Even those at the top of their game are looking for ways to get better. Keeping your skillset sharp as a programmer, whether you are currently coding all day or are looking to get back into the game after having a lapse, takes practice and some time investment. What are the best ways that you can improve your programming chops? Here are some ideas to keep sharp while adding some new tricks to your toolset.
Learn a New Language
Sure, you might be your company’s Yoda when it comes to C++, but what happens if you need to interface with a new script or update something written in VB6? Learning a new language is a great way to keep your mind sharp. The way programming languages are used to address problems is inherent in the structure of the language. Learning something new might help you to rethink the way you address certain problems. It will get your mind thinking in different directions and help you to be a more versatile programmer.
Stay on Top of the Industry
The software game moves fast. The best way to make sure that you can see what’s coming is to stay on top of what is being developed. Don’t get caught out in the cold by not seeing what is coming down the pike. Take time to read tech blogs both on software and hardware. Stay up on the latest trends in the industry, and if you see something out there that might help you be more marketable, take the time to learn it. Don’t be afraid to dabble in new things.
Practice by Releasing Your Own Apps
Apple’s App Store and Google Play Marketplace for Android are great ways to practice. If you are lucky, you might make a few bucks as well. Writing mobile applications, even if it is outside of your wheelhouse, can help you to keep sharp. It can also help you to see a project through to the end. That last 10% that it takes to release your code out into the world is the hardest part. Make sure you are doing it on a regular basis so it becomes a habit.
Leverage Social Media and the Web
Staying connected means having an online presence. Contribute to online discussions about programming, or write a blog to let the world know you are a player in the game. If you end up looking for a job, recruiters can use your online presence in order to help see what kind of candidate you would be at their office. It can also help you to network with other software engineers and engineering firms.
Contribute to Open Source and SDKs
When working with an online community to develop an SDK or other open source project, you will get to work with a diverse team of other developers. This can help you learn techniques you might not have picked up on your own or in a corporate setting. This is also a great opportunity to have other developers review and critique your work to make you better. Finally, if you aren’t employed or are looking to make the move back to software engineering, it is great practice.
No, this doesn’t mean for you to start doing yoga. Learn the Agile methodology and software development in an Agile environment. This helps your team skills and how to interact with and be a member of a development team.
It is way too easy to say “I will get to it tomorrow” and pick up the PS4 controller. Don’t put it off. Start today and you will find yourself enjoying learning again in no time while also becoming a better software engineer.