Erik Aybar

Investing in Your Career as a Software Developer

August 08, 2015

…and Why Your Employer Should too

Skills gap: By 2020, there will be more than one million unfilled programming jobs. — Eric Elliott on The Skills Gap and Talent Shortage

Update: I’ve written some follow up thoughts here Learn Fast by Doing. Learn Faster by Teaching

A Glimpse of My Own Journey

Over the past several years, I’ve spent countless hours watching and learning from many online programming resources. Egghead.io for Javascript, Laracasts for PHP and Laravel, RailsCasts for Ruby/Rails, CodeSchool, and so on and so on… This is in tandem to pursuing a traditional 4 year degree. My mixed personal experiences with formal and self-driven education have lead me to greatly value what I’ve taken away from self-driven education and networking. I do feel the two provide completely different sets of skills, knowledge, and experiences. I highly recommend taking advantage of both, to those who have the option. Having said that, I have to emphasize self-driven education and the impact it has had on my career and growth as a software developer.

Whether it was $9 or $25 a month for a subscription, $50 for a book, or even spending some of my own money on DigitalOcean servers to play with, I cannot stress enough how valuable I have found investing a little time and money in my career (and myself) to be. I know for many, including myself early on, you may be tempted to save a few dollars and stick with the free resources out there. Don’t get me wrong. There are many quality, free resources out there that I highly recommend. However I feel like once you bite the bullet and start investing your own money into it, you begin to feel more invested in yourself and more likely to put the time and energy required into learning.

To put it into perspective, in the specific cases of video tutorial sites like Egghead.io and Laracasts we are talking about a mere $25 and $9 per month respectively. These resources, while of course not 100% or “directly” responsible, have literally led to me increasing my income by more than their monthly cost — per hour. If you are questioning the value of these types of resources, stop for a second and think about that.

This Means You too, Employers

This same concept applies to employers. If as an employer, you are not investing even this small fraction of a price into your developers, it may be time to reevaluate your budget and set a little aside to invest in your developers. The cost of these investments are an infinitesimal amount compared to your developers’ salaries.

Time is money. Providing the freedom and time your developers need to learn and grow is just as crucial, if not more important, than providing the resources. Your employees should feel free to learn and experiment on company time. Of course within reason, but I’ve come across too many developers who feel like they must “learn in the shadows” and as a result build resentment towards their employers and ultimately end up leaving their jobs to put their secretly acquired skills to use because of it.

I can vouch from experience that these investments will pay dividends in increased developer happiness, productivity/quality, and possibly most importantly developer retention and recruiting. I have been on both sides of the spectrum and seen first-hand both the positive and negative consequences of an employer providing, or not providing, the freedom, time, and resources needed to foster their developers’ growth.

John Sonmez (aka The Simple Programmer) has some great thoughts and content around this topic.

I know plenty of work places where your boss, and everyone else, would prefer if you just sat there in a trance staring at your monitor, rather than doing something productive when you have downtime.

That doesn’t make it right — and it certainly doesn’t make it anything close to the best thing you can do for your career.

- John Sonmez (Simple Programmer) Non-work things at work

Developers, do you feel like your employer does not see the value in investing time and/or money in these types of resources (or you in general)? It may be time for you to take a step back and reevaluate if this is where you would like to be professionally.

Skills gap: By 2020, there will be more than one million unfilled programming jobs. — Eric Elliott on The Skills Gap and Talent Shortage

Not all employers are going to jump on this bandwagon. Some may disagree on the value that this “might” provide them. Not all developers are driven towards such personal and professional growth. It may surprise you to learn that many potential employers will eagerly provide you with the resources and opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t restrict your personal and professional growth unnecessarily.

I believe we, as software developers, generally love what we do and have a passion for learning and experimentation. When placed in the right environment we naturally thrive, continuously grow and learn, and provide our employers with tremendous value. Make sure you are giving yourself a fair shot at success.

Update: I’ve written some follow up thoughts here Learn Fast by Doing. Learn Faster by Teaching

P.S. This is my first Medium post ever. Let me know if you enjoyed (or hated) it, have had any similar experiences, feedback, or even topic requests at @erikthedev_!

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/james



Erik Aybar

👋🏽 Hi! I'm Erik Aybar. I'm a software person working remotely from St. George, Utah. This is my blog.