How To Improve

2024 02 03 head

You attended a famous or a local technical school. You are the proud owner of a bachelor or a master degree in science.

You are a certified engineer.

You are now a full-time software developer. You write daily productive code with your colleagues in your current company.

Hopefully you studied software engineering at least as a minor.

How can you continuously improve in your profession?

How can you become proficient in the new features and possibilities of the technologies you use daily?

How can you learn new approaches and good practices emerging over the world?

Below are approaches I used over the years to improve my technical skills and progress in my career.

Attend Local User Groups

Professional engineers strive through discussions and exchanges with peers. A powerful and cost-effective approach is to meet regularly in user groups.

You can find a lot of user groups in your Swiss area.

You find Java, Python, C++, C#/.Net, and Clojure user groups in the Zurich, Zug, and Lucerne areas.

Attend the group gatherings. You will learn new approaches and expand your professional network.

At the beginning of my career, I attended the monthly meetings of the local Java and agile user group.

Later, I presented a few times concepts and approaches I used in my projects.

The same is true for Scrum and agile user groups [1][2][3]. Agile breakfast meetings are held regularly in various Swiss locations for the last fifteen years.

Embedded development is more of a niche area. You have to search online where embedded development groups are active.

Read Books and Articles

The digital world is beautiful. You can order an ebook and start reading it in less than a minute.

Digital books are quite affordable. You can legally share them with your team members.

I challenge you. Read at least four technical books each year.

Commute using public transport, and you already have found your timeslot to read these books.

Watch YouTube technical videos. You find free high-quality material for almost any topic.

Beware of outdated information is also polluting the site.

You can also buy more formal training material from online platforms and recognized universities.

Ask questions on blog platforms or Stack Overflow.

It is one of my favorite checks as a technical manager. I ask collaborators where they ask questions and how they search for answers.

If I cannot find any trace of their activities, I am worried. An engineer without any online presence is probably not learning actively new approaches.

I want to have knowledge workers in my team. I want them to tap into the collective knowledge of the world through the Internet.

Attend Formal Trainings

A professional engineer shall attend around five training days a year.

Attend technical conferences.

In the post-Corona time, you can find a lot of online conferences. You can also attend a conference onsite. Travel costs in Europe are very reasonable.

Book a training either online or in a physical course room.

Ask yourself if a certification makes sense for you.

Invest in a CAS or a MAS study.

If you are working daily in a technical area for years, please have a degree corresponding to your professional activities.

Training on the job is not enough. You need to have a formal education.

A very powerful approach to becoming proficient in a matter is to volunteer for a presentation.

I am a lecturer at various technical universities for the last thirty-five years. I like teaching and interacting with bright young students.

You certainly have to invest in this activity. It is very rewarding and a powerful approach to stay current in the fields you are teaching. You are paid to stay up to date. Students provide good and sometimes harsh feedback on how competent you are.

Consider teaching as giving back to the community.

Write Articles

Write a blog article about a technical theme in your current project. Writing about a problem is a powerful way to understand it better.

An engineer is also a coach and a teacher. Get the hang of the art of writing presentations and articles.

The tangly blog is a good example of how you can publish on technical themes.

Participate in Open Source Products

Your company is using open-source products daily. The digital product you are developing is based on open-source libraries and frameworks.

Please give back to the community. Contribute to the open-source products you are using.

Potential employers are looking at your GitHub or GitLab profile.

They want to see if you are active in the community and what kind of code you are writing. Younger developers have often started to contribute to open-source projects during their studies.

Experience with GitHub or GitLab also shows that you are familiar with modern DevOps practices.

You can start with small contributions like documentation or bug fixes. Or you could store code snippets you find useful in your daily work on the platform.

Tips and Tricks

Your organization shall formally have a budget of five days for formal training per year. The budget shall be available for each employee and has a time and a cost position.

Read a technical book each quarter. Buy the book yourself. You earn good money and can afford it.

Work regularly on an open-source project or write blogs.

Read code. Platforms like GitHub or GitLab are a treasure trove of code.

Code snippets can be found on Stack Overflow or in blogs.

The best way to improve technically is to study interesting approaches.

You need to apply the learnings to truly understand them.

Buy a technical book quaterly and read it.