Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Advice To A Young Developer...

I read Alex Miller's blog post on "Advice To A Young Developer" and it got me thinking. What general advice would I give to young developers. I came up with a few things. Hopefully they will help somebody.

1) Become your best by NOT being the best - This may seem obvious but the best way to be your best is to put your self in positions where your surrounded by people who are better than you on at least one dimension. This leads to point number 2.

2) Listen more than you talk - Use a bit of insecurity and a bit of wanting to be the best to drive you to suck the knowledge and experience from the people around you. Even the people you may view as less than you on some dimension or another will still teach you things if you listen. While your talking you are NOT listening.

3) Be Stupid, Stupid! - Sometimes being smart is a smart person's worst enemy. Don't ever use your intelligence as a crutch. Do research, talk to people, listen to people, read code, read books. In short allow yourself to evolve or risk not knowing how bad you are at things that you could have been great at. Watch out if you find yourself doing things from first principles all the time.

4) Slow Down - Of course a developer should work ones ass off. Almost all of the good ones do. But allow yourself time to think. Step back and look at what you are doing. In software it is very easy to rat hole on the wrong thing so take brakes, think, and get back to it. No more than 50 percent of your time should be spent typing (I actually think for an experienced dev it should be more like 25 percent).

5) Be A Tester - This is really for all Software Engineers, but... Be a tester, learn to write great automated tests that exercise at the unit, component, and system level. NOTE: This doesn't mean write tons and tons of tests. It means learn to write good ones.

6) Read your code - Software is complicated. Go back and read your code. You'll find all kinds of interesting things

7) Refactor - Refactor your code for readability, testability and maintainability. A myth exists that doing something in a messy poorly organized way is somehow quicker than doing it in a clean way. This is flat out untrue. I've actually timed myself. It takes longer to do things poorly. You are not saving any time by leaving bad code around. If it's a state machine write it as a clean well factored state machine. If you see a ton of nested if's extract methods, use null objects, what ever is needed.

8) Don't Guess - I first started with don't pre-optimize but I figured I would go one step further. Don't Guess! Write tests to show a perf problem before fixing them, don't guess about what features will be needed in the future, don't guess about whether your change fixes a bug. PROVE IT!

9) Trust Me - If you find yourself trying to win an argument by saying "trust me, I've done this or that before", or "I just know" then STOP. If you can't explain your point then you probably don't really have one so either figure out what the point really is or just admit your wrong.

10) Wishful thinking - Any decent list always has 10 items in it right? Anyway program by wishful thinking. Keeps you focused.

Hope someone can find some benefit from it.

Anyone else have ideas?


  1. Thanks for posting this ... I'm eager to read the following 40 items :)

  2. another one: find a bug, write a test

    this one is up there with learn to write good tests. but writing tests for found bugs (either found by your or someone else) is enlightening. it gives you perspective on your thought process, your code and your test writing skills.

  3. preachy? hmmm.. i say realistic! ;)

    Anyways, I'm waiting on the rest of the 40 items.

  4. Hi there,

    One more advice: do not invent the wheel over and over again, look for libraries (e.g. Apache Commons and such) to suit your needs.

    And one more: Communicate with people by asking questions about how to do things. So you'll learn even more.



  5. I liked this, and linked it. I think many of these apply to IT, and the world at large.