Did you finish the university and you got your first job as a software developer?  Do you find it hard to define and measure the ultimate success of this career? Do you wonder what awaits for you in the next two, five or ten years?

There is enough material on the internet to get an answer to those questions. However, I would like to approach this subject differently. I find that most strategies are centered too much on technical skills, tools, and coding exercises. I think all of them are essential, but I believe that, in the beginning, focusing on having the right mindset and the proper soft skills will make the difference between a good developer and a great developer.

In this post, we will start by learning to be open to mistakes, focus on training and adapt fast, use discipline to be in control of time and at the end discover how essential it is to create a healthy work-life balance. So let’s begin.

Making Mistakes

The first thing that a new developer must understand from the beginning is that it is ok to make mistakes.  Most educational systems, teach students to avoid mistakes and even use bad marks to reflect the consequences. In real life, I see mistakes are learning opportunities to understand that one action that we took had effects that we did not expect. The data gives us the ability to adapt and do it differently next time.  What is critical is not to repeat the same action over and over and always use the gain knowledge to improve.

If you just started your career and you have not made any mistakes, I would think that you are too slow on purpose and that you are not taking massive actions into developing and pushing yourself further. Now it is the time to make mistakes. Now it is the time to experiment. Now it is the time to grow exponentially.

A small tip from my side: when you failed a task, project, etc. always hold yourself accountable and never blame someone else. Find a quiet room and write down everything it happened and try to understand why it failed. Once you have this information, start researching, brainstorming what kind of actions or options you have for the next time. I believe this simple technique will guarantee that your knowledge and abilities will get broader and broader.

Learn

Start with learning enough theory to get you started. Do some research, take some online courses or workshops. The next step is to take action.  Use the gained knowledge and put it into practice. Write a small program, extend a feature or play around with some public API. The key is to understand how everything works in reality. In a perfect world, you should not have any surprises. Finding outdated documentation is common. Service calls will return unexpected results. Methods have side effects that make your life harder. At one moment you will get stuck, and it is ok. Go back to the research and discovery phase until you can move forward and repeat this cycle over and over. With time it will become easier.

To get even better show it to others and teach them. Start with helping a coworker when he is stuck or might need a different perspective. The knowledge will deepen in your mind as you explain to others, as you answer questions that you did not think of.

Discipline

Many people consider time one of their biggest enemy to their freedom. Discipline is the way how you get control of your time. Store all your tasks, deadlines in a single central place, like a todo list app. Create a routine and do a little bit of planning around the time of the day that you are most focused. Nowadays there are great productivity techniques, apps and resources that can help. You can check my earlier post on my productivity toolbox.

Learn the importance of commitment. There are moments and situations where you will have to commit to complete a task. Please do not take it lightly, since this is one of the most critical points influencing the trust that others have in you.  True commitment means massive actions and strong will not to give up. It is better to fully commit to the wrong project, rather than partially commit to the right one. You will influence others with your energy and drive, and you will become soon a key player inside of the team.

Your initial estimations will be inaccurate since you still lack the experience and knowledge. However, collect all the data, write it down and used to refine your values in the future. This will give you the confidence to say from beginning NO and to suggest a different path of actions.  Saying NO is another way that you can earn the respect of others when used correctly. Use facts and data to explain your view and always come with constructive options.

Respect your process and hold yourself accountable. This is the key to master time and not to become its slave.

Work-Life Balance

There are many reasons why you will spend more than eight hours per day at work. You will be excited about the new possibilities, opportunities or your new role. For you, it might not be a big issue yet since you are already used to going into this “overdrive” mode during the university. However, you have to ask yourself this questions: Are you putting in extra time because you’re excited or doing it because this is your new life? How are you going to feel in a year when you are still sacrificing your weekends?

Answer these questions honestly and realize that the most important resource that we have is time. Loving what you do is essential. However, now it is the time do discover what else you love doing, find out what your passions are. Take a massage course. Find out about entrepreneurship. Learn to drive a boat. Learn to play a musical instrument.  Use all the opportunities that we have today to build a well-rounded version of yourself.

In this post, we discussed how essential is to have the right mindset at the begging of your career to grow and develop. In the next one, we will cover the importance of soft skills like communication, personal branding,  financial education to even fitness and mediation. There is a long journey in front of us, however, if you are as thrilled as I am, you will follow me to discover the rewards for yourself.


Also published on Medium.

Andrei

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