We all have to start someplace in our careers and as a developer, you have a LOT of options and decisions to make. From your first job and industry, programming language to learn, training, soft skills and more. The choices are endless and each right decision (and sometimes wrong decision) helps bring you to where you are today in your career. Looking back, if you could give an important piece of advice to a junior developer, what would you tell them?
Brad Topol, IBM Distinguished Engineer
Always be prepared to learn something new, especially for the purposes of being able to move to a new “hot and shiny” growth area. In our field, when you become experienced with a technology to the point that it’s easy and you aren’t learning anything new and it’s starting to become boring to you, its probably time to identify a new and growing technology area and to start to learn that. By being willing to move to new growth areas and forcing yourself to learn something new, you will grow your talent stack and guarantee that your skills will always be in demand.
Jason Kennedy, Technical Lead, Digital, Client Developer Advocacy
The most important piece of advice I can give for a junior developer is to ask questions. There’s a perception that asking questions gives an appearance of not knowing enough to do your job – it’s just not true. Ask all of the questions. Senior developers appreciate questions (the good ones, anyway!).
Karen Kilroy, IBM Champion at Kilroy Blockchain LLC
The secret is not to know everything; it is knowing how to get the answers. Even the most seasoned developers have to constantly learn new things. Sure, it may relate to other things they know, but they still have to continuously educate themselves. The best developers go bravely into new territory and never stop learning. They develop their own patterns of finding information, through asking the developer community, though reading and research, and through hands-on experimentation. Find what works for you and never let a lack of knowledge on a new technique or language become a barrier to trying it out.
Steve Martinelli, Senior Technical Staff Member
Learn the fundamentals. New technologies come out every year and you won’t have time to learn each and every one. Instead, focus on learning the fundamentals. Get really good at a single programming language, get used to writing documentation, adding unit tests, and following the DRY principle. Get to know your way around a shell, how to use bash commands like “grep”, “exec”, and “find”. Lastly, get to know the latest open source projects. Open source has won and helped propel the adoption of cloud computing. By working on an open source project you’ll grow your network and become exposed to software you might not use in your day job.
Daniel Krook, CTO of Call for Code
My advice to a new developer is not to get hung up on a single technology nor take sides in a programming language holy war. Always remain open-minded to new approaches to a development challenge. Change is constant in the software industry. The hot new framework that everyone says you must learn now or the development methodology that will solve all problems and render everything else obsolete is soon to be the butt of jokes in a few years or even months! Find what works for the immediate customer need or to scratch your own project itch to deliver working code today while keeping your eye on the future. A great way to do this is to balance your learning between hands-on tutorials and high-level keynotes from technical presenters at a variety of meetups and conferences.
Christopher S. Penn, IBM Champion at TrustInsights.ai
What will set you apart from your peers in the long run is self-motivation to keep learning. I’ve lost count of the number of professionals in my field who are working old, stale knowledge. There are certainly timeless classics, timeless knowledge that is essential – chances are you’ve learned much of that in school. But so many fields – especially those in technology – require you to constantly stay fresh, to constantly know what’s state of the art, even if you’re not actively practicing it. Knowing it exists, learning how it works, and striving to achieve state of the art is how you’ll stay relevant and how you’ll reinvent yourself over and over again in your career. Without that freshness, reinvention is impossible and obsolescence shortly follows. Stay fresh.
Stay tuned and we will back again soon with another dev survey! From thoughtful advice to fun hobbies, we’ll be sharing what’s going on in the minds of developers around the globe. Because it’s not just about coding and sprints. And if you have any survey questions you’d like to have answered, please let us know on the IBM Developer feedback form.