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7 deadly career mistakes developers make

Paul Heltzel | May 17, 2016
Failure may lead to success, but unthinking complacency is a certain dev career killer.

“Let’s face it -- no development team ever had enough resources to deliver what product management wants them to,” Edge says. “When senior developers don’t have the time to mentor younger developers, I fully understand. Just don’t say it’s because ‘I’m not good with people.’”

Mistake No. 5: Sticking to your stack

Your expertise in one stack may make you invaluable to your current workplace -- but is it helping your career? Can it hurt to be too focused on only one stack?

MediaMath’s Donohue doesn’t pull any punches on this one: “Of course it is -- there’s no modern software engineering role in which you will use only one technology for the length of your career. If you take a Java developer that has been working in Java for 10 years, and all of a sudden they start working on a JavaScript application, they’ll write it differently than someone with similar years of experience as a Python developer. Each technology that you learn influences your decisions. Some would argue that isn’t a good thing -- if you take a Java object-oriented approach to a loosely typed language like JavaScript, you’ll try to make it do things that it isn’t supposed to do.”

It can hurt your trajectory to be too focused on one stack, says Talent Inc.’s Henderson, but maybe for different reasons than you think.

“Every stack will have a different culture and perspective, which ultimately will broaden and expedite your career growth,” Henderson says. “For instance, I find that many C# developers are only aware of the Microsoft ecosystem, when there is a far larger world out there. Java has, arguably, the best ecosystem, and I often find that Java developers make the best C# developers because they have a wider perspective.”

Automic’s Wilson says proficiency -- but not mastery -- with one stack should be the benchmark before moving onto another.

“It’s time to move on when you are good at the skill, but not necessarily great,” says Wilson. “I’m not advocating mediocrity, just the opposite. I am saying that before you head off to learn a new skill make sure you are good, competent, or above average at that skill before you consider moving on.”

Finally, Talent Inc.’s Henderson offers this warning: “Avoid the expectation trap that each new language is simply the old one with a different syntax. Developers of C# and Java who try to force JavaScript into a classical object-oriented approach have caused much pain.”

Mistake No. 6: Neglecting soft skills

Programmers are typically less outgoing than, say, salespeople. No secret there. But soft skills can be picked up over time, and some of the nuances of developing a successful career -- like learning from mentors and developing relationships -- can be missing from your career until it’s too late.


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