by Isabel Nyo
If you’re a developer, you should start blogging — and here’s why.
My blogging journey and skills I’ve acquired along the way
There have been many accidental events in my life that have benefited me greatly in my career, and blogging is definitely one of them. Today, I’d like to take you on my blogging journey and share with you some of the skills that I’ve acquired from blogging.
How my blogging journey began
Let’s start from the very beginning. There is always a reason behind any journey. So the first question that I’d like to address is why I started blogging. Was it for fame or a desire to create a personal brand? Was it to make some side income?
The answer was neither. The reason why I started blogging was actually rather simple. It was because I needed a place to record my learning and it needed to be somewhere that I could access from anywhere that was not tied to a physical device or location. So not on my home computer or my work computer.
And therefore, I only had one audience in mind: myself. I started blogging for myself, so I could access the content from anywhere in the world. My blog lived at my domain name - eisabainyo.net. This was before smartphones existed.
That’s a nice segue to the next question that I would like to address: when did I start blogging? I remember the exact date because it was quite an easy date to remember — Christmas Day, about 13 years ago. 25 December 2005, to be precise.
There was no shortage of what to blog about, because I was living and breathing web development.
Changing with the times
Fast-forward to now, and both my personal and professional life have changed. I am now an engineering manager and a proud mother of a six-year-old girl.
Therefore, my blog has evolved from being a technical blog with code snippets and demos to a blog that talks about technology careers, leadership, and life from the perspective of a female leader in technology who is also a mother.
Where and how I blog have evolved, too. My blog has also interestingly aligned with how the technology landscape is changing. When I started blogging, I used WordPress software and installed it on a shared hosting platform. About 6-7 years ago, when social media became popular, I started blogging on LinkedIn. And today, I blog on Medium. Basically, I moved to where my audience went. It’s funny now to think that I started blogging for myself.
In terms of tools of the trade, I used a desktop computer back in the day, and then I moved to a windows laptop. These days, I blog on a Mac or sometimes from my smartphone. Medium has a pretty good iPhone app that lets me do that. Sometimes, the Notes app works just fine, too.
What I’ve learned from blogging
And now, I’d like to share with you the skills that I learned from blogging and how those skills have helped me on my career journey.
Time management is one of my top rated skills, and I am proud to say it’s something I learned through keeping a reasonable up-to-date blog outside my full-time job and family responsibilities. To me, time management is not about when you do one thing or the other. It’s about having strategies that help you make the best use of the time you have.
Time management is personal, because it has to work for you, and it has to match your preferences. For example, if you are not a morning person, a time management strategy that says waking up at 5am to have an extra hour to get ready for the day and clear up your Inbox is not going to work well for you.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you some of my time management strategies so you can choose to take or leave the ones you find appropriate:
Get rid of time wasters: For example, no TV or Netflix, no procrastination.
Keep lists: I have a Shopping List, Lunch Box List (for my daughter), Cleaning List, Ideas List, and a Holiday Activities List, just to name a few.
Understand the why behind everything: I find that when I know the reason or purpose behind a particular activity, I am more likely to be motivated to achieve it instead of just doing the activity because I don’t have a choice.
For example, I blog because I like to facilitate knowledge sharing and learn and grow at the same time. If I can’t find a good reason why I am doing something, then it’s a chance for me to really decide if it is something that I should be doing.
Relax and reflect: It may seem ironic to see the word “Relax” as a time management strategy, but I swear by it. You’ll rarely see me in the office past 6 pm, because I have found that it doesn’t matter how long I stay in the office. At a certain point, I am not adding value or doing any high-impact work as my brain just stops working after 8 hours. It needs to be recharged.
Therefore, my time management strategy is to take a break every now and then, and relax and reflect on what I’ve done, so I can start again with full focus and energy.
Focus on high-value work: To be able to focus on high-value work that is going to bring the most value to you, whether it is personal or professional, you need to first identify what it is and what it is not. I determine whether something is a high-value work by answering a simple question - will this matter in the future (a few days or months or years from now)?
For example, through my blog, I receive quite a few emails, comments, and direct messages. Do I read them all? Yes, I do skim-read them all. Do I reply to them all? No, I don’t. While I understand it is nice and polite to reply to every single person, sometimes it is not necessary.
Let me give you a few examples. Some people want me to promote their products which I don’t believe in, some people are trolls, some people just want to state their opinion. Just a bit of disclaimer: this doesn’t mean that if I don’t reply to someone, I don’t value their feedback or I think they are trolls. It just means that I value both my time and their time.
One of the questions I get asked a lot with regards to my blog is how I come up with content ideas. My answer is two words: design thinking.
Design thinking is a bit of a buzz word these days, and there are a lot of articles that talk about design thinking. Contrary to popular belief, design thinking is not only about how things “look,” nor is it just a concern for designers.
Therefore, lets go back to the basics and understand what design thinking is.
Design thinking is an iterative approach to problem solving that intentionally seeks out people with different perspectives, knowledge, skills and experience and has them work together to create a practical solution for a real-world problem - Tech Target
While I do not have a team of people working on my blog, I do speak to a lot of people and get feedback, questions, and comments from them. That’s where my content ideas come from.
I’ve learned that regardless of how great I think my content is, if none of my audience is interested in that particular topic, it is not going to add value to them. The design thinking approach encourages me to empathise with my audience, define ideas for content in a structured way, keep a prioritised backlog of ideas, do necessary research, and, last but not least, write content that adds value to my audience.
As with the last step in the design thinking process, “Testing”, I am constantly looking at feedback and user engagement (such as social media sharing, comments, Medium highlights) to really understand if I have achieved what I was trying to achieve with my content and how I can improve for my next content.
Openness to feedback
We all know feedback is a gift, but it takes a bit of practice to be open to receiving feedback that is not positive. Through my blog, I’ve received a lot of feedback. Some is positive feedback, but some is not.
Over time, I have learned to really value negative feedback instead of getting upset about it. Every piece of negative feedback that I receive teaches me something. Some negative feedback is well-meaning, and some is not. But regardless of its intent, all negative feedback helps me to grow. In case you’re wondering how I react to negative feedback, these are the things I usually do when I receive it:
- Take time to understand the feedback and let it sink in.
- Decide if it is something I would like to do something about — whether by responding to the person or making a mental note for the future or adding an action item for myself.
- If the feedback is negative and not well-meaning, give myself the permission to ignore and move on.
Through getting feedback from others via my blog, I’ve also learned and embraced this very simple fact — not everyone is going to agree with you, not everyone has to share your point of view, and that is perfectly ok.
Blogging is a form of expressing myself through words. Through blogging, I have found myself getting better at articulating my thoughts whether they are in written or spoken form.
I’ve learned to communicate clearly, both by thinking about the message and the impression that I’d like to leave, and by changing my communication style to meet my target audience — all through blogging. Regardless of where you currently are in your career (for example, whether you’re a developer, a tech lead, a manager or a CTO), great communication skills can make or break your career.
A lot of the times, it is your communication skills that set you apart from others and makes you stand out from the rest.
Start blogging today
Do you have a blog? If so, good on you. Keep blogging! If you haven’t got a blog yet, I hope I’ve encouraged you to blog by sharing my journey with you. It truly has helped me a lot in my career and in my outlook on life, more than I had ever anticipated.
Just like Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker, once said,
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
Thank you for reading!
If you like this story, you might like to check out my latest book, README.md for Software Developers: The Ultimate Software Development Career Guide in the Age of Technology Disruption.
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