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4 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Developer

Feel free to stop reading this if your developer career is going great.

If your technical skills are amazing, your salary is way above the market, and you have a great work-life balance, your time is better invested in something else!

You made it to developer paradise. We are all proud of you.

For the ones of you who are not there yet, you better keep reading.

If you struggle in technical interviews, suffer Impostor Syndrome, and can’t seem to catch up no matter how many hours you spend in front of your laptop, this article is for you.

Here are 4 harsh truths you will have to face if you want to take your developer career to the next level. 

Spoiler alert: the way you react to what I have to say will make the difference between failure and success as a developer. Between wasting your life stuck in a shitty programming job. Or enjoying everything that this industry has to offer. 

Let’s start by accepting that unless you make it happen, it won’t happen at all.

1. Nobody Is Coming

For the first five years of my developer career, I lived in hell. I didn’t like the people or the tech stack I was working with, and I hated the stuff we were building. 

Working on random applications for corporations that would throw away 3 months of work in a split second. Because the CEO’s wife doesn’t like the user interface (hint: she wasn’t even the target customer).

Most days I had to work extra hours until late in the evening. Sometimes I even had to work the weekends. Additional pay for extra hours? Forget about it. We are a startup.

Meanwhile, my life was crumbling. 

I was gaining weight, and I was getting sick. 

The only thing I would do after work is numb my pain with fast food and Netflix series. On the weekends, I would get wasted. Yes, I was in a very bad place.

Guess what I did to change it? 

Nothing.

I just hoped things would get better. 

That one day, some cosmic force would pull me out of the misery I was living and throw me on something better. Something bearable.

That was the problem.

Hope.

Hope is a shitty life strategy. Especially when it is not followed by a plan. It took me a few years of pain to understand that life won’t figure itself out.

It is your job to figure it out.

Call it entropy; call it whatever. The truth is that without action, nothing will happen. 

After over 5 years of barely surviving like that, I realized one harsh reality of life. No one is coming to save you. You have to save yourself.

Tom Hanks had to build his own boat to avoid starving to death on the tropic island. You will have to do the same. 

No one will magically realize your value and pay you more. You have to ask for it. 

No one will do technical interviews for you. You have to do them yourself. No one will drop good advice on your lap. You have to search for it yourself.

And really, you have no choice. 

Because there is no bottom to as low as you can go, you either choose to take control of your life and do something about it. Or give in to a lifetime of mediocrity. 

Living life in passive mode.

Working a job you don’t like. Writing mindless code for mindless people. Getting back home to frozen food and video games. One day, you retire. Luckily, before 67. 

A few years later, like all of us, you pass away. 

What will people remind you for? What will be your legacy? The Netflix series you watched? The video games you passed?

Ahh, you don’t care about how people remember you… Okay. 

What will keep you alive in those last years of your life?

What will make the struggle worth it? 

Exactly 5 years ago, I asked myself the same question. I couldn’t close an eye for the next 3 days because I could not answer it.

That’s when I decided to replace hope with something much more powerful: action. Yes, getting things done to change my situation.

I replaced Netflix with self-improvement books.

Video games with technical interviews.

Here is what I realized. You have a choice. Yes, you can save yourself. 

You only need to replace hoping by doing. Realize that as a developer, you have almost infinite freedom. You can work from anywhere on anything with almost any tool or framework.

But that freedom has a cost.

You have to pay for it with your skills. Which brings me to the second point of this article.

🚀 Ready to level up as a JavaScript Developer? Take this FREE Technical Assessment to find out your technical gaps to Senior. 🚀

2. You Are Only The Fruit

Here is a hard pill to swallow… Society doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about how nice of a person you are. It only cares about what you can do for them. 

That’s the only thing that matters. The output. The doing. 

Before you rush into calling me a selfish capitalist monster, let me tell you something. They don’t care, and you don’t care either. 

Do you really care if the Starbucks barista is a nice person on the inside?

Sure, until they spoil your coffee.

Then you get pissed. They can be the nicest people. Maybe they donate to NGOs and help old people cross the street. It doesn’t matter. 

They messed up your order.

You paid with your money for that order. You got that money in exchange for your time. That time is wasted now. You won’t ever get it back. 

You have the right to get pissed.

That was a barista. Now, imagine we are talking about a surgeon, a pilot, or, why not, a software developer. 

Is not that art is not valuable. But Art Graduates can’t provide much of what society needs these days.

Do tech companies don’t care how much of a great person you are? No. Unless you can pass their technical test. If you can’t, there’s the door.

Oh, but technical interviews are messed up.

It is all BS. 

They test you on stupid things you will never use at your job, like data structures and algorithms. I know it. I’ve seen it all. 

Yes, my friend, technical interviews are broken and unfair.

But guess what? 

There is another hungry developer next to you who is willing to jump through the hoops if you are not. If they don’t find one next to you, they will get it from another city, country, or even continent.

I know this can hit very hard, especially when, growing up, your mama told you that you were special. That you were a unique piece of snowflake and that you deserved only the best. 

I grew up like that. Hell, I was born like that.

You were born like that, too.

They call it “primary narcissism”. 

Is what babies need to stay alive. They only care about themselves. Now, the baby is an adult. But pop culture made sure they stayed a baby.

The truth is, the world owes you nothing.

You have to earn it.

The only way to earn it is with the fruit of your labor. You have to “do the work”.

In my 30 years on this planet to work I found out the way to frame this reality and stay sane is to see doing the work as a challenge.

Astronauts don’t complain about gravity. They build rockets to escape it. 

It took me seven years to “escape gravity." 

Seven freaking years of coding the weekends, no social life, and barely seeing my family. I coded when I was bored. I coded when I was sick of it. I coded when I didn’t want to code.

You know what? It was all worth it. 

It got me here, and it will get me further. It will get you, too.

Get lost in doing the work. Become the best software developer you can possibly be!

3. Why Most Developers Don’t Even Try 

Why did I spend two and a half years in a job I hated? A job that was killing me. The answer is simple… I didn’t know any better. 

I told myself “they are all the same”.

Big company, small company, it doesn’t matter. The management overpromises. Product managers try to deliver on that promise. Developers get squeezed into doing the work.

And I was partially right.

Bad software companies work like that.

But not all companies. In good companies, product managers and software developers work together and manage the expectations the business is putting on them. 

I didn’t even try to get a job at one of those companies. 

Because I didn’t believe they existed. 

Oh, wait. I did try to interview with one of those tech firms.  It was humiliating. I failed to answer basic React questions. 

It was an on-site interview. I remember going to the bathroom to throw up.

You might think I went home and made a plan to improve and tried again.

I didn’t. 

I went out with a buddy and sank my frustration into alcohol. I told myself life sucks. Being a developer sucks. 

So why even bother?

Why even try to improve your condition?

The elephant won’t break the rope even if it could. It got used to it when it was a baby. Now that belief is holding it back from breaking free, not the rope itself.

One day, a Senior developer at a random meetup changed my mind (I wasn’t looking for it, I was there for the free pizza).

He wasn’t just any developer. 

He was already the CTO of a huge company at a very young age. A working-class type, he earned his way to the top. 

This guy was also in great shape and mood. Most senior developers I knew were grumpy and old, complaining about everything.

So I gathered my courage and asked him to grab a coffee. 

That “coffee” became a regular lunch for years to come. Every time I had dinner with him, I would get a new piece of knowledge about how to become a better developer. 

But more importantly, I would get a spark of motivation to keep me going. Now, I had a goal. I knew where I was going. I wanted to become him. 

So when distractions appeared in my life, I would get back to getting focused. No more Netflix and chill. 

There was still one major issue.

Even though I knew where I was going and felt it was possible, I still struggled to do the work. Between my job and my personal life, I couldn’t find the time to “do the work.”

Which brings us to the final point of this article.

🚀 Ready to level up as a JavaScript Developer? Take this FREE Technical Assessment to find out your technical gaps to Senior. 🚀

4. Doing The Work Is Hard (You Still Have To Do It)

The internet convinced you that the key to the next level is a hack you don’t know. A shiny framework you haven’t handled.

Or a productivity routine you haven’t mastered.

It is not. 

The secret trick to success is… Doing the work.

So why can’t you do it? 

Is it because you're lazy? Because you don’t have what it takes?

No. Is because what they didn’t tell you is that while you “do the work,” you have to do everything else. 

You have to make breakfast, pay your bills (and your taxes), brush your teeth, cut your nails, clean your room, call your mama and your papa, tell them you love them, and take your best friend for dinner.

Wait.. you also have to spend time with your partner.

If you don’t have a partner, you will have to put time into finding one. Screw it, get a dog instead. Now, you have to take it for a walk. And to the veterinarian. 

Then, you must work at least 35 to 40 hours per week to pay for the whole show (house, food, clothes, insurance, dog, and, of course, taxes).

You must do all that stuff in 7 short days of around 16 hours. 

During weekdays most of your time will be sucked into work. Even if you have time left, you might not have the energy to put into “chasing your goal”.

And God help you if you have kids because you will have all this by 10. 

If you ask yourself why can’t you reach your goals… Let me tell you why… Because daily life sucked you in. Just like it sucked us all, society is constantly demanding stuff from you.

In management, it is called death by 1000 cuts.

They said you can be a superhero. You can achieve anything you want.

What they didn’t tell you is that while you will be busy being a superhero, you will need to take care of everything else.

Those extra 30 minutes you need to improve your frontend skills? 

You must fight for those minutes to the teeth. As I said several times in this article, you have no choice. You either do that or give into mediocrity. 

Not becoming all you could become because “you didn't have the time.” 

Is all we have to do, but is no easy decision at all. 

To win this battle, you need to chase that extra moment. That moment you squeeze in the day and put into improving your skills.

The world will always want things from you.

But if you succumb to its demands you will wake up one day asking yourself how it all went by so fast. Besides going from place to place. Doing errands or playing other people’s games.

Winners find a way to win. 

They find time. I had to squeeze a few minutes every day to write this article or the many others you find on this blog. 

I do it all myself. There is no ghostwriter, no ChatGTP. It’s me all the way. 

Because I believe in the power of “doing the work.” 

It got me from a Junior developer with basic skills who could barely get through the day, to a Senior developer who now mentors others. 

I am not a “guru” yet, but I am not doing bad either.

What got me through 5 years of misery jumping from one crappy developer job to the next was knowing that one day I will have my revenge.

One day, the code that paralyses me today will be a joke I'll laugh at. One day, technical interviews will be as easy as brushing your teeth. 

But you will never get there if you quit now. 

Get back to doing the work, be kind, and amazing things will happen! 

Take care,

Dragos

🚀 Ready to level up as a JavaScript Developer? Take this FREE Technical Assessment to find out your technical gaps to Senior. 🚀

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