the hood. There are many benefits of knowing the internals of things when it comes to programming. So, stay curious, and keep exploring.
5. Develop Side Hustles
Here comes my favourite point,
Side Hustles. When you build a habit of doing things, fuel your passion directed towards the career goal, look to learn new things, and connect with people, you have an ocean of opportunities for side hustles.
But wait, what are side hustles, and why are they needed? Don't we have enough things to do already? Yes, very practical questions. Let's get to them one by one.
Side hustles are anything you do outside of your regular job to earn knowledge, reputation, money, and growth. There are various form of side hustles like,
- Contributing to the open-source projects
- Writing articles on a blog
- Community Building
- Releasing books, e-books
- Speaking at conferences
- Creating video content...and many more
Now all these need time, and of course, you might have something called a "primary" job to take care of. However, most of the above don't need a massive amount of time or dedication. Also, all of these can be the by-product of your "primary" job.
Let's take a few examples:
- Have you solved a technical problem at work? Write about it as an article. Create a video explaining the steps and upload it on YouTube. Share about it on StackOverflow, the Showwcase community, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Do you have expertise in specific areas and have taken many notes on problem-solving? Move them to a doc and release them as an e-book. Don't worry about who will make use of them. There is always a great demand for quality content.
- Do you love to teach? Spend 1 hour over weekends interacting with people interested in your areas of expertise. Speak about the topic at a conference.
It is the right thing to do if you can manage side hustles without burnout. I have captured some of my personal experience doing side projects as a developer here.
6. Don't Neglect Soft Skills
Soft skills are all about how humans interact with other human beings at work, in personal life, anywhere in the world, and in any possible modes (physically, remotely, virtually). Unlike technical skills, soft skills are less about learning and more about realizing.
Here are a few soft skills that need special attention,
- Problem solving
- Communication (not just the spoken or written language – it includes body language, confidence, resolving conflicts, and more)
- Owning up to your mistakes or accountability
- Time management - we will talk about it in a while.
Some classes and courses teach you many of these soft skills. But you need to work on closing the gap yoursef and improve upon these skills gradually.
7. Manage Your Time
Let me start with a confession. I'm still learning how to manage time, but the good news is that I'm getting better at it.
Each of us has 24 hours in a day. So we need to manage all our activities in that duration. However, the problem comes with too many things to fit in that duration.
Here are some practices (principles too) I've been following and seeing good results.
- Everything is not crucial to us every day. The tricky part is that we assume that something is essential until we give enough thought to it.
- So, we need to think and prioritize. It also includes regular activities like sleeping, exercise, eating food on time, health, family care, and so on.
- Do not focus on things that are of lower priority priority or can wait for the next day or week.
- Do not multi-task. It only increases stress and reduces productivity in the long run. Take up a task, focus on it in a time-boxed manner, complete it, and then get to the next one.
- Take breaks between task switches. Rejuvenate and energize yourself.
- If something is taking more time than anticipated, accept that it happens. You may not meet your time management plan every day.
I hope these pointers help you with enough thought processes to start managing time better.
8. Find a Mentor
Do yourself a favour. Find a good mentor. Learning from someone's knowledge and experience is immensely beneficial. So let's understand who a mentor can be, what their role is, and how we can benefit as mentees.
mentor is a person who provides guidance and advice to you to make your aspirations a reality. It could be for career-building, learning a new area, understanding the business processes, and many more.
A mentor may help share experiences and resources, provide motivation, and set and track individual and project goals. A mentor can also be a teacher, but in most cases, teaching focuses on "how," and mentoring focuses on "why".
mentee is a person who is being mentored, guided, and advised by a mentor. A mentee approaches a mentor with aspirations, ambition, and desire. The mentor guides the mentee to help them achieve their goals.
The mentee drives it to success with the mentor's help in a mentoring program. The mentee decides how much help and guidance they need to achieve the mentorship goal.
A mentor and mentee relationship should be beyond just the technology and project knowledge sharing. It is also about understanding each other's emotional space to achieve the mentoring goals.
Now the most crucial part is
finding a good mentor. Several platforms offer mentorship. There are some great mentors creating values for many aspiring people. You can always try your luck and find the best connection. I feel it is more authentic if you find someone from your network or community circle whom you know personally. That may even work out much better.
To summarize, focus on these points with all the pointers we have discussed in this article:
- Build good habits.
- Find your passion carefully.
- Connect with like-minded people and build your network.
- Stay curious, and keep learning.
- Use side hustles to grow.
- Soft skills are essential.
- Learn to manage your time.
- Find a mentor.
Before We End...
I hope you found this article insightful and that it helps you to prepare better in your career. If you want to discuss further or just want to have a career chat, you can ping me with a DM on Twitter or LinkedIn.
See you soon with my next article. Until then, please take care of yourself, and stay happy.