Getting stuck in an entry-level software developer role can seem like a dead end, especially when technology leaders struggle to give remote technologists the training and coaching they need to progress.
Fortunately, there are effective and practical ways for junior developers to improve their skills and go from just performing routine tasks to programming code independently, eliminating bugs, writing simple unit tests, and by proposing solutions to strategic challenges.
To help you move up the career ladder quickly, we asked three experienced technology leaders for their tips and advice.
Perform your own code reviews
Most junior developers can produce code that “works,” said Sam Williams, founder of Complete Coding. What sets a more advanced developer apart, however, is their ability to create code that is well written, readable, easy to understand, and breaks down big problems or tasks into small, manageable chunks of code.
“Developers who can’t find ways to improve their coding skills can be stuck at a junior level for a very long time,” he acknowledged.
While there are many ways to improve your coding skills on your own, performing your own code reviews is not only very effective, but convenient and easy to implement. “Go back and look at the code you wrote two weeks ago,” Williams recommended. Can you explain what is going on in each line of code? Can you improve the quality, readability or structure of the code by refactoring it?
If you need help or advice, ask a more experienced developer to review your code. But don’t just ask if the code will work, ask if it can be improved upon or what might make the code faster or easier to develop in the future.
Participate in pair programming
Farhan Thawar, vice president of engineering at Shopify, sees pair programming as an important technique for knowledge sharing; Shopify developers can view and select the tasks they want to work on and are automatically assigned a new partner and a new task every week.
Additionally, peer programming sessions can help replace the informal conversations and learning moments that take place all the time in an office and team environment.
If your business hasn’t tried remote paired programming, do some preliminary research and offer to run a pilot program using a collaborative coding tool. Being able to learn from a senior developer in real time can give you an intellectual and emotional boost and help you feel connected, especially when working remotely.
The classic way to check if you really understand a technical concept or a way to solve a problem is to try and explain it to someone else. As Thawar pointed out, “When one person teaches, two people learn.”
Use modern tools to your advantage by creating a short instructional video and sharing it on TikTok or YouTube. Peer teachers can not only reinforce their own learning by teaching others, but they can also benefit from reviewer feedback and feedback in an online setting.
Join open source projects
Contributing to open source projects is another way to learn, gain experience, and replace the valuable exchanges that naturally occur in the office. In addition to receiving, discussing, and processing code review feedback, strive to learn how decisions are made by reading a project’s history and reviewing previous issues and documentation.
Understand the “why” behind your work
Mastering coding is only half the equation for next-level success. Being able to assess a task and suggest potential solutions is another way for mid-level developers to set themselves apart from their junior counterparts.
To bridge the knowledge gap, make an effort to understand the connection between your tasks and the use case, or what the user hopes to accomplish when they interact with the system.
Don’t just do what the client or PM tells you to do, Williams advised. Understanding how specific tasks support a larger goal can not only help you see things from the user’s perspective, but also help you develop “big picture thinking.”
Assemble the developer pieces
Understanding technological ecology (or more specifically, how the framework and task you are working on interfaces with front-end, back-end, or other applications and technologies) can elevate your thinking and help you produce better solutions. , advised Joe Erickson, senior software developer with Tech Elevator.
For example, if you’re asked to create a simple email signup form with Ruby on Rails, look for a tutorial that pulls out the entire ecosystem and explains how the request will interact with the mail server. While you’re at it, take note of any specialized terminology or jargon they use in the tutorials, and make an effort to incorporate the terms and phrases into your communication with team members.
Being able to communicate at a higher level will help you get your point across, improve your relationships, and show that you are capable of performing mid-level tasks. “To elevate your skills, assume your incompetence and grow in it,” Erickson added.