5 Tips That Will Propel Your Coding Career
As I sit over 10,000 feet in the sky aboard a jet plane looking out the window heading to a great conference called Momentum 2017, I started to reflect on my time in tech and how I have arrived at this point in my career. Read along and at the end, I share 5 tips in propelling yourself in a coding career that worked for me.
In 1997 I was working with a great group of software developers on a large scale database project. The project was changing as was the entire world of information technology. The internet had already begun but it wasn’t as widespread or accessible as it is today. My project team lead asked me to take a look at a way to take data from our new database system and begin to display it in a web browser instead of traditional paper reports. I was really excited to hear this because I had been working with early web technologies at my prior job and this really looked like a cool and challenging project.
At this time, computing systems were still installed on desktop computers connected to corporate computer networks with computer servers at the core of it all. Servers are traditionally higher powered computers that handle many different users requesting digital files, storing digital files, and running software applications used by other employees in a company.
My team was asked to look at how we can display the work data in a web browser connected to the internet instead of only at their work computer. This was exactly where I wanted to extend my career. Every new software developer loves the ‘sexy’ technologies that are current, hip, and allow you to create something new. Since we were using Oracle technology which is one of the major database technology companies on the face of the planet, we stuck with it and began to learn how to use their new technology that you can take data from a database and buildt it into a web page.
There were no manuals……
the internet was a hollow shell of information, and none of us really knew HTML (hyper text markup language) required to build a webpage.
We began to learn web page design basics by looking for books and websites that demonstrated how to use HTML tags as we blazed this trail. Tags are the building block of the HTML language that you assemble to create a web page. We would then work with simple graphic tools to build simple .gif buttons and .jpg images to make our new web portal pages more interesting to look at. The team members were always building and then testing it out. But I will also say, we often didn’t follow the traditional life-cycle for software development. That life-cycle was time tested and in place for good reasons but we often found ourselves skipping key parts of it. In the process you follow the steps
ANALYSIS>>DESIGN>>DEVELOP>>TEST>>PRODUCTION (terms can and usually do vary but the result is the same).
It is what formal software developers follow to get the job done. We didn’t. It wasn’t because we didn’t care or were trying to be different. We were experiencing something that was actually quite different.
Building the web pages was fun and actually fast paced. We built everything on our development server, tested links to make sure they worked, viewed and verified the data, and moved the files into production. Yeah, it was like flying by the seat of our pants but early web development had that feeling. The day did arrive when my project lead pulled our group in and said, “look guys, we need to have you log your work and enter it into the testing cycle like all our other projects”. Like good employees, we agreed and left the meeting. But we all felt like kids being told by a parent to ‘grow up’.
Since that project I went on to start my own consulting business building custom webpages. Many were information websites for businesses but I also built a few e-commerce sites. The work was not overwhelming but I was learning by leaps and bounds. The knowledge I gained from all this eventually gave me the ability to launch a career in higher education. All the knowledge I have been obtaining, I was able to pass along to the next generation of information technologists.
As I sit in a plane high in the sky, this story came to mind as I reflected on how I arrived at this point in my career. If you are still reading this, THANK YOU!!! But there are a few takeaways here that I would like to point out.
- EXPLORE, EXPLORE, EXPLORE and then EXPLORE more. When given an opportunity to explore something new, DO IT. You never know if it will lead to the next great thing for you. Find the time each week and play around with it. Find a website, download an app, read a book and schedule that 1 hour into your schedule each week to explore.
- JUST DO IT. If you are new to all technology, which is why you may be visiting this BLOG, JUMP IN! The water is fine. Avoid paralyzing yourself by over analyzing which technology is better, what camp teaches the latest and greatest tech, has greater job or college placement potential, or will last for the next decade. As Nike says, “Just Do It”.
- BREAK SOME EGGS. When I formed my ‘web’ team we knew we had to do things differently to get the results we needed. So, with measuring some risk, we stepped outside of the normal software development life cycle. Talk about breaking some eggs. Oh…yes….and it came with a few mistakes. So be ready to accept responsibility if something does go wrong.
- SCHEDULE AND LEARN. If you are a technology type then you know technology is always changing. Heck, the average person not in technology knows this. So, you must change too in order to keep yourself relevant and in demand if you like your technology career. If you don’t, you may find yourself sitting on the shelf collecting dust. I am not saying you need to sacrifice your skills for a newer technology that may be a flash in the pan but everyone needs to take time to keep learning. The day you stop learning, in my opinion, will be the day you die. And that doesn’t sound like much fun. Speaking of which…..
- HAVE FUN. I really don’t know anyone who hasn’t succeeded or grown in life who wasn’t having fun with what they were doing. If you are a parent and want your child to learn to code, don’t ram it down their throat. Let them explore and have fun. The complexity will come in time. If you are an adult, this may be a surprise to you but your job doesn’t have to be horrible. It can actually be something you look forward to going to and doing.
When that happens….hang on….great things WILL HAPPEN.
So there you have a small glimpse into my world as I sip my apple juice in seat 19A soaring over the clouds looking out the window and thinking….