As we close the book on 2009, I want to remind you that at the beginning of each year, you have an opportunity. An opportunity to step your game up to the next level. An opportunity to branch out from the same, hum-drum development you’ve been doing for the last 5 years. This article is a list of possible New Year’s resolutions for you, as a developer, to consider. I’m not suggesting you try to achieve all of these, rather I want you to pick one, and commit to it for 365 days. Write it down and stick it your monitor. Keep it in your wallet. Most importantly, keep it on your mind.
1. I will learn one new language this year.
If you have been using C#, try taking a peek at Ruby or IronRuby. If VB.NET is more your current style, perhaps you could learn something from F#. (These are just suggestions, of course. Pick one you sincerely want to learn.) There are plenty of programming languages to try, and you might find that something else fits your needs better than the tools you use today. Remember, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
2. I will attend the monthly local developer group in my area.
I know I spend a great deal of time talking about the value of user group meetings, but if you’re not going on a semi-regular basis, you’re doing yourself and your career a disservice. Each month, there’s a group of developers getting together in your town to learn from a speaker, network, and socialize. The content the speaker provides is valuable, but it shouldn’t be the driving force behind your attendance. Getting to know the other software developers in your community, and building relationships with themâ€¦that’s the value the group truly provides. Find the user group closest to you.
3. I will attend at least one regional developer conference.
In our area of the country, there’s a few great conferences you can attend. Codemash is always in January in Sandusky, OH, but registration is already full. There’s a substantial number of Day of .NET events from Michigan down to Tennessee. These are one-day, free Saturday events, typically. Stir Trek is a web centric conference happening in Columbus, OH in May. Codestock will be during the summer in Knoxville, TN. DevLink is in August in Nashville, TN. There’s plenty of opportunities to learn something new about development. Take advantage of it!
4. I will be an agent of change in my organization.
There are certainly things about your company or role that you’d like to see changed. Why not make this the year you change all of that? Don’t go complaining to your boss about what you hate. That’s not the solution. Instead, solve the problems. If your team can never seem to come in under-budget or on-time, perhaps some agile methodologies might be the answer. If you’re still working in technologies from 10 years ago, build a sample app over the weekend that shows your team how much you were able to accomplish in a couple of days. Sometimes new tools and processes can make all of the difference. Don’t feel powerless. Make 2010 the year of empowerment.
5. I will use my skills to change the world (for good).
Have you heard of a GiveCamp? A GiveCamp is an opportunity for developers to give back to their communities. The basic idea is that there are charities in your area in desperate need of technical solutions. This might be a simple website, e-commerce for donations, or even something more integral to their businesses. We, as developers, have the skills they need to make their charities more successful. Software is expensive, though, and not always core to their mission. So, for one weekend a year, you can give your knowledge and skills to an organization in your community, all while hanging with some of the best and brightest developers in your area. It’s an absolute blast, and something you’ll feel great about when you’re done. Check out the GiveCamp site for the city nearest you. They’re happening everywhere in our area.
6. I will give Twitter a REAL try.
Sure, you created an account. You posted about a bagel you had for breakfast. You posted about how you think Dane Cook is not funny. And you discovered that nobody cares. You’re right. While there are plenty of blog posts about the â€œrightâ€ way to use Twitter, there isn’t one way to use it. However, if you want to get real value from it as a software developer, you’ve got to follow people. You’ve got to point out articles you found useful. Here’s a starter list of people to follow. Engage these people in conversations. You’ll definitely reap the reward of knowledge from these people. They’re likely to learn from you as well.
7. I will create an online presence.
I can’t endorse this enough, and this is probably one of the simpler things you can do in 2010. As a software developer, it’s definitely a differentiator to employers if you’ve got a nice web presence, and the other candidates don’t. I’m not saying you need to become a blogger (though if you do, it will be rewarding). What I am saying is that you should have a place that is yours. A place to post cool, unique things you’ve done. Projects you’ve worked on. Snippets of code that solved a problem for you. Short of that, you should have a place that simply says: â€œThis is meâ€. You can find a great example of this (for free) at a site called Magntize. I’m using them for my site, and it’s just crazy simple to set up. You can see my site at http://jeffblankenburg.info.
If you haven’t found something in this list, you’re either an absolute rockstar when it comes to resolutions, or you’re just not trying hard enough. Give yourself a challenge for the new year! Drop me an email (email@example.com) and let me know what your professional resolutions for 2010 are going to be. I’ll consolidate them (anonymously) and post them to my blog, for everyone to see. Perhaps you’ll inspire others with your ideas!