Continuous Self Improvement For Software Developers

Just like the rest of the world, the software world is rapidly changing. To stay relevant we have to change with it. We have to expand our knowledge and practices to learn from promising changes and then apply them in our daily development to hone our new skills. Theory must be forged by practice to really become part of us. Theory forged by practice can also transcend mere theory by giving us concrete use cases and potentially new insights that expand the original theory thus leading to innovation.

Continuous self improvement for software developers emphasizes the need for ongoing learning. non scholae sed vitae discimus, roughly translated as “not for school but for life we learn”, embodies a good learning philosophy because knowledge makes our lives better and allows us to progress.

Learning must not stop at school or university, must not stop at what I might term “Big Bang” learning, when we were able to focus most of our energy on the acquisition of knowledge. Every day we must strive to make our software development and every aspect of our lives a little better by seeking out relevant knowledge and applying it to the problems at hand to really drive home the lessons learned.

Over time this web of knowledge leads to new insights. I find that my brain tends to forget unless I put forth some effort to periodically refresh and review what I learned. Blog postings are one way to capture and share knowledge. However, maybe because I spend most of my day at the keyboard this doesn’t seem the best way for me. Maybe my brain craves “novel” experiences and really does learn best when I use multiple senses. So to me a simple composition notebook (9 3/4” x 7 1/2”) is my preferred knowledge synthesis device.

I keep them in chronological order but sometimes have two of them going simultaneously. I start writing on the first page but then skip every second page so that I only write on the front of each page. I number each page that I write on. For each new topic or book I enter a headline with source, author and date and I also keep an index in the back of the composition book with that information. Especially when reading a book, I might have some other content interspersed and capture on the index where the content for each entry is since it might not be on sequential pages.

Writing in pen involves my fine motor skills, touch and vision. Sometimes I capture diagrams or add some art and arrows to mark information. When I re-read entries I also make annotations on the empty pages further synthesizing and connecting the knowledge to keep it fresh and as relevant as possible. The more connections the higher the probability of remembering.

To be continued…