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Staying Current in Software Development: Tips, Tricks and Why It's So Important

As a developer, it is far too easy to get behind on the ever-evolving technological trends that ebb and flow throughout this industry. Some of them come and most of them go, but it’s still up to us as developers to know what’s actually happening. Having our collective thumb on the pulse allows us to be able to pick and choose the trends that are really here to stay.

In this article, I hope to appease the inherent anxiety associated with this exaggerated level of feeling like we have to “keep up”. By learning a few key tips and tricks, maybe we can all learn how to identify the trends that exhibit true staying power.

Disclaimer: I am a Junior Developer. This isn’t a whole new world for me, but I’m still fresh on my journey. I finished an Engineering Immersive through a program called ‘Thinkful’ back in March, and within the months that have lapsed since my cohort, the curriculum has already changed. Hearing this news kind of freaked me out (ahem, it *really* freaked me out) but then I thought about it and realized, “of course it did.”

Why Did It Change?

Because it had to. Thinkful touts itself as an industry leader for turning out ‘Modern Full Stack Web Developers’. My curriculum was JavaScript based with a heavy focus on React/Redux, but in order to keep their accolades, they must keep their curriculum dynamic and open to improvement.

A Little History

React was created by Facebook in 2011 as a solution to issues they were having maintaining their fast-growing code base. React, in short, is a JavaScript library that uses JSX, Components, Virtual DOM & Lifecycle Methods (hooks) to rapidly fetch dynamic data. You can see why a site like Facebook, whose data is being dynamically created and changed constantly, had to find the fastest possible way to stay current.

Within the months between my Engineering Immersive and landing my first job, Thinkful has already forgone the extremely popular React container library ‘Redux’ and is now teaching it’s students React Hooks, which negates any need for any containers libraries altogether. React Hooks is now considered the cleanest way to develop apps in React.

Without getting any more into how React works behind the scenes, it’s important to know that it has been help it’s place as one of the best and most used JS library in the industry for, oh - the past 6 years now. There are other impressive contenders being adopted by startups and companies world-wide, such as Vue.Js and Angular, but React still reigns supreme.

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Wow, that was a lot.

Yes, it was. Even the littlest change in a major tech trend can elicit a feeling of being overwhelmed. But fear not, because the following tricks help you break down the trends & changes into digestible bits of matter. Learning new ways to incorporate these “bits of matter” will seriously help you advance your practice and stay a step ahead.

Step One: Figure Out Your Personal Goals As A Developer

A critical step in staying ahead is knowing exactly what kind of developer you want to be. For me, I know that I want to build and design custom web/mobile applications. That means I need to stay up on trends and best practices that are specifically conducive to app development. It’s important I have a working knowledge of React, React Native, GraphQL, NPM, Mongo/SQL as well as comfortability with CI/CD. Insert about 100+ more things to that list. Knowing your goals as a developer will allow you to keep focus on what’s really important.

Step Two: Subscribe to Newsletters

This one might seem obvious, but having a rolling list of resources sent to your inbox is crucial in staying up-to-date. Below is a (very short) list of some of the more popular ones:

  • JavaScript Weekly - Weekly JavaScript Articles
  • Medium - Medium has everything, so pick and choose your interests accordingly
  • Sidebar.io  - One daily newsletter with five articles, each focusing on UI, UX & web design
  • Hacker Newsletter - Weekly since 2010, keep you up to date on all things tech/programming
  • Code Project - Covers all things code-related, with fun side projects to keep you busy


Step Three: Build

The final and arguably the most important step is to keep building. Below is a list of things to do to keep your skills evolving and GitHub green.

Tutorials

YouTube - Think of something you’d like to learn or get better at, and search YouTube for a walk-through tutorial
Wes Bos - Personal opinions aside, Wes Bos knows his stuff and has an impressive collective of free courses & tutorials that actually work
Coursera - Tons of options for both paid and free development courses

Edit Your Existing Projects

Often times we resist going into our old code, but opening up past projects will teach you a thing or two: whether it’s seeing something that can be done better, or re-teaching you something you’ve already done. Nobody masters anything without repetition.

Collaborate

Building collaboratively with coworkers, peers and friends outside of work is going to teach you the most for a bunch of reasons, here are a few:

  • Teaching someone something is the best way to solidify knowledge
  • Brainstorming with others gets you to think outside of your own skill set
  • Social engagement during the development process often makes it feel less burdensome

With these three steps in mind, you can incorporate a more mindful approach to staying current on Software Development trends. Technology requires mindfulness. Hopefully you are able to take these bits of matter, as we’ve called them, and sprinkle them into your own practice so that the pressure of keeping up, over time, becomes easier and easier to digest.

Please note that there is a whole world of resources that could have been included, so apologies for leaving any obvious ones out. The most important part of this article is making the three steps a priority. In doing so, you are engaging in a highly dynamic industry and solidifying your own stance as a modern web developer.

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  Jordan   Posted in: Web Development
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