How I Stay On The Cutting Edge Of Technology

How I Stay On The Cutting Edge Of Technology

For most developers, the biggest goal in their careers is to be a multi-lingual specialist and to be up to date with every possible tool or framework. After spending months of making their goal, they finally lose their battle due to burnout, because they cannot maintain the work-life balance properly. That is why I want to share with you some tips on how to let yourself relax and also to be a better developer.

Review your toolbox

For me checking the documentation of my tools a few times a year is a great revision since it’s impossible to remember everything, especially when you don’t use a specific part of the framework for some time. I’m a JavaScript developer who uses Ember.js for my daily job and since a new version of this framework is released every 6 weeks it’s impossible to stay up-to-date. Moreover, I don’t have any opportunity to use the newly released features because my projects are usually behind the freshest release. That is why I decided to batch two or three versions and in my free time read about them together.

Technology Meetups

Meetups are great events, where you can meet technology freaks just like you. Together with them, you can discuss new frameworks or changes in the existing ones. People should treat meetups like an amazing place to share their specialist knowledge or show study cases, which may be useful for others. You can even try it for yourself and give a presentation. The process of preparing such a presentation is a good review of knowledge. Sometimes you will also need to prepare a dummy explanation of certain stuff for the less experienced programmers.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
~Albert Einstein

You can easily find meetups near you for example on Meetup.com or EventBrite.com. Most of the meetups are free and for some of them, you will need to sign on the list and bring a free ticket with you.

Pair-programming sessions

Working on a project with another developer is a good exam for your coding and teamwork skills. You will find yourself in weird situations where you need to explain something really obvious, give gentle feedback or convince someone that his/her approach is not appropriate in a certain situation. On the other hand, when you’re pairing with a more experienced developer or your technology mentor you’re able to grow rapidly, understand the project better, avoid common programming mistakes and how to keep the code simple by choosing better algorithms or unknown parts of your lovely programming language.

Open-source contributions / Pet project

Working on your own pet project is a great opportunity for you, cause you can use the newest tools or frameworks - you can just experiment on your own, which is not always possible especially when your job is to maintain an old legacy project which is used by thousands of users. Contributing to open-source projects is a perfect exercise of working with many people on one thing, which helps to learn how to communicate with them, how does the process work. You will learn many quirks from the other contributors. Paradoxically open source contributing may be profitable for you, by contributing to open-source you will gain visibility in the community. When you are an active open source activist you may get more jobs offers for you or your company.

Newsletters

Subscribing to newsletters is the best choice for me to stay up to date with technology stuff. During the week I receive a lot of newsletters via email like Ember Weekly or Medium Daily Digest. I can recommend inside.com where you can find various newsletters and I’m sure that you will find something interesting there. I don’t read newsletters during the weekdays, instead, I usually find some time on Saturday mornings and then preprocess all of the mails — My goal is to have an empty inbox at the end of the week. I start selecting interesting content by headers or description usually, then I have a quick scroll through the article. If it is short, up to three minutes, I read it immediately, if not, I pin the tab to the browser to read it later and continue going through the remaining articles. After the process of preprocessing the emails, I remove them from my mailbox and start reading the articles from my, usually long, reading list.

Summary

As you can see, it’s possible to constantly improve our developer skills and have time to relax and indulge in hobbies - I’m a living example of that. The most important thing is to clearly draw a line between work and free time, although, meetups can be an amazing combination of learning and networking, as well as an opportunity to refresh some of the rusty knowledge. On the other hand, subscribing to newsletters is a great way to stay updated with the particular framework and an easy option to quickly separate the valuable content from the internet distractors.

That was my gentle list of things that help me to become a more experienced developer with the possibility to find some time to relax off work.

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