I often see articles about what makes a good developer. However few of them are written by an employer. As a passionate developer and an employer of developers it's really clear to me what developers need to do so I can pay them more. So here's Part 1 of my list of the big ticket items you need to master to get yourself a pay rise (if you work for me anyway :-)
Know your development tools inside out
When it comes to the primary language you are working with you should read both a language guide and a language commentary. Both books should be exhaustively examined and understood.
These books should be read and digested in your own time. You can probably digest some of this stuff at work but I'd say 70% of it has to be read in your own time as it simply won't be relevant to the immediate tasks you are performing day to day.
When I say "read" I mean read from first to last page and not simply a cursory overview. This is most important as really critical information can often be in the last chapter of your reference.
I have worked with lazy developers who justify themselves with this famous excuse:
"I don't need to read that book, I'll get to the bits I don't know when I need to."
"Certification doesn't mean anything, I once met a certified developer and he was hopeless."
Poppy cock. If you don't know about aspects of a technology you won't know you need to read about them when the times comes for them to be useful. And the argument on certification does not follow:
" I once met a certified developer and he was hopeless"
"Therefore all certified developers are hopeless"
The conclusion does not follow from the premise.
Unfortunately reading books on programming takes significant time. On the bright side it's unlikely you will need to read more than five to six books in your current job. A substitute for books are video courses such as those at www.pluralsight.com. These are worth every cent of the modest monthly subscription. But make sure you do the heavy weight courses, not the namby-pamby lightweight introductions. And make sure you follow through these courses to the end including their advanced modules. I prefer books to videos as videos can have overlapping content and never seem to be as thorough as the classic texts.
Developers who know their stuff are less likely to make big technology blunders. And they write code that is more maintainable and extensible. They also spend less time understanding other people's code and are less intimidated by using and extending third party libraries. This results in decreased development costs and the likelihood of more work for their company as fees to change existing code will be reduced.
I am a little cruel with developers who refuse to master their tools. They rarely make it through the probation period. On the other hand, the dude who really hits the books hard and flies along in the technical world will be immediately rewarded with a salary increase of around 10%-20%.
The next article in this series will focus on checking your code.
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