The specialist nature of a developer’s skillset requires constant updates. Constant change is a fact of life in the tech industry, making continuous learning essential. The need to keep up with so much technological innovation can mean that having a holistic approach to your career falls by the wayside. Taking the time to broaden your skillset will set you apart from other developers and allow you to best take advantage of the career opportunities available to developers.
In this article, I’ll share my tips on how collaboration with the wider developer community can be a tool for individual growth, as well as other opportunities to expand your learning and skillset to increase your employability.
Communication is everything
Communication is a key skill in lots of professions, and it is a skill that working on open source projects will only improve. Communication is particularly essential when creating complex systems. If you can’t share ideas with others, then you’ll only be able to work on small scale projects that can be managed single-handedly. Effective written communication is a key skill, with top tier developers having honed the ability to write well. Thinking more broadly about methods of written communication, other than coding, and taking the steps to improve them – such as a persuasive writing course, or keeping a technical blog – will prove to be just as useful as your coding ability for advancing your career to the next level.
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‘Teamwork makes the dream work’
The niche role of developers and the specialisation of their skillsets can often lead to isolation. Individuals may not necessarily collaborate with others on the same project, leaving them unaware of how the whole project was completed from start to finish. In contrast, a more collaborative approach, where individuals are encouraged to share ideas and actively work together on tasks can have a multitude of benefits. Not only does it provide a greater understanding of the project management aspect of developer projects, but it allows developers to gain insight, through the expertise of others, into code they may never have written before.
Collaboration is not only beneficial to knowledge. It can greatly enhance an individual’s sense of job satisfaction and personal fulfilment. Having a sense of contributing to something greater than just your lines of code is going to lead to greater enjoyment and motivation, which can have a knock-on impact on the quality of work you produce.
Practice, practice, practice
Open source projects are one of the best environments for any developer to try their hand at collaborative work, allowing you the safe space to learn new skills and build upon existing ones. Being a part of the coding process of other developers will improve your capacity to uncover mistakes in code and may give you alternative methods to structure your own.
While skilling up on new technologies is always good, developing your “soft” skills is equally important for your future career prospects. Open source gives you the chance to progress a range of these skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Even the most skilled developers can benefit from open source, where they can learn new skills and form important peer networks.
For those looking to dip their toes in, Good First Issue is a great example of a beginner-friendly approach to open source projects. The website gathers entry-level issues that need addressing in popular projects whilst offering guidance on how to make your first contribution to open source. This makes for an excellent starting block for those wanting to get involved with open source projects.
The range of open source projects out there provides you with a vast number of options. There are so many projects that will align with your interest and also greatly appreciate your involvement. For something that doesn’t need to take a huge amount of time, getting involved with open source can have tremendous benefits for your professional development and enjoyment.
WIT Summit Europe Q&A: digital transformation and open source
In the lead-up to the Women in IT Europe Summit, Leslie Hawthorn, vertical community strategy manager at Red Hat, and Cali Dolfi, data scientist at Red Hat, spoke to Information Age about digital transformation trends in open source, and promoting workplace DEI. Read here
Staying on the pulse of continuous technological updates is both one of the most essential, and sometimes one of the most difficult aspects of a developer’s job. Tapping into the community and using the resources available is an efficient way to streamline this whole process. This can range from collaborating frequently on online open source projects, to listening to relevant podcasts on your commute to and from work.
To advance as far as possible and achieve the goals of your developer career, it is essential you go beyond what is expected. Taking time to build up your soft skills alongside improving your coding capacity is necessary to carve out a path to your career ambitions. Teamwork and communication will serve you well in life at all professional levels. An open-minded and collaborative approach not only presents more learning opportunities but more career opportunities as well, meaning more choice about what you work on in your next job.