In part one, I spoke about how a developers career is their own, not their employers / managers. An extension of this, over the last year many of the conferences I have attended I’ve paid for out of my own pocket, I was given some of the days as training. I felt it was a great investment in myself and has broadened my horizons. This isn’t to say that my employer didn’t pay for any training this year they did, but most of the conferences I wanted to go to were small, so the hassle of large corporate PSL and Accounts wasn’t worth it.

Over the year I found to keep an eye on the Skills Matter website, if you get in early on some of their exchange days you can save a packet! I’ve booked for two events next year already. (CukeUP! & Agile Testing & BDD Exchange, both of which were excellent this year)

In addition don’t forget about CF Objective in May and Scotch on the Rocks in June are 2 great conferences which I’ll be speaking at in 2014. Grab your ticket for both of these events as soon as you can. If you’ve never spoken at an event before both of these tend to have a lightning talk session during the event these are short session where you can normally speak about anything you want. You can also come along to the UKCFUG, as we’ll start to have lightning sessions over the course of the year also. It’s a great chance to share what you know with your peers.

User Groups, Conferences are great way to learn new stuff, also heading to your near by Software Craftsmanship group (there is large group in London). The group in London has code and coffee every Tuesday in 3 places over London, this is where you turn up before work grab a coffee and talk code with others, even pair with someone working on a personal pet project or take your own along and get help from some of the other attendees. There is one in Leeds & York; I’ve not been for a while due to work commitments but in the New Year I’ll be there again! I’m sure if you look on you’ll find a local one to you.

Another meeting that the London Software Craftsmanship Community have is a round table where they split a whiteboard in half, and one side people put up lightning talks they want to talk about and the other general topics for discussions. Each of the lightning talks is limited to 5 minutes talk and 2 minutes Q&A if more time is needed it moves over to the discussion side. At this point people dot vote the topic and they start to talk about the most voted topics and switch topics when the group is read to do so. Very similar in format to the Lean Coffees that I have run in my office. (I’ve put forward to do something similar at SOTR)

They also have coding dojos, where they will all come together where they can easily pair, they pick a KATA work on it for 45 minutes, discuss what they found, delete the code and change pairs. It’s technology agnostic and normally you’ll use practices like TDD and a like to built the right thing right. They may also introduce constrains i.e. you can’t use IF statements or you can’t talk to your pair. All these things help you practice the techniques that may you a better developer without the pressures of your daily work.

This is how a Software Craftsman gets better they practice a technique over and over again until there are good at it. Just think about your favorite restaurant, if the chef didn’t practice his trade, to get as good as he is the restaurant properly wouldn’t be your favorite and it may not even be open for long.

Katas are great for this, they are small tasks that you should be able to do easily in any programming language that will allow you to practice a task for example TDD at the end of it you delete the code and do it again, every time you do you think of my ways to do things and you get better and better.

I need to work on a Linux box at work sometimes and when I’ve been doing it for a week it gets easier as I’ve already Googled the answer a few times and it’s in my history but I may not touch it again for 6 months and all that is gone, but if I spent 1 to 2 hours a week doing something on Linux and setting my self silly task it would soon sink in.

I’m going to cover books in my next part, I’ll list a few of the books I really recommend. We can forget blogs seeing that you’re reading one right now. They are great to get real time information about the latest thoughts from people out in the community sometimes you may not agree with the topics but it’s a great way to start a conversation.

Ask yourself these 5 questions and you should be able to answer them all easily in less than sixty seconds:

  1. What was the last blog article you read & when
  2. What was the last technical book you read & when
  3. What was the last training course you went on & when
  4. What was the last conference you went to & when
  5. What was the last techie thing you learnt & when

Remember Practice makes perfect! Make time to practice! It will help you in the long run!


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