When I was a kid I was told not to do a lot of things. Did that always stop me? Not really. That’s part of being a kid. It’s in our nature to defy logic, be annoying, and satisfy our curiosity. That said (and because I know my kids will inevitably be as immersed in technology as I am), these are the top five things I plan to tell my kids about software development.
- Keep playing with those legos. Sure, you’ve built a sweet looking airplane. But I bet if you start over again and use some of these new pieces we just bought, you could come up with something even better. (The idea here is that that if you start over, you can do better than you did last time and find ways to overcome the problems that once tripped you up.)
- Go ahead and ride those scary rides at the amusement park. Sometimes you need to take risks and try something new. Stretch yourself beyond what you’re used to and what you know. Exercise your creative thinking as often as possible and see if what you come up with is better than what has been done before. When you’re a developer eager to learn new languages, you’ll likely discover useful idioms that you can port into your primary language.
- You SHOULD chew with your mouth open. Let others see what you’re working on and explain to them why you chose to do it. It’s the only way to learn how to improve something. Sharing your code can make you feel self-conscious because you’re exposing yourself and your thoughts for others to be critical of. The upside is that any feedback or advice that helps you be better is a reward worth the risk.
- Being picked last is a good thing. That’s because it usually means you get to learn something new. People have a tendency to play to their strengths. So, when it comes down to working on tasks, they’ll snatch up stuff they know how to do. What may be left for you are the extremely difficult tasks or things that are the most unknown and difficult to solve. And what’s more rewarding than figuring out super tough problems?
- It’s OK to ask “Why” a million times. Libraries and frameworks evolve quickly these days and there are tons to choose from. Figuring out why something works, why the code was structured a certain way, or why a certain design pattern was chosen, helps grow your knowledge base. Don’t let black box software remain a mystery to you. Dissect what you can.
So kids (and adults): Software development is a lot of trial and error. A lot! Making mistakes is important for growth. Experiencing pain makes you appreciate better and more efficient techniques. This kind of growth helps you level up faster and have much more experience to draw upon.
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