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The legend Dave Farley shows us how to be a better developer
A few easy steps can make a big difference
I bet it is hard to be a legendary developer, right? I asked a legend, Dave Farley, what he would say. He shared some habits that were much easier than I anticipated.
Dave started by pointing out that we should always keep learning. A good developer doesn’t just learn one thing and stop. Look for new skills to master. Re-examine existing skills and find ways to enhance
Find the best solution
He also pointed out how they want the best solution. Which may not be their own.
The really good ones are not precious about their solution, they are open to it being criticized — they may not always like it, but they want to know how to do better.
Whereas some people only fall in love with their ideas. Great developers know they don’t have the market cornered.
Understand the problem
Stop me if you have ever done this. You see an issue and instantly know what the problem is. Then you apply the fix. As you do this you think to yourself, “I don’t need to test this.”
You tell the QA team it is fixed and move on. A while later you get an IM, “hey that defect you said was fixed. Is still occurring.” Ugh…
Dave reminded me to always work to understand the problem. The better developers among us would try to do this. Don’t just jump in and fix it. Step back and ask questions.
Open to feedback
Perhaps you are one of those people that is good at listening to feedback. I can get defensive. One of Dave’s recommendations is to be open to feedback. This way we can learn from others’ perspectives.
Sense of Design
Design can be nebulous. For instance, Tom B was a UI Designer I worked with. He could craft an intuitive interface. I was always amazed at that.
Learning design has been a trial-and-error endeavor. I have created applications and refactored them. Dave reminds us to learn and be curious about design.
I think that the good programmers I have worked with have a strong sense of design, which includes always wanting to learn about and having a very strong understanding of, the problem domain that they work in.
Question our assumptions often. Ask our stakeholders to verify our work. Seek clarity in our design.
I recently listed to the audiobook The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. He discusses how organizations can change with small wins. These little steps build momentum. Dave shares this tidbit that helps developers build momentum too.
The other thing is that they make progress in small steps, evolving their understanding and design over time.
Our best work evolves. It takes steps to get there. Some are not in the right direction and that is okay.
Bad Programming Habits
In this video, Dave outlines some bad habits developers should avoid.
He reminds us that a resilient system functions correctly when things go wrong. Anticipate insufficient data and user mistakes.
Dave declared that shared code is better. One person focusing on an area of the code creates siloes.
Somebody else’s problem
“I am a backend developer, I don’t fix front-end bugs.” This is a statement I have heard. This reminds me of an acronym. NIMBY. Which stands for not in my backyard. We can keep a myopic view of the world.
Afraid to change
Laura was a great developer. However, she will rarely make a change. She was almost crippled by fear of a bug. Some developers won’t change the code. This can slow down teams.
I have to confess I can get “shiny object syndrome”. As a developer, we can see something new and think “WOW!” This can solve all my problems.
We begin with a tool and start looking for a problem to solve. Dave points out this is the wrong way. We need to focus on outcomes NOT tools. Learning something new is fun. Although that is not what we are paid to do.
So after all it isn’t that hard to be legendary. It just takes following these habits that Dave has shared. So keep learning about development. Take some small steps each day to further your journey to mastery.