Senior Developer Mindset

9 Smart Ways To Stand Out In A World Full Of Coders

It is easier now than ever to become a software developer.

Lured in by promises of 200k salaries, job security, and a lifetime balance equal to none, everybody wants to be a programmer.

Coding Bootcamps and Udemy courses are popping out everywhere. Young and old, millions of people are trying to learn how to code to improve their lives and income.

“The software industry is becoming increasingly competitive.”

For a Junior position, you must master three different frameworks. The next time you get rejected at a technical interview, it is probably because someone also going for that position was slightly more prepared.

If you think that you have no competition just because you can write some React code, you are dead wrong. Whether you want it or not, as a software developer, you now have to compete.

You compete every day with hundreds of smart developers trying to get a piece of the ‘tech jobs’ cake.

If you don’t have the money to get into medical school, investment banking, or something similar, software development is the most financially rewarding career you can pick. So, hundreds of thousands of people are choosing to get into programming.

It’s the reality Bootcamps and YouTube gurus don’t want to tell you.

The good news is you can compete.

If you understand how this industry works, and become aware of the technology adoption curves, you will have your best shot. And since most developers fall into complacency and follow the crowd, you will literally blow your competition away.

Back when I earned my living writing code, understanding the reality of the market around me enabled the most fundamental shift in my career.

What followed after that was an exponential growth phase that got me from the average coder fighting to get the attention of the CTO to the consultant those same CTOs call when their tech team is in trouble.

No, it is not a magic bullet.

It is not the latest framework out there. It is not a trick or a special algorithm. It is not positive thinking or some self-help voodoo thing. As a technical person, I have little stomach for that.

It was focused hard work and strategic planning that got me here. Even writing this article on a Sunday morning is part of that plan.

On the way, I learned some fundamental truths.

Through my work helping other developers achieve similar levels of success, I boiled down those principles into fundamental truths that you can apply right now in your developer career to advance to the next level.

Some involve technology, and some involve your mindset and habits. Both are connected, and both are responsible for success.

It is what most Twitter influencers are selling you the latest JavaScript framework out there missed.

“Is not about a piece of the pie. It is about the whole itself.”

If you aspire to be more than a coder, make sure you incorporate all of them into your daily life.

1. Set Your Own Standards And Play To Win

To compete as a developer in this new world, you must go beyond coding. You must work smarter, and you must work harder.

It doesn’t mean you are the first to come into the office and the last to leave. It means you must have inner standards for success that are higher than your external world.

“You can’t excel by following someone else’s plan. You must build your own.”

Most developers look to their team or the developer next to them when setting the standards for their work. If you want to be an exceptional software developer, stop looking over your shoulder. 

Extraordinary developers set their own standards.

To work with great developers, you must become a great developer. If you want to earn more, you must add more value. So, define your game and own it.

Write unit tests not because they make you do it but because you believe great code should be tested.

Learn algorithms not because code interviews require them but because they help you think effectively and understand what happens under the hood.

Get interested in Agile methodologies, not because the manager wants fewer meetings but because only through methodology and planning will you deliver great software.

In other words, set high standards for your processes, and exceptional results will follow.

🚨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. 🚨

2. Master “The Fundamentals” (Things That Don’t Change)

In the first months of your developer career, it is ok to focus on one technology. For example, many developers start by learning JavaScript and React. 

Then, they get a job in that tech stack. Months become years, and without knowing, they get stuck. Then technology changes, and suddenly, new things come around, and they are out of date. 

So they spend weekends and evenings on the online course mania trying to catch up. That rarely works, and it only leads to burnout.

Most developers are following what is called a linear learning curve.

They learn primarily through memorization, and memorization doesn’t scale. The more things you need to learn, the more you have to put into your brain.

Engineers know this pretty well, which is why they use principles and universal laws. That is how a 700-person airplane is built, not by memorizing.

Software is a bit different, I know. 

Software is knowledge put into code by humans. Humans don’t follow universal laws like the physical world, but they do follow conventions.

In software development, those conventions are called “Fundamentals”.

And given that our code is usually built on top of the code that was before, those patterns are everywhere (that is what you do when installing all those npm packages).

“In software development, as in all fields, you will find patterns repeating themselves again and  again.”

One example is our beloved JavaScript framework. 

React, for example, is the sum of well-studied design patterns applied to the JavaScript environment and the Web (component-based design, the virtual dom, … etc.).

This is good news for the anxious software developer busy catching up with the hype. By learning the fundamentals, you can stay up-to-date without working that hard.

When learning a new framework, you will progress at least 50% faster than usual by knowing the patterns behind it. Yes, I just made that number up. But I am not kidding. 

When you master the fundamentals, you will also see through the noise. You won’t freak out whenever a “new” library or framework pops up.

Back to our main idea, Senior Developers don’t work harder than the Juniors. They leverage tested principles to do the same things faster. 

3. Think BIG, Like The Best In Class

How could you even dare to imagine that? Being one of the best developers in the world?

Intimidating, I know.

With all the programming geniuses, the Mark Zuckerbergs and Linus Torvalds, your probability of being the best in a vast industry is slim.

But this simple exercise of planning your developer career as someone who wants to reach the top 3% of developers will automatically raise your standards and self-image.

If you are not living in the Bay area, like somewhere in Europe or another part of the world, there is space for you to be remarkable.

I started mentoring software developers at my job first.

And I was doing okay. Had some mentees. Many of them doing very well. 

But, it wasn’t until I decided I wanted to be the best in the world at training software engineers to build remarkable careers that my performance took off. 

By setting such excruciatingly high standards, my dedication to this goal tripled. I wanted to be the very best in the world at something.

So, instead of writing one article a week, I started writing two. Instead of reading one technical book every month, I started reading one per week.

And even then, it felt little.

When you plan to be the best in the world at something, your current efforts suddenly seem insignificant. This simple exercise will push you to a level you had never imagined.

These days, we also do this exercise with all of our mentees.

They must define a technical vision for themselves that makes getting up in the morning and learning about software much more exciting than sleeping that extra hour.

“You are not born the best; you become the best by aspiring to be the best.”

If you want to be a great developer, aspire to be an exceptional one, aspire to be the best.

🚨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. 🚨

4. Make 10x Steps Through The Power Of Focus

From the moment you wake up, you only have a few hours a day that you can use to improve your career. 

Most of those hours are probably spent at your job, often in unnecessary meetings or simply fixing things. You need to do those things to deliver, but they do not necessarily move your technical career forward.

And even if you have the time, your energy is limited. 

That gives you little space to improve yourself.

Anyway, let’s say you are super determined and decide that in the next six months, you will wake up one hour earlier to work on your skills Monday through Friday (this is really hard for most developers). That gives you around 10 hours a week.

Suppose you commit to this religiously and suppose you do not take vacations. We are talking about around 260 hours. You might think, oh, that’s a lot.

Yet, if you spend 50 hours on learning some Typescript, 50 hours on a bit of AWS, 50 hours reading about crypto, 50 on some security stuff, and another on a book about distributed systems, which you won’t touch because your company is barely using some docker.

Your progress after six months of hard work and waking up early without vacations will be mediocre.

Now, let’s think of a different scenario.

To hell with crypto, security, and distributed stuff.

Let’s say you spend 120 of those hours on JavaScript and its ecosystem. Then, you spend 80 more hours on the cloud, learning CI/CD, deployment, and infrastructure. Finally, you spend 60 hours learning about web performance, what really happens in the backend, and a bit of architecture.

Well, after six months, you became a beast of software dev.

Sure, you won’t know a lot about Crypto or Cybersecurity. In the same way, you won’t know a lot about exotic species of turtles.

You don’t know about it, and you don’t need to know about it. But in your stack, you will be a true master. That is the power of focus.

“There will be great things you chose not to do to become amazing at the ones you can excel at.”

Focus is a choice.

I made the choice to focus in everything I do long ago and never looked back. Once you understand its power, you will never return to your old ways.

5. Improve faster than everyone else around you

Your learning rate as a developer is undoubtedly the variable that will most impact your career in the next 10 to 15 years.

It is basically the speed at which you grow. If you were a company these days, it would be the most critical factor in your valuations. The faster you grow, the more you are worth it.

You need to do whatever you can to maximize your learning curve. It is the only thing that matters.

Remember, it is not about the number of things or technologies you learn but about the outcome of that learning (this is what most online courses miss).

“Because being smart today does not guarantee being smart tomorrow. The future belongs to those who learn.”

There are dozens of variables influencing your learning rate as a developer.

From what you learn, to how you learn it, to how you apply it in the real world. From your ability to focus on having the proper structure in your learning.

"You are not a machine learning algorithm; you are a human, and human learning curves are complex."

These factors don’t sum up; they multiply each other.

That means if you are 30% more focused, spend 30% more deep working, and are 30% more structured, in the end, you will be 120% more effective (not only 90%).

If you couple doing the right things with doing things right, your learning curve will be exponential. And exponential learning curves lead to exponential results.

🚨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. 🚨

6. Learn From The Masters In Your Field

Look, you can learn from courses, and you can learn from books. Can you become good without a mentor?

Sure you can. Can you become great? I doubt it.


It is not because you need someone holding your hand. It is pure math, actually. To transform yourself into a great developer, you must deal with a lot of complexity. Trillion things to do and learn.

What a great mentor (a mentor with proven experience) is to cut down that list.

They will help you reduce that endless list of things to do to a step-by-step plan that is realistic and adapted to your current situation.

Instead of wasting five years of your life figuring things out, you can build upon the knowledge of the people who did it before you and get there faster with the highest probability of success.

"Since I wrote my first line of code, I’ve had many pivotal moments in my dev career. But the most crucial one was undoubtedly when I got my first mentor."

After our first meeting, I felt so relieved that I could not understand why I hadn’t done this before. Since that moment, I always tried to get help on the topics I struggle with.

Being a programmer was one of those topics. Then it was software architecture, then writing, then building a team, and teaching others.

There is no better way to learn than from people who have experienced things first-hand. You will gain their knowledge and perspective and reach even higher than they did.

If you want to be an exceptional software developer, get a mentor.

🚨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. 🚨

7. Leverage Tools Instead Of Your Hands

Way too many developers rely on intuition, guessing, and improvisation. We call ourselves engineers, but most of our work is based on extending other people’s code or simply pasting answers.

The problem with this approach is that our brains get lazy. We start using the same repetitive approach in our code everywhere. 

Smart developers not only engineer their code. They engineer their tools. They engineer their environments. And they engineer their careers.

From git workflows to debugging, they rely on systems as much as possible.

As W. Edwards said — a bad system will beat a good person every time.

If you want to really stand out as a developer, you must start thinking in systems. You must start engineering your tools, your environment, and your technical growth so it works on autopilot. 

So, even on the bad days, you make progress.

That kind of steady progress that has a system will make the competition irrelevant.

8. Play The Long Game

If you want to be more than a coder. If you want to be in this field for the year to come, you must plan for the years to come. 

There are dozens of decisions you will have to make.

You will have to change your habits, invest in yourself, and think differently. These kinds of decisions judged in the present moment might make little sense.

Why wake up early in the morning? Why so much structure? Why so much effort?

This is why most programmers are not successful.

Most developers plan for the present moment. They are not willing to sacrifice for tomorrow. Because they think what worked today will work tomorrow.

And by the time tomorrow arrives, they get laid off with no up-to-date skills, asking themselves what the hell where they were doing patching spaghetti code for the last 5 years.

Playing the long game means leaving your comfort zone.

Comfort brings complacency, and complacency brings failure. Success means trying things that might not work out because they will teach you valuable lessons.

It means sacrificing some of the good of the present to build some great things into the future. It takes a different kind of thinking that most developers are unwilling to adopt.

🚨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. 🚨

9. Don’t Forget Your Body (And Your Mind)

Yes, I will be talking about your physical and mental health.

By managing your diet and sleep, you will arrive fresh at that daily meeting where all the other developers are mumbling because they just woke up 30 minutes late.

If you take care of yourself, you will literally kick a**.

The major changes I have made in my performance as a software engineer have come from eliminating bad personal habits and adding new ones.

This was the most important and hardest change I have made in my life. At my first software job, we had a fridge full of soda and sugary snacks.

We used to go for beers after work and drink again on the weekends. Then, on Monday morning, we would all go back to our laptops and drink 6 coffees to stay awake.

Even if I consumed more caffeine than humanly possible between the short energy bursts, I was mostly tired. My weekends were spent either having a hangover or playing video games.

"I never had time or energy to improve my skills. It took me three months to finish a three-hour course on microservices."

If you think your personal habits are not affecting your performance as a software developer, you are dead wrong.

Your ability to learn and get deep work done is directly related to what you put in your mind and body.

By getting your diet right, getting enough sleep at night, and avoiding alcohol, you will have three times more energy than the average coder.

If you want to be a great developer, you need to take care of your assets, and your most important asset is the state of your brain.


Software development is a crowded sector, and competition is fierce. But if you follow the right principles, have the right habits, and are disciplined, you will thrive.

Many developers out there treat this as just a job and lack the commitment necesary to achieve mastery.

Yet, if you embrace the difficulty.

If you learn to tame this beast, you will build the confidence to excel in this field. Because even if technology is constantly changing in the software sector, most things stay the same.

The secret is building a solid technical foundation and coupling it with the right mindset. Do that, and it will all feel like a walk in the park.

Now, go out there and apply these principles.

You won’t regret it!


🚨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. 🚨

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