Be The Developer Everyone Wants On Their Team

I’ve been an avid rockclimber and mountaineer for over 15 years. I spend a lot of time helping out with the Colorado Mountain Club teaching classes. I was recently talking to one of the other instructors and he said something that stuck with me. He said there was a piece of advice he gave all of the new students:

The way to be successful (in the school) is to be the climber that everyone else wants to climb with.

He went on to elaborate that included things like: having a good attitude, not complaining, doing more than your fair share, being technically competent, mentoring others, etc.

After the CLA summit this year, I talked to several of the first time attendees. Generally they were overwhelmed. It can be like drinking from a fire hose. They all wanted to know what to work on and how to prioritize all the news ideas they had been exposed to. My advice was you can’t do everything at once. Pick one or two topics that seem attainable and will give the most business value and focus on those. For the other topics just take note of who presented so if you need help in that area in the future, you know who to reach out to.

I think that is pretty decent advice, but sitting here thinking about it, I’ve come up with some better advice. I think this is what I am going to tell people from now on whenever they ask me what they can do to be a better developer or architect.

Be the developer everyone wants on their team.

Of course that sounds simple, but how do you do that?

  • Humility – Be honest about what you don’t know. Be teachable.
  • Adaptability – Be willing to adapt to the teams workflow. Be willing to learn new things. Embrace change.
  • Empathy – Meet people where they are. If they are not at your level, mentor them – you’ll probably even learn something in the process.
  • Technical competency – I put this last on purpose. We often focus way too much on raw ability. What we should focus on instead is the desire to learn and grow. Be a continuous learner.

What am I missing? What traits would you add to the list?

I posted this article to Linkedin and got a ton of great comments. I wanted to capture them here for posterity.

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