Review: Software Developer Career Management Courses II

[ Part 2 of 3 ]

In the first part of this blog post I discussed a little bit about why I started looking for software developer career management courses and I reviewed the course “Get Involved!” by Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery. I originally said I was going to make this a 2 part blog post and review the other 2 courses in this post, but after writing the second post, I’ve decided to make it 3 parts due to the length. Today I am going to give my thoughts on “Becoming an Outlier: Reprogramming the Developer Mind” by Cory House and next time I will discuss “How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer” by John Sonmez.

You can read Part I of this post at this link. Part I

Course 2: “Becoming an Outlier: Reprogramming the Developer Mind”

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first saw “Becoming an Outlier: Reprogramming the Developer Mind” by Cory House pop up one day under the new releases on Pluralsight. I scanned the table of contents and saw things like “Command Your Time” and thought, “time management”? *YAWN* I am happy that I went forward and started watching this course anyway, it is absolutely fantastic! This course won’t be for everyone though and Cory even admits that. Some of the ideas that Cory pitches will seem a bit extreme to someone where programming is just a job or career versus being their passion and calling. For me, this course was a home run in that it gave me a whole new perspective in how I should be looking at and managing my career. It pointed out some things that I have been doing wrong for years and re-affirmed other things that I’ve been doing that, at times, had me wondering if I was taking my career too seriously. The goal of this course is to give someone concrete skills that will help transform them from an average developer into an outlier developer. The course is broken down into the following sections.

The Outlier Motivation

The main goal of this section is to set up the rest of the course. Here Cory talks about how you should think about and manage your career. He talks about the motivation behind why you might want to be an outlier and stand out from the crowd. Some people do it for the money while others do it because they want better opportunities or to do work that matters. Cory then moves on to overview 3 areas that are probably holding us back from being an outlier developer today. These 3 areas are the topics of the remaining sections of the course: “Command Your Time”, “Hack Your Image”, and “Own Your Trajectory”.

Command Your Time

Commanding your time means taking control of your day and putting an emphasis on the activities needed and sacrifices required to become an outlier developer. As we all know, the pace of change in technology is forever increasing. To keep up with this pace of change, outlier developers must have a deep love for learning and need to take control of their time and spend that time on activities that move their goal of being an outlier developer forward. Cory covers a handful of topics around how to command your time including how your habits could be holding you back, multithreading your life, being modal to avoid distractions, and how you self-improvement is obtained through practicing doing things you aren’t good at.

As boring as this topic may seem, it is crucial to having success at becoming an outlier developer. I’ve been multithreading my life for years by listening to podcasts while working around the house and during my daily commute. This module has given me even more ideas of ways to be productive with my time.

Hack Your Image

One of the biggest mistakes that most developers make is they only focus on their skills while doing nothing to manage their image within the industry or to market themselves. This has been me for the majority of my career. I have put in countless hours learning new technologies and enhancing my skills in the evenings, but I’ve spent next to no time on soft skills or marketing myself. Cory teaches that whether you are working for an employer or running your own business, you should be thinking of yourself as a brand and doing things to manage how that brand is perceived. Marketing is probably considered to be a four letter word to most developers, but in reality, the activities suggested to market yourself as a software developer really aren’t that difficult or painful. In this section Cory talks through different things you should be doing to influence how your personal brand is perceived and also covers how your personality and work ethic effect your image with your co-workers and your boss.

This part of the course was a bit of an eye opener for me. Other courses have discussed using Twitter, blogging and speaking at conferences to help build your brand, but only this course discusses the effect your personality, attitude and work ethic at the office has on your image. Topics like the “Developer Image Triangle” and “don’t bring your boss problems – bring solutions” are good career tidbits that every developer should know.

Own Your Trajectory

Owning your trajectory means taking an active role in dictating the path of your career. In this module Cory talks about having an active mindset and how outliers make things happen and move on when a job opportunity isn’t working out. He introduces the 2 keys to freedom, slack and skills, and why the freedom to move on when a job isn’t working out is important. This module covers many topics including finding the right balance between time spent learning and time spent doing along with how to keep an eye on the technology adoption curve in your area to make sure your skills stay in demand.

Again, I found this section of the course to be invaluable. Cory gives out a lot of great advice on managing your career path and not letting circumstance dictate the path you go down. I found many of the topics in this section to be enlightening, but the parts on freedom and why it matters I found particularly insightful.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the beginning, I found this to be an absolutely fantastic course. It’s obvious that Cory took a lot of time researching and thinking through the material presented. After watching this course, my perspective on my career and how I am going to approach it moving forward has changed radically. If developing software is your passion and you want more control of your career and the opportunities that come your way, I highly recommend that you watch this course.

Cory has also put together a companion website to go with the course over at http://www.outlierdeveloper.com/. Be sure to check that out as well.

  • Hi Jeff, did you get around to posting part 3? I couldn’t find it on your site. I’m interested to know what you think of the course by John Sonmez.

    • My apologies on the delay. Look for part III in the next few weeks.

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