Good developers are in demand—great ones, even more so. With software development employment in the U.S. expected to grow by 21% by 2028, the need for engineers is only going to surge further.
But this doesn’t mean that the labor landscape will become uncompetitive: Now more than ever, individuals with a passion for software are entering the field, and organizations will only be looking for the best. As the amount of people going into software development goes up—with global numbers expected to reach 27.7 million by 2023—it will become increasingly important to demonstrate your skills and dedication to the profession.
The gap between a good developer and a great one is bigger than you may think. Here’s what the best developers do to excel at their jobs and lead in their field.
The Best Software Developers Know How Their Skills Fit Into the Big Picture
While a good coder handles the responsibilities they have within their role, the best coders make sure they see the big picture. They take the time to understand the foundations of how businesses work, including revenue, profit, bottlenecks and the strategies of departments other than their own.
This might mean investing extra time into general business self-education or holding meetings with other departments, but great programmers know it’s worth it in the long run. They recognize the importance of grasping how the cogs of an organization come together to keep things running—and exactly how they fit in.
By having this 360 view, they can hold influence in areas outside their remit and clearly match the business’ mission to their own work. Valuable coders will use their problem-solving mindset to propose solutions to company-wide problems and put themselves in the shoes of other team members.
Rest and Relaxation Is Vital for Productivity
Far from the stereotype of frequently pulling caffeine-fueled all-nighters, the best developers know that, like the powerful systems they work with, they also need some downtime to recharge.
Great coders challenge the stereotype of having a bad diet and inactive lifestyle and prioritize their own health and well-being. They recognize that as soon as you pass the threshold of 50 hours of work a week, you’re no longer productive. In fact, working too much can be counterproductive, as you’re much more likely to make mistakes.
Great developers know when to shut down their computer and spend time with their families, do some exercise, spend time in nature and eat a healthy meal. This time to recharge is essential in order to go back to work refreshed and ready to tackle any problems with a clear and rested mind.
Continuous Learning Is Crucial for Progression
Ideally, all developers should be making efforts to advance their education in the field they’re in. As a developer, if you stop studying, you’re bound to get stuck at one point or another. The best coders make this a special focus in their lives, and make sure they’re always up to date with the latest developments in the technologies they work with.
It could be a new coding language, new frameworks or a new technique. Great coders are constantly making a concerted effort to advance their own education. Ultimately, they are always asking “why,” and are unafraid to experiment using their newfound skill.
Developers can easily find online courses to supplement formal education. Taking part in hackathons is another way to boost extra learning, as well as keeping up with technical blogs and podcasts.
Great developers also follow other passions outside of coding. For example, the logical nature of software development allows coders to excel at learning other skills, such as languages, playing an instrument, martial arts or even flying a plane. It enables them to exercise the same part of their brain while enjoying something fun and non-work related.
Personal Projects Show Dedication and Independent Thinking
Coders know that the best way to learn how to build great products is through practice. Even if the project ultimately fails, building a product will always provide important lessons to apply the next time.
Side projects that a developer might work on include personal tools, open-source libraries, a startup idea or a freelance project. These personal projects allow programmers to be in the driving seat: They are forced to solve problems independently instead of asking for help, equipping them with skills that might otherwise take longer to gain.
Engaging in independent work also allows developers to explore and utilize the new languages and frameworks that they gain in their personal education efforts. When developers that have spent time working on their own projects try to prove themselves in the job market, they will stand out against those that have remained largely within the confines of their professional role.
Ultimately, the vast majority of developers are in the game because they have a passion for building exciting and useful products. This makes it easier to find those who go the extra mile to really hone their existing skills and learn new ones. But, like in any profession, there will always be a certain percentage that remains a cut above the rest. Take a holistic approach to your career in software development with this advice and raise your game, and chances of landing that dream job.