Studies show that the productivity of great developers is three times that of an average developer and 10 times that of a below average developer. It’s no wonder that the best in the field of software development often receive bigger raises, promotions, and the opportunity to work on large-scale projects.
What does it take to go from good to great? Here are six tips for becoming a faster, better developer.
Define strategic objectives
What’s “better” is subjective depending on where you work, explained Kurtis Pykes, a machine learning engineer who has improved his programming skills dramatically over the past three years.
Some companies just want the code to work, while others want the code to be more efficient. Other companies prioritize developer coding speed over everything else. Don’t spin the wheels: Figure out where you are in relation to the level of performance the company wants and focus on skill-building activities that will help you achieve your professional and financial goals.
How? ‘Or’ What? Consider using the Feynman learning technique. Ask your colleagues for feedback to determine the skills you need to improve throughput and quality. “Compare your actual performance with the desired standard, then reverse-engineer incremental steps to reach your goal,” Pykes suggested.
Get better at problem solving
To go from junior to intermediate level in programming, keep solving problems, advised Danny Forest, software engineer, obsessive learner and founder of SkillUp Academy.
“The more problems you solve, the clearer the patterns become,” Forest noted. “When you apply these models to new problems, you are able to solve them faster and better.”
To hone your problem-solving skills, consider taking an online course, reading books, listening to podcasts, and solving problems on different platforms and in different settings.
Read and write a lot of code
What’s the best way to improve your coding skills? Read more, especially code created by exceptionally good programmers. Reading high-quality code helps you identify your flaws and weaknesses, as well as the skills you need to develop. Plus, understanding and emulating the style of the experts is the fastest way to develop your own style and improve.
For example, Pykes studied code on the following GitHub repositories to take its skills to the next level:
Strive to improve gradually by practicing and applying what you learn as you go. Accumulating lots of small upgrades will boost your confidence and help you overcome milestones. “Get into the habit of coding every day,” Forest added. “Set yourself 30 minutes aside and try to solve a problem that is close to your heart or that worries someone you know.”
When you’re ready, move from writing many small programs to larger ones, which require you to face and overcome increasingly complex challenges.
If you’ve made a habit of copying and pasting code throughout the day, you may inadvertently reproduce unnecessary and reductive lines of code. To limit duplication (often referred to as the DRY principle), improve your understanding and use of abstractions and learn to write cleaner code.
The better your abstractions, the better you get as a programmer.
To become a better developer, spend a lot of time refactoring code. The process of restructuring or modifying existing computer code without altering or adding to its external behavior and functionality can help you learn how to make your code more efficient, readable, and editable.
Learn new stacks
By building experience in multiple tech stacks, you learn when and why to use specific languages and frameworks, making you a better problem solver and developer. In turn, this also helps you achieve your career goals by increasing your market value.
“When I felt I was making progress in Python, I then took a job in Ruby,” Forest noted. Over time, he not only became familiar with many languages, but also learned to see problems from a different angle.
“Now I can be hired for positions in every part of the stack and perform well,” he said.