The technology industry operates at a relentless pace. The moment you think you’ve attained mastery, or even a high level of understanding of any programming language, your skills might already be out date. Instead of clinging to your knowledge as a way to make you feel secure and competent, why not try another route?
The sheer amount of information available that’s related to any kind of modern programming language is quite intimidating to the uninitiated. You are probably thinking, “You mean I have to remember all that?” Well, not exactly.
Today, and especially into the future, your ability to quickly find the “right” information is going to be more important than any specific skill set. Yes, you do need to have certain basics nailed down. But, without developing the skill-set and mindset of an active researcher you’re going to be stuck tackling problems all on your own, instead of relying on other developers and extensive documentation to help you out.
Below we dive into the importance of knowing how to find the right information, rather than focusing on extensive skill building.
We Live in an Open Book World
Photo credit: Luis Llerena
Mark Cuban recently coined the term Open Book World, although not a programmer (at least not that we know!), this way of thinking is entirely useful. Instead of having to rely on information we’ve memorized we now have an entire world of knowledge to draw from.
Yes, it’s incredibly important that we develop our skills as developers, but if we spend too much time learning the ins and outs of a single language, or process, or method, we run the risk of putting ourselves in the box.
Solutions to our pressing development problems are often only a search away. Instead of spending an entire workday wracking our brains against a problem, we can piece together and test multiple solutions based upon our search abilities and intuition alone.
However, just having access to information isn’t enough. We now live in an age of information overload. In order to be effective at your work you must learn how to sort through all of this information. But, don’t worry, we’ll get to this in the final section.
Becoming a Research Enthusiast From a Hiring Perspective
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Today, workforce is continuously evolving and the development space is no different.
1. Rapid Problem Solving
What do you think is more valuable to an employer, or to the rest of your team? Being stuck on a problem, but find your way through it though sheer force of will. Or, the ability to search and research and test rapidly until you find a solution.
Now, we’re not saying you should be doing a patchwork job with your development, but instead should be able to develop a great holistic understanding, so you can intuit what solutions are going to work.
2. No Ego in Development
When you begin to pride yourself on your ability to find and implement the right information you begin to realize that you can’t do everything on your own. In fact, your success is wholly dependent on the developers who came before you and those who are currently with you in the trenches.
No great code is created in a vacuum. Luckily, most of the development world is inherently very open. Acknowledge this in yourself and your work.
Another great way to cement your knowledge is to help and teach. Almost everything you’ve learned up to this point has been due to other people, or other resources. Even if you feel like you don’t have anything to offer, you’re always an expert to someone.
3. Faster Language Adoption
Today’s programming languages are so in-depth it’s nearly impossible to know how to use and understand every single detail. Older programming languages were much simpler to learn and master by design. But unfortunately, this old world doesn’t exist anymore.
Instead of approaching programming language acquisition from the point of total mastery and understanding, see if you can approach it from the point of usefulness.
This means taking the months to learn the syntax, the built-in operators, and the libraries. Use this knowledge to understand the practicality of the language and how you can apply it to solve various problems.
Build a toolkit that contains useful knowledge of multiple different languages and you’ll be better equipped to handle a wide range of development challenges. Becoming a generalist might truly be advantageous at this point in your career.
A Primer on Advanced Search Techniques
Photo credit: Tirza van Dijk
Your search bar is going to be your best friend as a developer. Most large development languages are simply too complex to remember most of them. For that reason, your ability to produce great code and get work done is going to depend upon your search abilities.
Now, this doesn’t mean you’re going to become a master of Google. There are a variety of sources you’ll need to scour in order to find practical and useful information.
Below we highlight a few things you’ll need to master to become an expert at finding information. Think of your quest as searching for the hidden treasure. The gems are out there, you just have to find them.
1. Advanced Search Operators
Knowing which search engines to use will help, but knowing how to use the right search operators in even better. Typing your error code into Google might bring you a few practical solutions.
But, sometimes you’ll want to exclude certain results from your search. Or, make sure you’re only given results from a specific website. Google offers a great resource for those just getting started. Getting your head around Boolean operators will be very beneficial as well.
2. The Manual (Shocker, Right?)
There’s something about developers in general–we hate reading manuals. We’d rather figure things out on our own by breaking and fixing things, than spending hours pouring over technical documentation.
But, I’ll let you in on a secret. Documentation can be your best friend. Whenever you’re stumped, consult the relevant manual and chances are your solution is staring you in the face.
3.Search Engine Choice
You’re going to need to develop the ability to choose the right search engine. Hint: Google isn’t always going to be your number one choice. There are a number of online resources that are going to be better suited to helping you solve your problem.
We hope that you’re on the same page as us, surrounding the importance of finding the right information to product great code and grow your career. How has becoming an information hound impacted your career? Please share in the comments below.