When you are new, it’s important to practice every day. That is really what quality developers are doing, practicing daily. You might think, I’ll catch up on Thursday and do a bunch of hours. It doesn’t really work that way. It’s kind of like sleep. It’s better to get the required amount of time in every day. Even a small amount of time like 25 minutes time segments to start will help you to build momentum and continue the learning process. So consider the 3 Skills of Quality Developer That Newbies Underestimate in the context of deliberate practice which means every day. It’s true that coding requires deep thought and you’ll want to give yourself the time and thoughtfulness to do that, but you’ll need to build that muscle over time. So start small and continue to build. It’ll be a really effective strategy over the course of your career.
Setting up and understanding the environment
Setting up and understanding the environment is a key skill of a quality developer. Newbies want to jump right into the code and start writing, but a quality developer knows that the right code in the wrong place is the wrong code. A specific code segment is supremely affected by the environment in which it executes. So you may have everything right in your loop, but if the inputs coming in are not in the right format or place it may appear that the code segment is wrong.
One of my favorite tools to isolate code segments and therefore analyze each piece for accuracy is: Codepen. It’s great because you can have the HTML, CSS, and JS all on one screen, but isolated in separate columns. It’s great for debugging and learning. It’s open-source and freely available. Having the right tools is part of the concept of setting up the environment. Having sub-environments to test code segments is helpful to isolate issues.
Part of the environment is naming conventions. It’s hard to think about what a great name will be as you have so many other things swirling around your head, but it is worth the time to think through the naming of your code elements. Take a minute to ask: ‘what is the most descriptive way I can label this item (e.g,. variable, function, etc.) so it will make sense to someone who comes after me?’
Continuing to build skills
I run into a lot of new developers who think when they just “get there” they’ll know what all those other “experts” know. The reality is that high-quality developers are always learning and teaching. They are focused on acquiring new skills and honing old ones. They are willing to listen to anyone who knows more than them. Age is essentially “not a thing” in the tech community. If you know something that can help me, you can be 12 years old and I’ll still listen to you.
The same goes for teaching. High-quality developers are willing and excited to teach and share what they know. They appreciate how hard it was to acquire their skills and they are happy to communicate that knowledge to someone who does not know that information yet. It may not always seem like that if you visit some forums. People may have rude responses like “Google it” or “go check the archives” because they get tired of answering the same questions, but that could just mean you are in the wrong place. It is true that you should do a little simple research before you reach out to ask for help, but if you have done that you actually share code and ask about it, most of the time there are many people willing to help and support you.
Quality developers want to teach because by explaining how something works, they are growing their own knowledge and expertise. Explaining a concept is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of it which will help you as you acquire new skills. Which brings me back to this point of “getting there”. You will never get there. As soon as you learn how to do one thing, there will be a new challenge. You are just one level now. Typically for newbies, that level is learning. You want to get to the next level; likely getting hired. Once you get hired though, you will continue to grow your skills. You will need resources and an understanding of your environment, along with a continual learner mentality. That’s both the beauty and the challenge of development.
Have a go-to resource list
Having a list of go-to resources to get started, get moving, and overcoming roadblocks is something every quality developer has at the ready. These will adapt and change over time, but to get you started, here are some great resources, people and info, to help move you forward when you are learning and growing as a developer.
People to follow on Twitter
Note, each link has been personally selected to maximize effectiveness and get hired faster so consider the recommendations as a way to weed through the chaos quickly.
Freecodecamp — Build a Pomodoro Clock
Khanacademy — Functions
W3schools — The “Try It Now” button on w3schools may be the most significant learning tool to enter the web in the last decade. When attempting to learn how to code, trying it and seeing the result is THE best way to build your skills.
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