Not one professional grows in experience without making mistakes, and possibly the most common of which is working hard without working smart.
While taking on interesting projects, meeting amazing people and new colleagues, and having opportunities to travel to new frontiers are all good, if you find yourself working long hours and spending unfeasible amounts of energy you can find yourself burning out very soon. And if you find yourself in this rut, you can fall behind with technology and digging yourself into a deeper hole if you proceed on this path.
Instead of slowly languishing (in a technical sense) in a solo work or minimal team environment, do your best to find opportunities that will facilitate your technical growth. Finding a client and involving yourself in a team that uses agile software development methodologies can be a game changer, and can expose you to a diverse working environment and fresh perspectives.
Clearly Define Your Goals
Once you place yourself in a dynamic work environment, focus on formulating personal and professional goals so you’re driven to change the behavior that stagnates your growth.
While chasing your passion is good, doing so without coming out ahead far from ideal. Accomplishing your goals will give you something to show for all those sleepless nights of working.
You could aim to:
- Improve Productivity. Minimize distractions like social media and uninvited guests to increase your productivity. Work on the right tasks to ensure that you understand clearly what you are working towards.
- Share Knowledge. Attend or speak at events, contribute to open-source projects, or create an online identity through articles and blog posts.
- Live Mindfully. Engage with those around you, and make incremental adjustments to your social behavior to have a positive impact on your colleagues and clients.
Even if you’re years into your career without making tangible goals, it is never too late. Find direction and purpose so you can improve your focus. Additionally, these goals aren’t set in stone. Adapt them to your situation, but ensure that you do have goals so you don’t end up working late nights without anything to show for your efforts.
People Over Tech
Avoid working on your own, even if your work culture is solo-based or minimally team-oriented. Get involved with your colleagues by collaborating and communicating for projects. Submit suggestions to management regarding how you and your workmates can make products more solid and effective. Go to conferences or small meetups as these expose you to new content and opportunities to network and learn from people with a whole spectrum of skills.
Take Advantage of Retrospectives
Arguably the most important activities in an agile environment is the retrospective. These meetings allow you to reflect on how you and the team did something, improve on the process, and find the pain points that ail your whole development process. Things like dependence on one-person for key tasks, too many distractions, errors resulting in miscommunication among other things are some of the issues a team can discover (and most importantly, address) when participating in retrospectives. You can see how valuable the perspective is when you’re looking into improving efficiency.
Experiment and Learn
Like software versions, your work attitude improves through constant revision. Experiment with process changes like writing the last few production build numbers on stickers and putting them onto new sections on a physical board whenever you couldn’t quickly access details of a production deployment or a rollback plan.
Even if you are not in an agile environment, make it your goal to identify pain points and do your best to find elegant improvements or solutions to alleviate the pain.
Believe in yourself and in your team. Simply surviving gives you little prospect, and you won’t get a medal for working your brain numb. When you’re stuck in a rut, let introspection help you. Inspect your behavior, make minor adjustments and evaluate the effectiveness of those adjustments. In order to improve your personal and professional capacity, you have to experiment, evaluate, and adapt.
Mistakes are meant to be made (Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that). Implement small experiments and changes to your work ethic and behavior, and then keep what sticks. You might be surprised how these gradual, minute changes reduce disruptions and make you a better, adapted software developer.