When I look back at my developer career in the last 10 years, going from Junior to Senior level, to mentoring over 200+ developers helping them get to the next level…
And if I only had 10 minutes to share with you everything I learned…
I would boil it down to 5 core principles.
Five lessons that will dramatically accelerate your growth as a developer to the next level. Keep on reading because in this article I will give you 10 years of experience wrapped up in a few minutes.
Let’s start with number one…
Here is a hard pill to swallow for most developers: despite all the magic tips and tricks you’ve been sold, a successful developer career is not built in a few days, weeks, or months.
It is built in years, even decades.
Reaching the top in any field, from sports to art, to software development will take you around a decade. That is 10 years, give or take assuming you do everything correctly (which most people don’t).
Most Software Developers don’t have that kind of long-term thinking when planning their careers. They just go with the flow.
Their careers are a series of ups and downs.
They either work 80 hours a week, trying to do everything at once and get burned out, or quit.
Or they do nothing and are stuck at the same level for years.
Their job might be average. Average is comfortable. So instead of doing something to change their situation, they get distracted.
They waste time binge-watching Netflix or get addicted to video games. Soon they find themselves stuck, with outdated skills or even worse, unemployed.
First 5 years of my career as a developer I suffered from the same vicious cycle.
I always when I would get my sh**t together. Wake up on time, learn something new daily, and improve my skills.
And times when I would crush and burn.
I would spend my weekends demotivated eating Cheetos looking for cheap dopamine shots. Like the latest RPG video game to sink my time into or a Netflix series to re-watch.
There is a problem with this vicious cycle.
The ups are awesome. But the downs are awful. Because they put everything at risk. If you burn out or your health is suffering, you risk quitting being a developer altogether.
Senior Developers look for consistency over speed.
Because when you manage the downsides, the upsides will come. Steady effort towards a goal beats inconsistency every single time. Small steps every day accumulate to a huge advantage down the road.
In my first years working as a developer, I expected others to do things for me. I expected my boss to promote me. I expected my company to pay for training.
And when it wouldn’t happen I would blame everything but me
Oh, this company is such a shitty place to work for. Oh, my boss is so incompetent. He can’t even see the value I bring to the table.
Or, I would play the victim.
It’s because they don’t like me. It’s because I don’t have a CS degree. It is because I don’t speak the language/ I am an immigrant. Indeed, the world is not a perfect place. In fact, it can be very unfair.
But, no matter how hard you have it, falling into the victim culture won’t improve your condition.
It will give you an excuse and consolation. But, in the long term, it will disempower you.
Because when you focus on the things you cannot change (like your background), you just give away all your power to change your situation.
Taking responsibility for your life gives you the power to change it.
Telling yourself “Where I am in life right now, is all my doing” is something very hard to do. You can easily fall into blaming yourself. But this is not about blaming yourself.
It is about accepting that you have the power to change your circumstances. And you have no choice because no one is coming to save you.
In my case, instead of complaining about how I am underpaid and some other developer had it easier, I started thinking okay, what can I do to change that?
Can I switch jobs?
Can I learn some new skills?
I thought about solutions and execution. I went to conferences. I got mentors. I invested time and money in training. And I stopped comparing myself with anyone.
My life changed 360 degrees when I started looking at myself for solutions.
It is much easier to blame someone else for your life troubles. Taking ownership of one’s situation is one of the best things you can do for your career.
🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior level with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨
For most of my developer career, I worked long hours, did not do sports, and spent my evenings either playing video games or getting drunk and eating trash food at the pub with my fellow developers.
Coding all day meant I had a very sedentary lifestyle.
Being surrounded by candy and sweets and soda like many developers have access to in their offices did not help at all.
I looked and felt like trash all day round.
I never got enough rest. My energy levels were low so I would compensate with energy drinks which would make the whole thing even worse.
As developers, we sit on chairs, in front of computers for at least 8 hours a day. That’s a lot. And it is killing you. To be clear, I don’t care about how people look. But we are talking about your health. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t even enjoy the fruits of your work.
Make time to go to the gym. Twice or three times a week is enough. Control what you eat. For example, I know that if I buy something I am going to eat it. So I try not to buy any sugary stuff.
For a few years now I have been on a low-carb diet and it works wonders for me.
Taking care of yourself will improve your focus, productivity, and happiness. There is no way you can be happy when you feel sick.
Like Confucius said: “A healthy man wants a thousand things, a sick man only wants one.”
One side note: taking care of yourself also means grooming yourself. A lot of developers think ohh everything is so casual these days that I can show up to the office or a Zoom call in my pajamas. Yes, you can, but it won’t help you get that promotion. Make sure you have personal hygiene in place.
Many developers are not happy with the outcome they’ve got in their lives. That’s because most have what I call, opportunistic careers. Jumping from job to job hoping the next one will be better than the last.
And again, if you are in your first three years coding, that’s okay. Get some experience quickly and think about it later.
But you can’t build a career like that.
Some people do, they get lucky, but don’t assume you are those people.
Every day I jump on calls with developers asking them about their goals and vision for the future. And most of them don’t have one.
This is a pity because if you don’t know what you want, you will most likely end up with something you don’t like.
When you have a vision of where you want to go and plan, you can take action to get there. A vision is a guide for your life and career telling you whether the choices you make are good or not.
You might not achieve everything you set out to but, you will have a blueprint to follow. Which is a hell lot better than improvising. Life without a plan is like a race without a finish line, you are just running nowhere.
It might sound cliche, I know. But, probably the most important thing I learned way too late in my career was to believe in myself and to dream BIG.
Maybe it was my background.
Maybe it was the lack of role models growing up.
But for a long time in my developer career, I stopped myself from thinking big. From really going for what I want.
Because deep inside I didn’t think I deserved it.
I remember one day writing in my diary that I wanted to get a 100k job. And deleting that line just after. Telling myself I was crazy and arrogant, and who would pay me that. I am just another developer I told to myself.
The biggest limit to my developer career was giving in to my inner demons.
The doubts and the self-limiting beliefs.
Everything changed when one of my friends, someone that I used to be pretty close with passed away. That moment I realize I will probably get a lot less time than I think in this world, and I better use it.
So I decided to try anyway because hey life is short and you don’t lose much by trying.
I tried thousands of things and most of them went wrong. But every small victory made me believe in myself a bit more, and a bit more. Until today, when I am here making this video for you. And still, I didn’t achieve everything I set out to.
But dreaming a bit bigger than just being a developer in a cubicle writing code was the first step for me to get there. If you are a developer that thinks they have more potential than they think they do, dream big because life is a lot shorter than you think.
Okay, now I have 3 things I want you to do.
1. I would like to know, what were in your case some lessons you wish you would have learned earlier in your developer career? Comment below :)
2. If you are an ambitious developer looking to level up and you are looking for a community of like-minded people, I invite you to join our free community of developers, see the link in the comments.