In an industry that has the tendency to change overnight, the most successful web developers are the ones who are always learning. This past week I had the pleasure of attending Self.Conference in Detroit. The conference was for web developers, by web developers and while some aspects were past my level of understanding (I’m just starting to learn), a common theme kept coming up: You don’t know everything, you’ll never know everything, and no one else knows everything either. In a nutshell, the most successful people are the those that continue to learn new things. If you approach your technical challenges at work or in play with the idea that intelligence can be developed (see image) and is not something that you “should already know” (static intelligence), you will overcome blocks in the road and be better equipped to take on new challenges. Ready to get started?
Here are 10 ways to challenge yourself that can teach you problem solving skills and give you the tools to succeed as a web developer:
1. Join user group communities
More likely than not, there are groups of web developers in your area that meet on a regular basis (check out meetup.com). In addition to camaraderie, user groups will allow you to pair with a mentor, be a mentor, teach you something new about skills you have, inform you of the next “hot” thing, and let you expand your mind outside of your job. This will help you grow as a professional and as a person. If there isn’t one in your area, start one. Our personal favorites are IT in the D and Great Lakes Area .Net User Group.
2. Partner code with someone new
One of the Self.conference speakers spoke about ways to push forward innovation in code, and partnering with new people or co-workers can allow you to look at a problem differently. Think about the combinations of web developers: Master and master, novice and master, and novice and novice. In every situation there is learning and challenge involved so don’t always partner with someone in your comfort zone.
3. Take a class
Again, tech moves incredibly fast and there are groups that are willing and excited to teach you what they know. A few of our favorites are New Horizons, Girl Develop IT, and Grand Circus.
4. Work with a mentor
Outside of a classroom, you can also find a mentor who will work with you one on one. If you check your ego and immerse yourself in their expertise you have the ability to master a new skill and may find a new passion.
5. Learn from mistakes you make
Making a mistake is unfortunate unless you learn why it was a mistake. Knowing how and why a system, app, program, etc. breaks is a step in the direction of mastery.
6. Attempt to learn a new language every year
Learning new skills will break you out of your rhythm and possibly give you new ideas or ways to problem solve.
7. Learn all aspects of the business
Ignorance is not always bliss. If you find yourself getting frustrated with different areas of your company, for example the business development team, figure out what makes them tick and how they work. Like you, there are reasons for the decisions they make, knowing the process better will help you understand and even better predict client needs.
8. Attend a conference
Definitely attend a conference. In addition to building your professional network, conferences give you the opportunity to test drive new skills and forecast what is next.
This goes back to master partnering with a novice. Teach a novice web developer your perfected skills, and chances are that you yourself will learn something in the process.
10. Have patience, and use repetition
The first speaker that I heard from at Self.conference spoke about using repetition and practice to perfect your craft. While you may be a Ruby on Rails ninja, there is always room for improvement.
The best way to take control over your career, other than networking and personal branding, is to make sure that you are always learning. Try out something new that interests you, or teach someone a new skill. You will never regret time spent tackling a new challenge.
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