Reflections of being a software engineer and dealing with imposter syndrome
Technology is notorious for changing constantly. As someone who works with technology as his profession, I have to constantly adapt, learn, and grow. I have to keep a pulse on the industry and stay up to date with the latest trends in my profession. So how exactly do I do that? In this article, I’ll discuss the different formats that I use to learn and and keep an eye out for new developments. I’ll then provide some of my favorite sources as specific examples. Finally, I will end by discussing when and how I dedicate time for reading and learning.
There are many ways that information is disseminated to the public. Each way has its own pros and cons. In this section I discuss the different formats and mediums that I typically use to learn.
Podcasts are a great way to keep a pulse on your industry or niche. However, I find that many podcast episodes on new topics feature specialists that assume I have prior knowledge on said topics. I get lost and the whole discussion goes over my head. Since I’m usually listening to podcasts on my commute, I can’t conveniently stop to investigate further to clarify my confusions.
Despite this drawback, I find that I am more likely to discover new trends through podcasts than I am with other formats. Many podcasts follow an interview-style in which an expert in some field gives insight that can bring the latest trends in that field to light. Moreover, there are some podcasts that are live recordings of conferences and meetups that are almost always a fount of new trends and knowledge.
As a shameless plug, I’m a co-host on my own podcast called The Study Space Podcast. There, I talk about productivity, how to stay focused, and career development.
I tend to prefer videos since they usually involve some sort of tutorial or guide that I can follow. Videos on YouTube allow me to take a more hands-on approach to my learning, which is one of the most effective ways to learn new skills. I’m also likely at my desk when watching videos, so I can easily pause and search for other sources on the subject. While I can better ingest this knowledge, the likelihood that I’ll find tutorials on the most cutting edge technologies or trends is lower than that of podcasts. A possible remedy for this would be to look at research papers, but those suffer similarly from what was mentioned above—that is, they are likely to assume some prior domain knowledge and be confusing as a result.
Blog articles share much of the same qualities as videos for me. Many blog posts are tutorials that walk through how to do something with some new technology. I like these because I can easily copy and paste code and make changes that fit my needs. As mentioned before, I’m likely at my desk when reading blog posts, so I can very quickly search for additional sources if I’m confused. Blog posts and newsletters are also a popular way to announce new features of programming languages and frameworks for the organizations behind those technologies. Tech blogs will usually like to report on the newest features and technologies, which allow me to keep a pulse on my profession.
For students, I recommend the blog that my team publishes on the topic of student success. You can find it at www.uniplan.dev/blog/
Books are certainly a viable option as they are usually more fleshed-out and refined before they are published. However, publishing books can take a great deal of time and effort that hinders its novelty.
Now that you know the different ways that I keep a pulse on the new developments in my profession, I’d like to list some of my favorite sources. These examples will hopefully give you an idea about what to look for in whatever profession you find yourself.
The Product Podcast by the Product School is a great podcast to listen to for product managers and developers as well. Many of their episodes are recorded live and feature speakers from prominent tech companies covering topics like workflow, best practices, and management. I’ve learned a great deal about how to be leader, how to follow Agile principles, how to address customer needs in my product, and so much more that the typical developer may not get the opportunity to learn.
iOS Dev Discussions by Sean Allen is another good podcast specifically for iOS developers. He does episodes on the latest news and features in iOS development. I also really enjoy the ones in which he documents someone’s origin story to become an iOS developer. I mention this on specifically because there are many podcasts like this one but for other specific niches like Android and web development. The point is that podcasts in a particular domain of the industry are often laser-focused on the latest trends in that domain.
To dribble off of the above point, blog articles written by the organizations behind a particular profession are almost always about newest developments and trends. For example, I’m a mobile developer specializing in Flutter. The Flutter team at Google regularly publishes Medium blog articles on the latest best practices and trends of developing mobile apps with Flutter. Their YouTube channel also features conference recordings and tutorials on the same subjects and I always learn something new reading or watching their material.
To dedicate time for reading or learning can be difficult to do while keeping up with other personal and professional obligations. What I do is I fit them in when I am doing some mindless or menial task. I listen to podcasts on my commute instead of listening to music (so my time spent in traffic feels somewhat more productive). I read blog posts and books with my iPad on the treadmill. I watch YouTube videos on my niche when I’m cooking or washing dishes.
The point is that my mind is typically not very engaged in these situations and that I engage it by ingesting content. Some might argue that this is a very passive way to learn, but I think to learn passively is more beneficial than to not have made the effort to learn in the first place. When a topic really piques my interest, I will usually block out an hour or two of my nights and weekends to actively implement what I learned.
I hope this blog was insightful for you and that you now have a better idea about the different ways to stay up to date with the latest trends in your profession. If you have some other way that works for you, let me know on social media!
I am a software developer and the Founder of UniPlan. I love learning new things. I believe teaching is the best way of learning—so be prepared for my brain dumps!