Stay Hungry

How to boost technical skills after years of routine in software engineering.

Intro

Software engineering is a rapidly evolving field, so you need to grow constantly to keep up with it. But after reaching a certain level of technical expertise, you are likely to experience a plateau in your further professional development. Such stalemate can negatively affect your motivation, lead to development fatigue and even imposter syndrome and burnout. Here are a few techniques to help you out of the pit of stagnation and regain your love of programming.

Solving coding challenges

There are many great platforms that offer a variety of coding tasks to practice your problem-solving abilities. The most popular is Leetcode, but personally, I prefer CodeWars. These platforms contain a myriad of algorithmic problems that you might not often solve on your job. Regular practice really improves your thinking when solving real technical problems because you learn how to use some common fundamental data structures and approaches. Ultimately, these practices will help you create more productive and cleaner software. Moreover, it will prepare you for job interviews, as most large companies prefer to give interviewees some of these tasks.

Maintaining pet projects

Think of some useful project that can help someone do something, and bring it to life. It could be anything from a simple npm utility package to a large complex application with some backend and databases. To come up with an idea for your own project, just think about what you can automate in your daily life. You'll be surprised how much fun it is to create your own application from scratch, choosing the best code architecture and solving all sorts of technical problems. As a reward, if your project proves successful, you can earn money from it. Or if you don't mind sharing its source code, welcome to the wonderful world of Open Source.

Visiting meetups and conferences

There are two main aspects of attending offline events. First, you learn new things from the speakers. There may be topics among them that you were unlikely to know about. This certainly broadens your horizons in the professional sphere. Second, it's a great networking opportunity. It's the perfect place to make new acquaintances and share your own experiences with other attendees. All in all, meetings and conferences immerse you in that uniquely magical atmosphere that encourages you to learn new things.

Learning new programming languages

Each programming language has its own syntax, paradigms, and approaches to solving problems. By learning new languages, you push the boundaries of your thinking and gain a broader perspective on how to approach problem solving. This can improve your overall problem-solving skills, allowing you to find more effective and elegant solutions even for routine problems.

Interviews

After working for one company for a long time, you fall into your comfort zone, where you have little motivation to grow. But job interviews allow you to get out of that comfort zone, because you will be evaluated by strangers who have no loyalty to you. Remember, you don't have to go to interviews only when you are looking for a new job, so think of it as a challenge that tests your suitability in your professional field. This experience will help you to detect your weaknesses and knowledge gaps that prevent you from further progress.

Mentoring

Teaching and mentoring others requires a deep understanding of the subject matter. By explaining concepts, answering questions and guiding others, you strengthen your understanding of engineering fundamentals. Most importantly, mentoring gives you the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone's career and personal development. Seeing your mentees succeed and grow can be very rewarding. Contributing to the development of others reinforces your own sense of accomplishment and motivates you to continue to learn and improve as an engineer.

Contributing to open source

Last, but not least. Find any open source project you are interested in and go to the "issues" section. There you will find some problems that you may be able to solve. It will take you some time to get into this project to get a basic understanding of how it works. Thus, it will expand your skill set of dealing with unfamiliar code and refresh your understanding of project design.

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