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How to grow as a developer

If you’re a developer you’ve probably heard of the 10’000 hours rule, right? Well, in the early days of modern web development (web 2.0) it was argued that as a general guideline, developers should  attain around 10k hours worth of experience in order to become senior or expert level developers. This seems to have been derived from Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” in which he states that it would take about 10k hours worth of practice to master any complex skill. While this is true and has proven evidence, it’s not just about how much practice you get but also how receptive you are to teaching and learning from others. Gladwell later describes how family, culture and friendship are all critical in any individual’s success and perhaps some of the learning comes from these people!


As developers, we start out learning the basics. This usually takes the form of learning about programming constructs and syntax, allowing us to put together very basic programs which do very little. As we progress and start a job in our field we learn new ways of doing things, guidelines, conventions and principles which help our understand and make us better coders but it doesn’t end there.


You may be a mid-level or senior developer with years of experience one thing to accept is that you never stop learning or improving. It’s true! Our industry moves too fast and changes constantly. I read somewhere that if you were to stop coding for just six month you would be seriously behind when you got back into it and struggle to catch up. In my own experience there are things you MUST do to grow as a developer and reach your full potential.


1.) Read


You’ve gotta have your blogs, rss feeds, books. It helps a great deal to read about dev, whether you’ve signed up to Infoworld, JS weekly, Scotch, Reddit or have subscription to certain feeds discussing dev things it all counts if you want to be a serious developer. Also books, usually PDFs on my tablet which I download free from GitHub. All great resources for you.


2.) Practice


Coding whilst at your 9 to 5 isn’t enough to propel you into a senior role or help you to reach your potential. You must practice outside of work.

Why do so many developers shy away from this, I wonder? A lot of experts recommend this practice if they are to pick up new skills and knowledge. I recommend picking up a pet project or something. It will benefit you loads to work on a GitHub project, a composer or npm library, which could go on to help thousands if not millions of people. You might also create something that may eventually bring in some additional ££s each month. Just push yourself to work on something extra. It will expand your overall exposure to dev things far beyond what you narrowly work on at work!


3.) Contribute


This one echo’s on the last point but remember the importance of contributing. Are you just a beneficiary or are you behind the walls, getting your hands dirty and making things happen? Contribute here specifically refers to contributing to the dev community either by getting involved in a GitHub project or contributing to SO. Admit it! StackOverflow has saved your bacon and mine many times over. Here’s a golden rule for you. Your rewards in life are likely to be in direct proportion to your contribution!


4.) Level-up in your job


A famous person once said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room”? I call “Denzel”! I could be wrong, however…


If you’ve reached the top as a developer in your company or where ever it is that you do your coding, it’s probably time to change the scene. Go somewhere you will find minds bigger than you’re, people with loads more experience… people who are on a different level. Trust me if you get out of your comfort zone and go looking, you will find them! What you’ll experience will be far from comfortable BUT on the the side of that is a new and improved developer version of yourself.




These are the four top-level concepts I consider to be the most important to help your growth as a developer. In fact these concepts can be applied for growth in any field but for me as a developer it’s been a winning formular. My wish is that if you aren’t using this approach already, you will start today. I hope that it works wonders for your development and career.