How do you stay on top of your game as a web developer? Here are five tips from Ascedia’s development team for continually improving in your work:
1. CREATE THINGS FOR FUN
Ascedia recently went through a bout of robot mania. Several of our developers became very interested in building robots and other small technology projects involving microcontrollers. We shared articles with each other, met after work a couple times to look over each other’s projects and eventually hosted a lunch and learn where we shared our works in progress with our fellow Ascedians.
We spend our work days using our expertise to help meet client goals, but it’s good to remember that we can exercise those skills in our free time to entertain ourselves or solve problems in our own lives. These personal side projects don’t always translate directly to our work (Ascedia isn’t a robot development company… yet) but any kind of programming is good practice for programming in general. When you’re creating something for fun, you can learn at your own pace and stretch muscles outside of your work specialty. Sometimes you discover interesting new things that turn out to be useful later in work projects.
2. SHARE YOUR SKILLS
Most developers, even those who are self-taught, don’t learn to code in a vacuum. We benefit from the time and effort of other people who write posts that answer our questions, give talks or teach classes that open our minds, create resources that we lean on when we’re stuck, and mentor us. At Ascedia, we encourage this exchange by scheduling lunch and learns where developers can share insights and by making it easy for developers to turn to each other for help and advice. Even outside of work, many of our developers volunteer their time helping others by participating in online communities like Stack Overflow or presenting at local events like Barcamps. Teaching others is a great way to ensure that we full understand topics ourselves.
3. ATTEND CONFERENCES AND MEETUPS
As web developers, we tend to be very fond of communicating over the web, but there are a lot of opportunities for us to learn and network offline as well. Ascedia regularly sends developers to tech conferences where we can dedicate time to meeting people and opening ourselves up to new things.
There are also some great local meetups for various technologies or specialties that Ascedians have been known to show up at. Recently, a group of Ascedia’s front-end developers attended a meetup for the website CodePen, where we were given a challenge to team up with some strangers and write code for a fictional webpage. We took the opportunity to break rules and haul out obscure bits of coding knowledge just to make each other laugh. It was a silly experiment but not one without value—we gained insight into each other’s work processes and had an excuse to try out techniques we don’t otherwise use very often.
4. READ ARTICLES AND BLOGS
One of the coolest things about the internet is how easy it is to connect with people all over the world. For better or for worse, articles and opinion pieces are no longer limited to traditional outlets like newspapers or television and anyone with an internet connection can find ways to share their experiences and insights. This leads to a lot of information (of varying quality) to sift through, but by developing networks of interesting figures in the industry to follow on social media and establishing good understanding of how to use search engines effectively, blogs and articles are a great asset to developers looking for news and information.
5. TAKE A BREAK
At Ascedia, we like to work hard and play hard, but we’re smart about what “work hard” means. It might bring to mind long hours at the office and living and breathing code, but the reality is that we can’t make a habit of non-stop work and expect the quality of that work to stay consistently high. To make the most of our work hours, we need to look after our minds and bodies and try to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our work is to spend some time away from it so that when we are at our desks we are able to be as productive as possible.
Ascedia recently hosted a lunch and learn where Interra Health Coach Sarah Kaehny gave a presentation about “Positivity and Brain Breaks.” We discussed ways of dealing with stress and worry and the importance of trying to set aside time in our lives--even five minutes--to take a “brain break.” This means taking a time out for something like exercising, meditating, deep breathing or anything else that gives us an opportunity to “get out of our heads and into our bodies.”
Besides giving our brains a rest, the hobbies and interests we pursue outside of writing code help make us more well-rounded people, which is good for our work. We need to be able to relate to and communicate with our coworkers and empathize with the wide variety of people who use the things we build. The skills we develop through activities outside of work can teach us things about how to work better, even when they don’t translate directly to development.