How To Be World-class: A Software Developer's Perspective

Published July 4, 2022 • 7 mins read

l noticed recently that a lot of people think that being world-class is something hard or a thing that entails one to be "special" or have weird behavioural patterns to be considered as a world-class even as a developer. Well, I beg to differ.

I actually think it's "very simple" to become a world-class developer and I will show you how. Like Joshua Selman puts it— success is predictable.

Do What World-class Developers Do

Doing what world-class developers do is what makes you a world-class developer and that's all you need to do. Sounds quite simple right? LOL. but it's actually not as easy as it seems though it's a foundational approach to getting to the top as a developer. I actually learnt this from Unicodeveloper at a developer's meetup that was organized here in Nigeria.

He puts it this way:

To become a senior engineer you need to do what senior engineers do.

Even though this sounds quite simple, a lot of people tend to overthink it and we hear things like: Do I really need to write unit tests for all variables in my code? I need to get a MacBook. Should I use PHPStorm and ditch VScode? Must Repository patterns be fully implemented in all my projects?

Therefore,what makes a world-class engineer is not in the code editor he uses, how many tests he writes or how many patterns were fully implemented in his codebase. Like how Naval explains it:

One great engineer can for example create bitcoin, and create billions of dollars worth of value. And an engineer who is working on the wrong thing, or not quite as good, or just not as creative, or thoughtful, or whatever, can work for an entire a year, and every piece of code they ship ends up not getting used because customers don’t want it.

Therefore in the next subsequent paragraphs, I am going to be further showing you the basic things you can focus on to up your game as a world-class engineer.

Find Out What They Did or are Doing To Become World-class

This is the second important step towards becoming a world-class engineer. Most times I see developers sending messages to senior developers telling them that they want to become mentees. This is good in itself but the chances of getting a response or enough mentorship time are very low.

This is due to the fact that we all are in a busy world and this people don't have enough time for themselves, their work talk more of adding mentoring sessions for x number of mentees. Yeah, they don't have that time. Now that you know that the slot is filled up let me show you a better approach.

Follow Their GitHub/Gitlab Activities

A lot of world-class engineers I know are open-source contributors. They have a lot of code on the internet that is open and free. You need to go check them out. As you check out their code, you will start noticing a few things about how they organize, style and solve problems with their code.

I didn't say you should go and understand them. I said to check them out. A regular glance at them will do for a start.

You might be wondering why I am being emphatic about just checking-out their code right? This is because you might not understand what they are doing at the level you are. Trying to understand the codebase might lead to a futile effort which will lead to discouragement and derail you.

Also learn to go through their Github conversations. I usually do this a lot when a PR is raised on the Laravel framework. This is very important because as an apprentice who does not have access to a physical or virtual conversation with your mentor, you get to see how he works, how he tackles issues and solves problems, how he explains them, his thoughts patterns, how he relates and works with other people through their conversation on a pull request or an issue.

These are the things that made them world-class and that is what you should be focusing on.

Read Their Technical Blog Posts/Articles

Most senior developers write a lot about what they do and I really love this because it's a way to preserve and transfer knowledge. Brent & Freek are among the people that I admire a lot because they do this very well.

A big shout out to all the people currently working at Spatie.

I talk about this forever because it's really had to find time to read as a developer unless you have a system & structure that makes ensures that. Why? because there is always something to be fixed or worked on.

I won't say much about this but my point is; you have to read a lot if you truly want to be world-class. One of the easiest ways to do this is by subscribing to their blogs so you can get their content in your inbox as soon as it is published. I follow and learn from People like DHH via his email newsletter. I follow everything happening around the Laravel community via the Laravel-News email subscription.

Naval puts it this way:

Reading is faster than listening, doing is faster than watching. The foundation of learning is reading. I don’t know a smart person who doesn’t read and read all the time.

Watch Their Technical Videos

I am shouting out to Spatie again. Those guys have one of the best and most impactful videos around PHP and Laravel. These guys are world-class so I watch as much as I can.

Here is the thing, as a developer starting out you will have time to watch videos but as you get bigger, you will have so much on your table and you might not have so much time to watch as many videos again. Why? Because videos are slow-paced. The solution to this is to make time for it. Some things are much easier to learn visually.

There are a lot of videos that are free on the internet that can make you a "10x engineer" only if you have time to watch them. Also, try to watch developer conferences if you were not able to attend live. Laracon is a big one for me.

Also it's worthy to note that some of these videos could be boring. All the same legends like Uncle Bob have taught me a lot through their videos though sometimes it's not so fun to listen or watch their technical sessions.

Listen To Podcasts

This for me is one of my favorite ways of learning from world-class engineers. Since you will be spending a huge part of your time sitting and writing code, listening to podcasts of great engineers can be really helpful while also lifting your morale at the same time. This is how I see it — you are acquiring knowledge while adding value.

I started out listening to many world-class Nigerian developers who have built great businesses around their code. People like Mark Essien & Shola Akinlade were the first interesting ones I listened to on the "Building The Future" podcast. Also Fullstack Radio hosted by Adam Wathan is also one of my best developer-focused podcasts.

Give Back To Them

This is where a lot of people get it wrong. The law of life is that you have to give out in order to receive.

For people who are doing open source, you need to sponsor them if you truly believe that their work has impacted you. You can start by contributing to their project and if you have the time become the maintainer(it takes some trust to get to this point).

For people who are publishing videos, subscribe to their youtube channel, buy their course, or send them money if you know them personally 😍.

I believe in the law of honour: If you truly want to get to where these world-class developers are, you have to learn to honour and respect them. Let me give you the definition of honour in this context:

Honour is the discerning, the celebration, and the rewarding of uniqueness, usefulness and of excellence. 

This scripture puts it well by saying— And indisputably, the lesser is blessed by the greater.

You might not like these world-class developers, especially their personalities but learn to honour them with and how you can afford to.

How Do I Find These So-Called Worldclass Developers

This is the main question? People go-ahead to follow the crowd. Most people usually check how many followers you have in order to follow you. This is the wrong way of finding world-class developers. A lot of people assume the posture of being world-class but they are not.

A lot of senior developers I know are not social, they don't have followers but they have a track record of world-class solutions and contributions. What I am saying is that irrespective of how much followership any person may have, you need to check their track record.

Therefore the best way to find world-class developers is through their track records.

So when you see one, start by investigating them through their articles, open-source contributions, video, podcasts and conference talks.

All this and many more are the simple steps to being World-class!

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk 🚀

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