If you’ve got a professional attitude regarding your developer career, chances are you’re looking to improve your knowledge, whether it’s language-related or framework-related (or even process-related but it is more far-fetched). So far, I found the following ways to do so, each step bringing deeper knowledge than the former:
- The first strategy when you want to learn about something is to read about it. This is the easiest, since there are so many resources available online. This is also the poorest in terms of value since:
- Sometimes you fail to understand but you cannot realize it until you’re faced with mistakes
- What you read fades at an astonishing rate
- The second step would be following tutorials. There are also plenty of resources available, but in this case, you code. It may seem strange, but I’ve found better understanding when confronted by the results of my code than by just reading
- Then, you may code your own applications. This leads to discover best practices by yourself, and experience always leads to deeper knowledge. For example, coding for my pet project really gave me better insights into Swing than if I just followed some book. The trade-off here is that I sometimes have to refactor some code, because I learned or discovered a better way to do things (e.g. a new class I just learned about).
- Next is giving technical support. We each tend to always code the same way, so being confronted to code from colleagues leads to a better understanding through exposure to previously unknown challenges.
- Beyond that, one has to understand the intricacies of the language/framework. The best way to achieve this is to teach a course: since you will have to answer questions, you will have to understand each and every aspect of the subject. This is the path I followed after 2 or 3 years of developing in Java and it really boosted my skills.
- Finally, you can write a book. While this may seem on par with teaching, I found it even more inspiring since you have to master all the aspects of the subject at the time of the writing (while in a class, you can always tell the audience you’ll the answer by the next session).
I’ve praticed each of these strategies, so I’m pretty sure about their respective value reagrding each other. I’m also really interested to hear from other strategies and at what value they could bring.