Expert Advice: Tips all Developers Should Know

As a software developer, every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Even the most seasoned software engineers are continually learning new tactics that help them be more effective leaders, developers, and team members.

We sat down with individuals who have spent a long time in this industry and asked them about the most important lessons they have learned throughout their career and what they feel all software developers should know.

Whether you're a tech leader, a long-time developer, or just getting started with programming, these tips will provide valuable insight to help you advance your career. 

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What do you wish you knew that you know now?

"Two things. First - maintain a fresh perspective as long as you can. When I first came to Gust, the whole domain was new to me. I wanted to dive deep into the architecture and market, feverishly learn. But, that’s irreversible. Once you are in the camp, see what everyone else sees, you can’t fake not knowing it. There’s no substitute for seeing things for the first time. Don’t rush into knowing everything that everyone else knows.

"Second - Question everything. This is enabled by the first. There’s the temptation to not really ask what is the value to the user from absolutely everything you see. If you question everything, you’ll pull things out of people that they don’t even realize are important, or find things are unimportant even though people have been thrashing on them. Coming in to a new company, whether it’s 10 or 1000 people, they all know the business better than you. It’s easy to not ask questions; you don’t want it to be easy."
一 Ryan Nash, VP of Technology, Gust

Um ... everything? But seriously, I wish I started out understanding the landscape of roles that are available for technologists. I started out thinking that there was one job: "programmer". Now I have an appreciation for the skill sets that set a good test engineer apart from, say, a good site reliability engineer. Perhaps if I understood the market better, I could have navigated my career more deliberately. If you're a recruiter reading this, spend some time to educate the kids you pick up straight out of college. They'll remember you for it.
一 Nick Orton, Manager Platform Engineering, Knewton

What advice do you have for aspiring software engineers?

"My advice is kind of two-fold. First of all, just be open to opportunities or challenges, even if they seem daunting or scary. Also, especially as you’re starting your career, try to make sure you have a good manager or mentor who really cares about your professional development and your career development. From my personal experience, I never thought I wanted to become a manager. I enjoyed being a hands-on engineer and I was very happy doing that. But I was lucky to have a manager who saw something in me that thought i could do it and suggested I would take on a team as a manager. I was scared, I had never done it before, I had no idea if I would be able to do it or not. But I had such a good rapport and trust in my manager so I thought that if he thought i could do it, let me try it. And the rest is history. So, I just encourage you to have somebody that you really have that relationship with, and don’t say no to opportunities."
一 Irina Krechmer, VP of Engineering, XO Group

My advice if you wanted to start in tech is to just start. Now the barrier to enter is much lower. You can take online classes, one that is really like is One Month Rails. If you want to start, I would also recommend surrounding yourself with people that are similar to yourself, that want to achieve similar goals. One thing that helped me a lot is I started to meet with people who were 1 year ahead of me. So, when I first started my company I didn’t know anyone that had started a company so I just went online and looked up people that had maybe started a company a year ago and just cold emailed them and asked them to get a coffee. A lot of people won't respond, but a lot of people will, so don’t be afraid to cold email people.
一 Cindy Wu Founder

Key Takeaways

  • Keep a fresh perspective for as long as you can 一 just because everyone is doing something a certain way doesn't mean it can't be improved.
  • Take the time to understand the different roles technologists have to find out which you'll enjoy the most.
  • Don't say no to opportunities that can aid to your professional development.

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