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Skill Pathway

4 Ways You Can “Level Up” As A Developer

matthew_collison profile image Matthew Collison Updated on ・5 min read

The lines between different “levels” of developer are blurry. Ask any senior developer, development manager or technical director what the difference between beginner, junior, mid-level and senior, and chances are, you’ll receive vastly differing opinions.

Since there is such a wide range of opinions, there’s really no use spending any time on figuring out how to become a “Senior” or “Mid-Level” developer - levels are - for the most part - opinion.

Instead, let’s look at some things you might not have considered, of which if you implement a number of these, will increase your level as a developer.

1) Build a substantial project

React JS calculator? Cool demo, but not substantial. Todo list app? Once again, fun little tool, but not substantial. Most people can follow tutorials we’re talking about something else...

Something with many different views, endpoints and pieces of functionality, that is unique and demonstrates some developer creativity.

What are some examples of what we’d consider a “substantial project”?

  • Tinder for dogs.
  • A miniature social network for Pokemon lovers.
  • An skeleton web backend or frontend framework that others could use - not that you expect to compete necessarily, but to give you an understanding of how to build one!
  • Build a package in that primary programming language that you work with - one that you’d use in multiple projects.

There are some funky examples there but here’s the point - either build a larger project around something you’re super passionate about or build something that thoroughly pushes the boundaries of what you currently understand. By definition, both of those things are going to “level you up” because you’ll be coming across concepts

2) Contribute to open source

This means build your own open source packages / applications or contribute to existing repositories.

Your own package

If you’re going to build your own packages, just make sure it’s not from a tutorial and something you actually want to put out to the world that others could use.

Document your process

Bonus points if you create a blog post or video series around how / why you built it and your thought process. This not only allows you to think of it from a storytelling perspective and gain new insights, but it’s strong evidence of your abilities AND thousands of others trying to learn what you’re learning get to benefit from listening to how you went about this project.

Someone else’s repository

Chances are, your favourite node, PHP, python, java packages and plugins are on GitHub. There’s an even strong chance that there’s at least a dozen open issues on these packages.

Check the repository contributors guidelines, usually in a .MD file in the root of the code, get a good understanding of it and go away and fix an issue. Better yet, add some functionality to it that would actually be useful.

This serves many purposes

  • Evidence that you can following coding guidelines (Good for potential employer)
  • Evidence that you’re part of the open source community and a named contributor on a repository
  • You’ll learn about forking, pull requests, commits more in-depth
  • You’ll see what a community maintained package looks like and have a chance to adopt some better programming practices

3) Look at a senior developer’s code (or a programmer you know is more experienced than you)

This is one of the quickest ways to “level up” as a developer. Because (most of the time) you’ll be staring at code that is almost certainly a level above yours.

Attempt to understand it - compare it to your own to find what patterns you can implement to improve yours - take note of all the little technical things they do that you could implement to your own workflow.

This isn’t always possible if you’re not currently working in a company, and if you’re not you can always look for open source projects from your favourite community developers who are highly experienced and read the code and try to understand.

It’s also great if the developer whose code you’re looking at is available to ask questions and happy to answer them - just let them know that you’re trying to better understand what a senior’s code looks like and get their permission to ask a few questions about things you’re trying to understand. A lot of people will be happy to help out.

4) Understand more programming design patterns and principles

Look into SOLID, KISS, YAGNI, MVC, and the vast list of other odd-sounding abbreviated design patterns and principles. There’s a massive Wikipedia page of them right here and another one right here.

Read through the definitions of each one and google for examples of each - examples are super important as if you have context about how a pattern is actually implemented, you’ll be able to understand it better.

Chances are, there’s a bunch you’ve not heard of. Most of the hiring managers here can’t recall all of them, and a quick read through some of them refreshes our memory and allows us to look at how it would improve our coding process.

We’ll probably put out a blog post with some contextual pseudo code examples of this in the future - programming patterns are something that a lot of developers never even try to fully understand, and we understand why: because they make no sense as an explanation. We need examples!!!

What are some other things you can suggest to help others “level up”?

This is a small selection of things we think can help - please share yours with the world so other developers can benefit! No suggestions are invalid - there’s probably thousands of other developers who haven’t thought of the basics when it comes to moving forward in their learning. That’s why we’re all blogging here after all!

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Posted on by:

matthew_collison profile

Matthew Collison

@matthew_collison

I run an educational media brand called Skill Pathway, and host The Learning Developers Podcast. Experienced Full-Stack Engineer that wants to change lives and help millions of people into tech.

Skill Pathway

We help budding developers land their dream job. We do this through our free courses, articles, podcasts and tutorials covering a range of topics from mindset, coding skills, career advice and much more.

Discussion

markdown guide
 
 

You’ve missed a trick, the mushrooms are where it’s at

 

Im afraid I might eat a purple one.

Isn't that only at the night theme
(Super Mario Maker 2 reference)

Mario Mushrooms?
or regular mushrooms?
If it's the former then we better start pleading to Nintendo for permission!

Piracy! Dear Nintendo please be remembered forever more by adding mario mushrooms to the official emoji specification. Quite honestly I'm shocked that more companies have not capitalized on emojifying thier products!

 
 

Thanks for the article! You forgot to mention functional programming. It is totally different to OOP and forces you to almost forget things you know and start anew. But there is no way back to OOP after you switch. :)

 

Love this point! We’re learning Golang at the moment so it’s a very relevant point - I think it goes both ways.

Just learning different high-level paradigms and getting a good understanding of them to the point where you have more tools for the job is great.

 

Are there any 1-UP(s) to save you in case something goes horribly wrong, or is my debugger in another castle?

 

Damn it, I wrote this on my iPad and was going to put mario in the cover image! That’s happening later tonight. Thanks for the laugh 😂

 

Hope you approve of the redesign......

WOW! THAT'S-A SO NICE! all joking aside, that is amazing, and a nice interpretation of Mario as a developer.

 

great and considerable tips thank you!

 

Thanks Mohammad, we’re glad you think so!

 

Thanks for this article!

I have another one: writing blog post. It's a wonderful way to learn. You will need to research your subject, trying to be as accurate as possible (and therefore learn a ton) and learn from the feedback as well.

 

hey :)
I translated this post into Persian.
Link: vrgl.ir/Mm0Hl

 

Mahdi - you’re awesome! Thank you so much for going through all the effort to do this! We hope your Persian readers really benefit from the tips we laid out here.

 

What a great read! Very helpful to people like me who are just starting out.

 

So glad it’s been helpful Memri! Please check out other posts in the series as we’ve tried to produce as much helpful content for beginners as we possibly can. Have a great day!

 

I wish I had seen this article earlier, I totally would have included it in my senior developer article roundup! Great stuff!

 

Will you please write an article explaining "contribute to open-source"?

 

Yes! Thanks for the suggestion Muhammad 👍

 

Can’t stress enough how much can be learned from looking at the source of your fav’ libraries.

Definitely something I wished I had done earlier in my career. It really improved my perspective.

 

For sure! Same here, the framework we build our infrastructure on (Laravel) is something that we understood 100x better once we dug into the source code, plus it gave us insights into how enterprise scale code works. It’s so cool! Thanks for sharing

 

Love the article! Very suitable for a Junior developer as myself. I also think that it is important to have a good understanding of Data Structures and Algorithms.