The Formula I Used to Become an Exceptional Software Developer

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Software Developer Writing Code

10 years ago I didn’t want to be a developer. When I first started university I majored in finance. After taking my first finance class, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't for me (I failed 😅). But, I didn't want to lose the credits I accumulated so I had to look for another business-related major.

That’s when I stumbled upon Information Systems Management. I was always good with computers, so I thought “what the hell.” During my time at university, I took 2 programming courses (C#) and two database courses (SQL). I actually remember walking out of my last programming class and saying to myself, “Thank god I never have to do that again”.

Then reality slapped me in the face when I hit the job market. My degree had prepared me to be a business analyst or project analyst but the only jobs I could find were for developers. Plus recruiters kept calling me and telling me to go for programming jobs. So, again, I said, “what the hell”.

Luckily, in my second programming interview, I faked my way through it and landed a job at a large insurance company. The first 3 months were hell as I tried to learn as much as I could. I got another lucky break in the form of a developer who mentored. Well, babysat me 🍼.

Becoming Exceptional

Well, I may not be an exceptional developer 😢, but I needed a clickbaity title. What I can tell you from experience is that I am above average. Based on over 30+ interviews I conducted at my previous employer, it does not take much to be an above-average developer these days.

I don't know if its recruiters pressuring candidates to pad their resumes or just the candidates blatantly lying. Regardless, please don't do this. Any good company will have the developers sit in on the interviews and it makes you look really dumb 😐. Especially when you can’t answer “softball” questions.

The Formula

Before I get into the formula, I’ll tell you what it isn’t. It's not a get rich quick scheme. It’s not another “Learn NodeJS in 10 minutes” article or video. All that shit doesn't get you anywhere and it never will. But, I’ll stop being a tease and get to the point. Here is my formula:

Learning + Real-World Side Projects = Exceptional Developer

Learning

I’ve been a software developer for 6+ years, but I always act like I don’t know anything. I’m constantly learning new things for both professional and personal reasons. I probably won’t use half of the things I’ve learned, but I didn’t sit around waiting for the best time or method. I just jumped in.

Real-World SideProject

Learning is only half the formula. You also need to be working on real-world side projects. This not only helps you strengthen what you learned but also starts building out your portfolio. For example, right after I finished a course on Flutter, I built 3 mobile apps.

They’re not the best looking or most polished apps but it got me out of my comfort zone of just following along with an instructor. Plus, there are so many ancillary skills this improves like software architecture and database design.

Excuses

I already know what you’re thinking, “I don't have time for that.” We both know that’s bullshit 💩. You have to make the time and develop it like any habit.

For instance, while my wife is watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, I’ve got my laptop and travel monitor on the couch working a course or side project. I also get up 3 hours before I have to be a work and dedicate an hour every morning to doing the same.

Where to Learn

My go-to for anything related to programming is Udemy. They have a huge course library where you can learn just about anything. On top of that, they are always running discount promotions where you can get courses as low as $9.99.

Pro Tip: Watch the videos at 1.5x to 2x and pause or slow down when you need to.

Recommended Instructors

For JavaScript, I recommend anything by Maximilian Schwarzmüller or Stephen Grider.

For C#, I recommend any course by Mosh Hamedani, although he has moved away from the platform some.

Conclusion

That is my realistic formula for becoming an exceptional developer. Sorry to those of you that wanted a quick fix. Spoiler alert, there are none. Until the next article, I’ll be learning and working on my side projects.

P.S. Before you dismiss this as a plug for Udemy, just know the links above are not affiliate links and I am in no way associated with Udemy. I just love their platform and instructors.

I did, however, leave an affiliate link for my travel monitor above and do get a commission if you buy it. I’d give it about a 3.5 out of 5. Good to get the job done but not great.

Written by

Full-stack developer developer for 7+ years with a passion for learning new things and sharing. For more, check out diligentdev.com.

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