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 software-development field often receive bigger raises, promotions and the chance to work on high-profile projects.
What does it take to go from good to great? Here are six tips for becoming a faster, better developer.
Set Strategic Goals
What’s “better” is subjective depending on where you work, explained Kurtis Pykes, a machine learning engineer who drastically improved his programming skills over the last three years.
Some companies just want the code to work, while others want the code to be more efficient. Other companies prioritize developers’ coding speed over everything else. Don’t spin your wheels: Figure out where you are relative to the company’s desired performance level and focus on skill-building activities that will push you toward your career and financial goals.
How? Consider using the Feynman Learning Technique. Ask your colleagues for feedback to see which skills you need to improve throughput and quality. “Compare your actual performance with the desired standard, then reverse-engineer the incremental steps to meet your goal,” Pykes suggested.
Get Better at Problem Solving
To go from junior to mid-level in programming, keep solving problems, advised Danny Forest, software engineer, obsessive learner and founder of SkillUp Academy.
“The more you solve problems, the more the patterns become clear,” Forest noted. “When you apply those patterns to new problems, you’re able to solve them faster and better.”
Read and Write Lots of Code
What’s the best way to improve your coding skills? Read more, especially the 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 experts is the fastest way to develop your own style and improve.
For example, Pykes studied the code on the following GitHub repositories to take his skills to the next level:
Strive for incremental improvement by practicing and applying what you learn as you go. The accumulation of numerous small improvements will boost your confidence and help you surmount plateaus. “Make it a habit to code every day,” Forest added. “Set 30 minutes aside and try to solve a problem you or someone you know cares about.”
When you’re ready, transition from writing lots of small programs to larger ones, which forces you to face and conquer increasingly complex challenges.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of copying and pasting code throughout the day, you may be inadvertently reproducing unnecessary, reductant lines of code. To limit duplication (often referred to as the DRY principle), increase your understanding and use of abstractions and learn to write cleaner code.
The better your abstractions, the more you improve as a programmer.
To become a better developer, devote a lot of time to refactoring code. The process of restructuring or editing existing computer code without changing or adding to its external behavior and functionality can help you learn how to make your code more efficient, readable and modifiable.
Learn New Stacks
By developing experience in multiple technology stacks, you learn when and why to use specific languages and frameworks, which makes you a better problem-solver and developer. In turn, this also helps you achieve your career goals by boosting your market value.
“When I felt like I was getting advanced in Python, I’d take a job in Ruby next,” Forest noted. Over time, he not only became well-versed in many languages, but he also learned how to see problems from a different perspective.
“Now, I can get hired for positions in every part of the stack and perform well,” he said.