Want to Be the Best Developer? Here's How

Many people aspire to become the best in their field. Frontend, backend, machine learning, DevOps, whatever it may be. Does that mean having an expert level knowledge of a language or framework? Does that mean architecting systems from the ground up? Sure, that stuff helps.

In reality, there's more to it. What separates top-tier developers from others is complicated. There is a common theme, though: working well with others and communicating. I'll admit top-tier is subjective. I'm defining the "best developer" as the person I'd love to work with.

Here's five simple things you can do to separate yourself from your peers.


Pick up Support Tickets and Fix Bugs.

Everyone enjoys working on the shiny new feature. Fewer people enjoy getting their hands dirty in the legacy code base. Bugs are inevitable. Identify and solve major issues and you'll be a lifesaver to the company and your peers. You want to work with this person.

Leave the Code in a Better Place than You Found It.

Let's say you're doing some feature work. You notice there's a bit of code duplication in the file you're adding. You see an opportunity for a small refactor to make the file more clear. Try to tackle minor, tangible bits of tech debt while you knock out new feature work. This does not mean looping in a major refactor across 15 files into your simple story to add a new button. Try to delight future you who has to maintain this codebase.

Write Documentation. Please.

Did you recently struggle with something which could save others hours of their time? Add it to the README. Are you building something new others might need to use? Write clear, concise documentation. A new hire shouldn't have to ask three people how to get a project up and running. Ideally, there's a Dockerfile and clear steps for getting it running locally.

Work on Improving Your Written and Verbal Communication.

Most things in life boil down to communication. Being a proficient communicator spans your professional and personal life. There's a huge return on investment here. This should go without saying, but use proper spelling and grammar. On Slack, in emails, and everywhere else. Make it easy for others to understand the point you're trying to convey. Are you nervous speaking in front of others? Do you say "uh" or "umm" during every pause? Practice and then practice some more. Try something like Toastmasters. Get out of your comfort zone.

Be Willing to Pair Program and Share Knowledge.

The best developers don't code in a bubble. They try to share their knowledge as frequently as possible to level up their teammates. When working on something new and complex, encourage others to join along. Their point of view and expertise will only help you deliver a better solution.

“Be the change developer that you wish to see.” - Ghandi


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