So I wanted to take a little time and document what happened in 2012 for myself.
I think the biggest things I want t take away from 2012 are a few key lessons:
Don’t Be Afraid of What Other’s Think
If you spend your life mired in worries about what others will think of what you are doing, you will never get anything done.
Too much of our lives (collectively) are spent wondering about what others will think about what we are doing? So what. Who CARES if you are wrong. People are wrong ALL OF THE TIME. What matters is that you are not so attached to your wrong opinion that you don’t change it when presented a valid argument otherwise.
It’s said the most ‘thought to to be smart’ people aren’t smart because they’re right but because they are quick to change their minds.
I, of course, have the luxury of never particularly caring what others have thought of what I say or do. It’s lead to some pretty awful predicaments — but some pretty awesome ones too. Who, among my close friends, would have pictured me as being one of the ones to immediately volunteer for Symfony Jeopardy at Symfony Live? Especially when I am culturally dumb and (at time time) was quite technically deficient. That didn’t stop me from answering the only then-to unanswered question though!
Go up in front of everyone, be a goof ball, have fun, laugh, be silly. Anyone who actually cares in a bad way isn’t anyone you want to associate with anyway.
Don’t be afraid of what others will think. Seriously. Most commonly, what most other people will be saying is “Gee, I wish I could do that!” And you know why they can’t? BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID! 99% of the people who would say anything negative would never have the nerve to do anything like what you are doing. It’s 100000x easier to criticize than to produce. Be sure to check the background of those who give you negative feedback and take their input with the appropriate level of expertise it warrants.
Get out in the community
The PHP Community in general is AMAZING. It’s full of brilliantly smart people you can talk to, and gives you external input to your internal processes. If your local community isn’t as as deep into the things you are? Learn to teach them! Learn about how to talk to other developers, how to share your skills and techniques. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of.
If you haven’t spoken to groups before, consider giving a few talks to a local user group. Most likely they’re running their regular speaker lineup through the wringer, week after week, and offering to talk about something (anything!) that you know even passingly well enough to talk about (I once essentially winged a talk about design patterns — shhhh!).
The other thing being in the community will do is give you a feel for the pulse of where things are heading. There are currents and drafts in the community which you don’t catch unless you’re paying attention. See what’s on the horizon, and pay attention. You’ll never know what you’ll miss if you’re not paying attention.
Prove you can ship
I can’t reiterate this enough. The value of someone who can actually ship a product is waaaaay above someone who can only point to minor contributions in a larger project. If you’re one of those nameless cogs in a giant organization, it’s time to join an open source project or build your own thing on the side. Seriously. Nothing shows your value more than being able to to actually ship something. In the world of business, ideas are cheap, and execution is everything. Show people you can execute, and you will open doors.
Know your stuff
Read up on the important things core to being a high quality software developer: Patterns, Anti-Pattens, and Code Smells, among other things. These will teach you the do’s and don’ts of our industry, our trade. They will show you what to do, and often more importantly, what not to do. It’s the same as new inductees into Martial Arts learn Kata’s, new developers need to learn these patterns, anti-patterns, and code smells. It gives you the tools to reflexively approach similar problems in the future, and tools to expand on when you need to create something out of thin air.
Don’t be afraid to be wrong
Look at my blog, or the advice I give out in #symfony — I’m “wrong” all of the time. There’s usually a much more efficient way to do something than I recommend — but I don’t know it! I help people get stuff done. The academic stuff can be left for those Ivory Tower folk. I’m much more interested in what gets stuff done in the trenches. Getting something done is more often much more important than doing it in the best possible way. Working implementations refactor much quicker than potential implementations grow while wandering in the sea of WTF I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING?!. Being wrong is not a bad thing. It means both that you were strong enough in your opinion that you could voice it, and that when presented with solid contrary evidence, you changed your wrong opinion into a right one. How awesome is that?!
Enjoy what you do
We’re in this because we have a passion for either building better code, or building things people love to use, or hell, even just building things. But if you’re not enjoying your work — seriously the door is right over there. Life is FAR TOO SHORT to spend your days doing things you loathe. If you’re going to do something for your career, make sure it’s something you enjoy. I avoided doing development as an actual full career for many many many many many many many many years, because I was afraid that if I took what I loved and made it a job, it would never be the same. Interestingly, I was right — it was never the same. Now I love going to “work” almost every single day. Seriously, it’s that simple. Do what you love and you never work a day in your life. Honest.
Now with that out of the way
You may be asking yourself “But this is a recap — what do YOU do during this year?” Well, let’s see:
- I went to Symfony Live.
- I started blogging more regularly.
- I was more active in #symfony, #silex, #phpmentoring, #protalk, and #symfony-dev (yikes, right?).
- I contributed to the Symfony Documentation.
- I started attending User Groups regularly (in Lansing, and Ann Arbor).
- I gave a talk in front of 100+ people.
- I gave a talk over 30+ minutes.
- I have at least one person using one of my open source bundles for Symfony2
- I have given three people technical feedback on their technical products which have (I feel) reasonably improved the quality of their product (I think I have a knack for this — have sent an email to php|arch to be a technical reviewer — look for this in 2013’s recap!).
- I convinced my 4 best business friends to all be business friends together.
- I started mentoring officially (Uzo, Luis, and Yitzchok — you guys are the best folks a mentor could ask for, really!).
What do I want to do, going forward?
I’ll tell you what’s on my list.
- I want to launch a product (in the works)
- I want to give a mainstream talk at a conference (not an unconf talk)
- I want to be more involved in the community (you guys are awesome, seriously!)
- I want to help more people hate their jobs less (hey, it’s what I do…)
- I want to blog more (is this cliché?)
Anyway — 2012 was great, let’s make 2013 even better!