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Professional Development

How to Evaluate Your Growth as a Developer

Stephanie Minn Engineering

At Tandem, we demonstrate our core value of continuous improvement in many ways. One way our developers support each other’s improvement is our biweekly Dev Dish meeting, where we share things we’re learning, demo some code, or discuss ideas. Recently, we held a podcast club and discussed this episode of The Bike Shed about how to measure your growth as a developer. Our team had some awesome advice that we crowdsourced to help you continuously improve, too.

Indicators of Growth

We all want to grow in our careers, but it’s not always clear how to know we’re doing so, especially when you’re new to the industry. Next time you’re up for a promotion or simply trying to determine if you’ve gotten better at writing code, consider evaluating your growth in some of these areas.

  • Software testing. With more experience, you gain a better understanding of how and what to test. At first you might try to test everything under the sun like library functionality, but eventually you gain an intuition about what is meaningful to test, what is not, and what type of test to implement (unit, integration, end-to-end).
  • Speed. You’re able to build out features for common problems like a CRUD application or authentication faster. You have muscle memory for commonly used syntax. Problem solving is also quicker, since you might know what design pattern to reach for. Also, you gradually gain a better command of your tools, by using snippets or keyboard shortcuts to make typing and navigating your IDE more efficient. Check out this website to practice typing common programming syntax.
  • The lightbulb moment. You might finally understand a concept, library or pattern, after not quite grokking when you first encountered it. Some things don’t require a full understanding to use or get done. But when you discover the reason for using or implementing something, you can then transfer that knowledge to other applications. You might also revisit some documentation and be able to understand it comprehensively, when previously you had to look up every other technical word.
  • Unblocking yourself and others. You have a better sense of when to look things up, time box, or move on. You can communicate that you’re stuck, know who to ask for help, and explain to a peer what you’ve already tried.
  • Being a leader or expert. You might notice an increase in people coming to you for questions about a certain area of the codebase, and you feel more comfortable with explaining a gut instinct or decision that you made. Or, you might be a the go-to person for a specific framework and be encouraged to dive deeper into the topic so you can continue to be a source of expertise.
  • Positive feedback from your peers and your manager. Others can see how you’re improving in ways that you might not think of. Tandem has a great feedback culture, where we’re constantly sharing our appreciation when team members do great work.

Strategies for Improving

Now that we have some tools for assessment, you might need some ideas for how to get to the next rung of the ladder. In addition to regular project work, here are some strategies developers at Tandem recommend to level up.

  • Consuming media about tech. Listening to podcasts about tech can be great exposure to technical vocabulary, popular tooling, and general discourse about the industry. Folks at Tandem enjoy The Bike Shed and Shop Talk. Or find a Youtube channel that covers topics you don’t know much about. Even watching a 15 minute video can help you learn one new thing.
  • Bookmarks. Save every blog post, conference talk, and course that piques your interest so you have an abundance of resources to peruse when you have some free time.
  • Side projects. Put time aside to learn the topic of framework you’ve always wanted to learn. Or when taking a course (such as on Udemy), try setting up your own project that’s separate from the example in the course to practice applying the concepts.
  • Self-reflection. Set aside regular time every few months to think about how you’ve grown and areas you want to improve. That might include acknowledging things you would have done differently with the information you know now. Giving your past self advice is a real indication of personal growth and sets yourself up for the next challenge you’ll encounter.

Tips for Goal Setting

With some concrete strategies for improvement at your disposal, how do you know when you’re “done”? The answer might be never, but creating goals can be a guidepost for your journey and point to specific areas of accomplishment along the way.

  • Breaking up goals into smaller, actionable items can make them more achievable. It’s hard to know when you’ve accomplished something that’s really 40 goals in one. If you have a big goal like learning a new language, try to break it down into meaningful tasks that measure progress, such as “Learn about X and give a presentation in Dev Dish” or “Explain Y concept to a fellow team member.”
  • Goal-setting frameworks can help anchor the details of your goal. Tandem recommends SMART and OKRs. Try distinguishing between business goals and personal goals and figuring out which are more meaningful to you.
  • Finding your motivation. Not everyone is motivated by the same things. Some team members at Tandem like knowing that their goals help others, like a manager focusing on how to support her direct reports.
  • Discovering your personal truth as a developer. What does improvement mean to you? No two developers are exactly alike in programming, learning, and leadership styles. A good manager can help you hone in on the developer you’d like to become!

If you’re looking for a team that supports your growth and loves constantly learning, check out our Careers page for open positions!

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