How to stand out as a developer


How to stand out as a developer

I’m not writing this blog post to say that you need to stand out as a developer, I’m writing this for those who want to: take their career to the next level, stand out more as a developer or are at least interested in how to do it. In this blog post I’m only sharing things I’ve learned throughout my career and my personal opinions about this subject. This post is written for any kind of software developer.

Why you should stand out as a developer

So why should you stand out as a developer? Well, if you’re at all interested in becoming the best version of yourself and take your career to the next level, you need to strive for standing out and not being the average developer. If you only learn what you’re “supposed” to learn and only do the least you can do, you won’t make it very far in your career and you are losing great opportunities. Standing out as a developer doesn’t only mean being good at development, it takes more than that.

In this post we will talk about:

  • Soft skills
  • Technical skills
  • Learning outside work
  • Teaching others
  • Marketing yourself

Soft skills

Soft skills are the non technical skills, that makes you a great person to work with. This is one of the most important skills to learn if you want to stand out. Most people think of developers as introverted people who don’t want anything to do with other people, but this is so wrong.

Software development is more than just coding, it’s about contributing to society by solving technical problems, and solving technical problems requires good communication between all the people involved in a particular project. Don’t get me wrong, being good at solving technical problems is important too, but your soft skills determine if you’re someone people actually can and want to work with. When you’re looking for a job this is what recruiters are actually interested in, and people with good soft skills are often those who get new career opportunities and promotions.

Communication skills

When people talk about soft skills, one of the first things that come to mind is communication skills. It’s crucial that you are able to communicate to others what you do at work, both speaking and writing. When you work on a project you are typically working with a whole variety of people, for example project managers, sales people, designers, customers etc. Many of these don’t know much about software development, so if you’re able to talk about what you do so that other people can understand, you are doing a great job. Communication saves both time and money, and your colleagues will notice if you’re doing a great job at communicating what you do.

Time management

Time management also saves both money and time. Knowing how to manage your time both when you have little and a lot to do is a valuable skill, it helps everyone you work with. When management asks for a time estimation and you are able to give good estimations based on your experience and skills will surely impress your colleagues. The ability to work under time pressure when needed and meeting deadlines is important.

Empathy

The ability to empathize with the people you work with means the ability to understand other people and problems they might face. Empathy helps you understand other people’s needs, both colleagues and customers. You also need to be an approachable person so that people can trust you, so they know that you can help them whenever needed. These are very important skills to have if you ever want to work in a leadership role.

There’s so much to say about soft skills, I will someday write a post just about soft skills. Other soft skills that are important are: networking, patience, flexibility, accountability, creativity and leadership.

Technical skills

Coding

Good technical skills are one of the most obvious ones if you want to stand out as a developer. The mistake I think a lot of developers do is learning only front-end or back-end development. When you are just starting out you obviously learn one of them at first, but when you have learned the basics of either front-end or back-end, you should also learn the other at some point.

Learn full-stack

If you only learn either front-end or back-end development, you limit your understanding of software development and also the projects you work on. If you’re a back-end developer, you need to understand what the front-end needs and how you can build a good back-end system that can be used by a client. And if you’re a front-end developer, you need to understand the back-end in order to know how to use it, how to make good decisions for rendering and requesting for data etc. If you know both front-end and back-end development, you understand “the big picture” when it comes to the technical side of a project, it makes you more valuable and closer to becoming a senior if you aren’t already. If you’re a web developer, at least knowing full-stack development will make you stand out much more, even if you focus more on one of the “ends”. 

Learn other areas in development

There is more than front-end and back-end development, a software project is more than just developing an application. Learning about other stacks, platforms and areas that has to do with software development will make you stand out.

If you are a web developer I highly suggest you learn about the basics of deployments, continuous integration, testing, DevOps and system administration. Learning at least the basics of these things will make you understand an even bigger picture about software development and what goes into it. If you are a mobile developer you might want to check out web API development or hybrid technologies. Any kind of developer could also benefit from learning a little bit of machine learning, even if they wouldn’t use it at work.

So you see, there are a lot of areas related to software development that give you new perspectives on what you do. Learning about another area related to software development makes you stand out and a better developer overall.

Solve problems

Working as a developer, your job is to solve problems. Problem solving takes a lot of practice, so do it as much as you can both at work and outside work. When someone at work asks if somebody can help them solve a problem, be the person who solves problems instead of avoiding them. The problems you solve can be both technical and non technical.

Learning outside work

If you’re a developer you know that technology is changing all the time. It’s impossible to work as a developer without taking the time to keep up with technology.

You will of course learn things at work, but that’s unfortunately not enough. Some companies might let you learn new things at work, but even if they let you that isn’t enough. If you learn things outside work, you will be prepared for new opportunities. You can never know if and when you lose your job, or when a better one is waiting for you. Learning outside work makes you prepared for new opportunities whether you lose your job or switch.

Learning outside work makes you a much better developer. If you learn more about the technologies you use at work, your colleagues will notice this and you will for sure stand out because you know a lot about what you do.

Learning technologies you don’t currently use at work also makes you a better developer. It makes you think differently about software development and you get new valuable perspectives. You might find out there’s a much better way to do things you currently do at work. If this is the case, you can propose that the company you work for should start using it and they will be very thankful that you did the research, you will stand out.

Contributing to open source projects is a great way to learn more about something, and also give back to the community! I recommend picking an open source project that you are actually interested and has a great community. One of my favorites are Kubernetes and Freecodecamp.

What you learn outside work doesn’t always have to be technical stuff. It can be anything that you might benefit from in one way or the other. You can benefit from learning soft skills, business skills, philosophy and much more. Everything you learn adds up and might be useful someday without you expecting it. As long as you’re always learning something, it will help you throughout your career and help you stand out as a developer. Learn anything that you’re interested in and it will help you to achieve your goals.

Teaching others

Teaching other people is very underrated. I would argue it’s one of the best ways to learn more about what you do. Teaching others reinforces what you’ve learned, and it is the best way to test if you actually know something. Teaching is also a soft skill, knowing how to explain what you do and know, so that others can understand you.

One of the worst things you can do is not teaching others because you think you benefit more from being the only one who knows something, this is wrong! Companies love developers who are passionate about what they do and who can teach and inspire new developers. Teaching other developers is very valuable for the company you work for, these are the kind of developers who are given new opportunities and might be offered leadership roles in the future. Your colleagues will be very thankful if you teach them, and overall it creates a nice working environment where new and interesting ideas can be shared.

Market yourself

So marketing yourself as a developer might seem a little strange, but there’s actually a lot of value in it. Marketing can be writing blog posts, speaking at conferences, making tutorials or courses, podcasts or writing a book.

The moment you can bring value to other people in some way, your are marketing yourself and building your own brand. The moment you realize that you are valuable to the company you work for, people you work with and other people you share your ideas with, you can achieve anything. Your brand is what people think of you and what value they know you can provide. Marketing yourself will help you get some very interesting career opportunities.

So that’s what I had to say about standing out as a developer this time. To stand out as a developer is just another way to say that you’re striving to become the best developer you can be. I shortly introduced you to different skills and areas to focus on in order to stand out more as a developer. I highly recommend to self study these things and practice them in real life, that’s the best way to learn these things. These are skills and areas that you will always learn more about throughout your career, there will always be something to learn.


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Kim Lehtinen

Full-stack developer at Genero. Loves software development and DevOps. MSc Student at University of Vaasa in Finland studying Computer Science & Automation.


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