Programmers are busy, and professional development opportunities often take the back burner. To stay competitive, remain attractive to employers and become experts in their field, however, programmers need to select and work on a few key growth areas. Here are eight ways to stay sharp while expanding your skills and marketability:
1. Continual Learning
For most serious developers, coding on the side and continually teaching oneself the latest and greatest tools is a given. Companies want to see people who have both the initiative and the eagerness to learn, as well as the ability to bring tools back to the team that could improve their product or processes.
2. Problem Solving
There are some companies who put a great premium on problem-solving skills and give logic exercises or puzzles instead of a coding quiz. Their feeling is that it’s not so much your ability to code in a particular language but your ability to creatively solve problems that demonstrates whether you will be a high performer. Since many companies use a variety of languages depending on the application, they want people who can figure out how to transition between various languages and tools.
3. Communication and People Skills
In many of the development roles of the past, it was perfectly acceptable to work alone and to grunt occasionally at a passing coworker. While those roles may still exist in certain situations, most dev roles today require a certain level of interpersonal skills, especially due to the increase in Agile, team-oriented development. The most extreme form of this would be paired programming where two developers are actively working together and reviewing each other’s work.
4. Networking and Branding
The good news is that as a developer, your skills are probably highly sought after. The bad news is that if you aren’t out there actively networking, you may not even know what great opportunities are available to you. Often we find developers have the least developed LinkedIn profiles. They may be afraid of being called by recruiters, but they are also making themselves invisible to hiring managers who often do their own hunting on LinkedIn. At a minimum, any good developer should be attending meetups and expanding their circle. Most hires are made by referral or prior knowledge of someone’s skills.
5. Getting Familiar With Agile
This is almost a given for most development positions these days. Even if a team uses a combination of waterfall and Agile, there are usually ongoing development and releases in some form. Companies want people who can be adaptable and effective at continuous development and deployment.
6. Getting Familiar With a Native Mobile Platform
As the world becomes more device-driven, so, too, does the development world. Companies are recognizing many customers want to do business on mobile platforms, whether Android or iPad, and they are actively developing their products for these platforms. Those who haven’t worked with mobile technology may find themselves dated when it comes time to find a new position.
7. Project Management Skills
Especially with the burgeoning startup scene, developers may find themselves asked to wear multiple hats in many companies, instead of just sitting down to write code. They may be asked to architect, to handle database work, oversee release management or even to support operations infrastructure. One of the most vital skills for a senior developer is project management. Companies often look for people who can code as well as drive a project forward and lead a team successfully to meet tight deadlines.
8. A Full Set of Skills
As described above, developers are often asked to wear multiple hats. While bigger teams may have the luxury of having a strong front-end developer who can focus more on the look and feel of the application, there are many times when hard-core developers are asked to handle this work as well. Having the web/UI skills makes you that much more of a well-rounded candidate; and bonus points if you have some work on the mobile side!
Even if you’re a highly marketable developer, there are things you can do to make yourself more attractive to future employers, which could result in an even better opportunity, company or compensation.
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