Written by Brian Cray on May 19th, 2011
Let me start by setting the record straight. I'm not going to tell you how to build a huge successful startup because I haven't done it myself. But I have made a small name for myself, created a few minor successes, and hacked away a good path to follow (pun intended).
Finding success as a web developer means finding happiness and fulfillment—holistically just as much as monetarily. I'll do my best to help you find your way. And hopefully, your next successful interview. So how should you start?
Build something, then do it again
I've been interviewing a lot of developers for Topsy. It's amazing how many candidates don't have a portfolio. After all, making something that people can publicly use is often their primary job description. I can tell you right now, the developer who has a portfolio is more likely to get a call than the one who doesn't. Simple as that.
If you're lacking ideas, pay attention to your daily work routine. When you find yourself thinking "This could be better" or "I wish I had ______," you have your idea. An idea derived from this insight is likely a good one. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Do you have a good idea but you're holding back for the right moment? Don't wait for the right idea at the right time. Nobody is smart enough to solve that equation. Hell, who'd have thought that a photo taking app, Color, would raise $41 mil? WTF. Stop thinking and start executing. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting too long.
And keep making stuff. Before you know it, you'll have a few tasty examples of your prowess. Proven experience? Check. Broad understanding of web development and implementation? Check.
So why the hell aren't you building something? Right this second? Shut up and build.
Become a social developer
No, I don't mean you should go to more parties. I mean you should share your work, share your inspiration, and be involved in helping others make better stuff. Being a social developer builds your reputation and sharpens your skills at the same time.
Absolutely the best medium for this is blogging. I hear a lot of people hesitant to start a blog because they don't have stuff to write about. But here's a simple place to start: if you've come up with a solution to a problem you're working on, blog it. Chances are others are having a similar problem. Even the simplest of solutions may result in a lot of exposure.
Another great social development opportunity is GitHub. Other than the huge benefit of having hosted version control, GitHub gives developers the opportunity to build solutions together. Others can follow your repositories and even fork them into new versions.
Combine your efforts by hosting the source code you blog on GitHub, providing exposure for your GitHub repositories and nurturing a deeper relationship with your readers. At the end of the day, discuss it on Twitter.
I have the privilege to work with people who make me feel like I know nothing. Why? Because it inspires me to keep learning. The world we call our profession is constantly in a state of change. Hell, as a front-end engineer I don't know half of what I should.
If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Learning not only makes us more resourceful and valuable, but it helps us approach problems with a much broader knowledge base for making informed, sustainable solutions. A great article about scaling from the perspective of a database architect starts with "Let me tell you a secret. I don't fix databases. I fix applications." To me this means designing the best solution to a problem requires more than applying your field of study. It requires the ability to look at a problem from a number of angles. Expand your toolbox.
And if you've managed to conquer all the languages of the programming world, pick up a few books on psychology, marketing, and social behavior. Learn, learn, learn.
Failure is inevitable, and likely to happen more often than you'd like. Don't quit if you fail at first. The only chance you have of winning is by fighting. Failures are hidden morsels of life's greatest opportunities to learn. They give us the arsenal to fight the better fight. In the business world that translates to more success however you define it. But don't take it from me.
- Entrepreneur.com says "You're fortunate to have failed. You now have the opportunity to learn how to turn bad luck into good luck. If you can do that, you'll have a life of more and more good luck."
- Dropbox says "Failure is not the worst outcome, mediocrity is."
- CafePress says "Fail fast and cheap. And learn from it."
Love what you do
The last but most important aspect of finding success as a web developer is to love what you do. Ask yourself this simple question: If you weren't being paid for web development, would you still be doing it? If the answer is yes, you're almost certainly bound for success.