It’s not too often I look back on parts of my life and think, “Wow, that was a good idea”. Like the time I decided it was a good idea to go on a hike before seeing my favourite band later that day. The three-hour-long hike through the Tararuas turned into seven, due to detours bypassing slips.
Because of some bad planning – I could have changed the hike to another day – and with the unforeseeable detours, I nearly missed seeing the band. In the end I got to go on an incredible adventure – and see my favourite band.
My career path has taken similar turns to that hiking trip. Sometimes, I think I should have taken a gap year and postponed University instead of doing an enriching, but impractical, BA. Sometimes, I think it was a waste of time and money going back to do postgrad. Ultimately, I don’t regret a single academic or career choice I’ve made. Without them, I wouldn’t have found a fulfilling career in tech.
Although I’ve only been developing for just over a year and a half, the desire to be better than I was the week before is a goal I can work on anywhere in my career. When I think back on this time, I look to the examples of my mentors to guide me.
Here are the four building blocks that keep me focused on developing (ha) my tech career at Raygun:
1. Keep learning
At its very core, technology is an industry that strives to improve on yesterday. However, just because a new language or framework emerges, it does not mean you have to drop what you’ve already learnt and pursue the new.
Personally, the biggest part of learning is retaining what I’ve already read and learnt. The best way to retain information, I’ve found, is by making code snippets, making simple apps to exemplify what I’ve learnt, and doing code katas.
Code katas, like Codewars, are exercises where you practice writing code by completing a task. There may be countless ‘right’ answers, but the challenge lies in writing elegant code. Most days, I’m just so happy to get all the tests passing!
Katas are perfect for junior devs. Through katas, I’ve discovered new methods I have never used in production code (probably for a reason), but which add to my knowledge and enjoyment. Katas a personal favourite because they bring about the same delight as completing sudoku and crosswords.
2. Talk to people
Job satisfaction is more than just liking what you do in the time you’re tinkering away at your computer. It’s encompasses a range of things – such as the work environment, feeling part of a team, enjoying your colleagues’ company and looking forward to future projects to name a few. These all involve people to some degree.
When I think of my mentors, I think about how they go the extra mile to get to know people. One particular person comes to mind. Whenever I work on a project with this person, I get excited because I know I’m going to learn so much from her and have a really enjoyable time doing so. Not because we’re going to be chattering the whole time, but because we know how each likes to work and complete tasks. This knowledge wouldn’t have come about if we never made efforts to talk.
Each person at work has something valuable to say, whether it’s work-related, or just a really good story!
3. Attend meetups
Going to meetups is a combination of the first two points – you’re kept up-to-date on the tech sector and you get to hang out with people in the same industry.
When I talk about meetups, conferences and presentations fall into this category. There are so many quality ones in Wellington – from the fortnightly .Net User Group to the yearly Code Retreat. I love talking to the range of people who attend meetups, from recent grads to seasoned devs at the top of their game. And it’s always extra nice talking about technical things over pizza.
4. Go outside
Tech is such a creative field and sometimes it’s easy to run out of energy and creative steam due to the nature of our work. The solution to topping up our energy and creativity could lie in spending (even just a little) time outside.
I could link you all the studies that show the benefits of spending time in nature, but I’ll spare you. There’s an excellent Outside magazine article I read four years ago that already does this, but in a more organised and practical way.
One of the main points of the article is how spending time outdoors increases our creativity and decreases our stress. This is definitely something I can always use more of on a day-to-day basis. A simple solution could just be a short walk around the block, preferably with some greenery, to get more energy and inspiration going. Doing this has saved me so much time and frustration. When I come back from a walk, I can almost immediately see a better solution to a problem I was having.
These are just four things I do to try to get better every week. If you have any tips or other solutions, we’d love to hear them below.
Now excuse me while I go for a little hike round the block, but this time, I know for sure I’ll be back soon!