The Web Gambit

Thoughts on Web Development

5 Deadly Sins of the Software Developer

I recently came across an old post on The Mole Skin that listed out the 5 deadly sins of the Web Profesional and I thought it would be appropriate to come up with a similar list for Software Developers. So here is my list.

Not making time for community

Being part of a developer community is an essential aspect of your personal growth as a developer. As developers, many of us are not very inclined to network. Also we often think that the necessary skills needed to do our jobs can be self-taught. While you might be able to learn the basics of a technology on your own, you might not learn the most efficient way to use it. Participating in a community will help you to meet like minded people that you can relate to and help further both your technical skills and your communication skills. These can lead to better jobs, better solutions, and new challenges.

Letting your skills stagnate

While communication skills are key to being a good contributor, sharp technical skills are what separates the average developer from the truly great ones. Unfortunately, it is very easy to let your skills stagnate. Maybe you’re in a position that started out with a very cutting edge codebase, but after 3-4 years most of the technology is considered legacy. Or perhaps you are already in a maintenance-only role working on legacy technology. In either situation, your market value as a developer will continue to deteriorate over time. While changing jobs might be an option, there are other things you can do to keep your skills sharp. One option is to contribute to open source projects. Another option is moonlight with paid side projects. Or you can start building a product/website in your spare time on a technology stack of your choosing. Even if your after hours endeavors are not as successful, you’ll still be learning and staying sharp until the time is right for you to change jobs.

Staying and quitting

A lot of times you may start a position with a lot of enthusiasm and a desire to really make improvements to the product you are working on. But after a while and for any number of reasons, you may feel beat down, burned out, and generally uninterested in the direction things are going. Maybe you used to work lots of extra hours without feeling overworked, but now even 40 hours of work is painful. Despite all this, you don’t do anything to change your situation. You’ve officially transitioned from having a career to just having a job. This is one of the worst things you can do as a developer, because it will lead to both a stagnation of your technical skills, and slowly kill off your passion. If you see yourself veering down this path, make the necessary changes before it’s too late.

Spinning your wheels without going anywhere

A lot of times when developers pick up new technologies, they do a lot of experimentation and change layers out often. This constant changing of your technology stack is good for learning, but really bad for shipping. Most seasoned developers have learned that there is no silver bullet. Every new framework that claims to change the world will have some limitations that you won’t find until you’re knee deep in an implementation. When you get stuck, there’s always the temptation to switch frameworks. Or maybe you started on v1.0 of a framework and when you’re halfway through, v2.0 comes out so you’re tempted to upgrade.  Such switches are often very costly and can cost you time, money, and even damage your reputation by labeling you as indecisive and unable to get the job done.  Resist the temptation to always go for the new and shiny by limiting the unknowns in your technology stack.  It’s always good to try new things, but not at the cost of getting your software to ship.

Killing your passion and creativity

Letting your skills stagnate and “staying and quitting” are signs that you’re killing off what ever passion that you had when you first started your job. When your passion dies, so does your creativity. It will become obvious to those you work with that you’ve reached your peak. Those who looked to you for technical guidance may look elsewhere for input. You’ll continue to only get uninteresting work that other more passionate developers have passed over and the situation will only get worse.

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2 responses to “5 Deadly Sins of the Software Developer

  1. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

  2. caseywatson October 29, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for this post. It rang true.

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