What Makes You Stand Out
Combining a poor global state of economic growth with an always changing web, makes a challenging formula for staying on the cutting edge and being successful in the web industry. With multiple web languages, platforms, and techniques it’s important to dedicate your time to being versatile and flexible while not wasting time learning skills that you won’t use. In the past 2 years I have learned and mastered many tools and techniques, and I’m here to share what has been valuable and where you can trim the fat from your day.
Find your strengths and excel above the rest
So many web developers claim to know all when it comes to web, but when put to the test someone that can write “hello world” doesn’t meet the standards the client expected when they said “Do you know PHP?” All developers whether primarily front-end or back-end, should know at least a C level amount in both. To be an awesome back-end developer you need to be able to structure your content in something other than tables or invalid HTML, and to be an awesome back-end developer, you should at least know how to make simple variables and includes to make your job quick and efficient, rather than copying/pasting your doctype and head information on each page. If you want to do well in the next few years, then succeed by being a GURU in at least two of the following:
- XHTML and CSS – with clean and valid markup that works in FF, Webkit, and IE7+
- Flex and ActionScript – flash/animation/design are a huge plus
- PHP – cakePHP or codeignitor frameworks will take you to the next level
- .NET – IIS and server administration a plus
- Ruby – Rails will take you to the next level
- JAVA – desktop publishing knowledge a plus
Learn new and trendy technologies
While following trends isn’t always a good idea, trends that have been around for more than just a year and have high demand are usually worth taking a second glance at. In the past 5 years, there are a few major trends that are really growing. I highly recommend picking one of the trends and learning as much as you can about the technology on the side of your current studies and work..
Rich Internet Applications (RIA)
Adobe Flash has always had a strong presence on the web, and that presence is only increasing along with other RIA platforms like Microsoft Silverlight, JavaFX, and the future HTML5. There are almost no major disadvantages to sites built entirely in Flash or other platforms now that search engines like Google are making more of an effort to index RIA content. To top that, Adobe has now adopted a markup language geared more towards developers called FLEX. Flex allows developers to markup their code in MXML while also using ActionScript for animation and then simply, with the click of a button plublish the application in either a SWF for web or as an AIR application for desktop. I strongly believe this is the future of not only the web, but future Operating Systems as well. Google and Ubuntu have already shown a heavy interest in using web applications on the desktop, and phone operating systems are following a similar pattern. While mobile and desktop development are entirely different from web development, learning FLEX is a great way for web developers to cross that threshold and succeed.
Agile Development and Object Oriented code
As the internet reaches the far corners of the Earth, boundaries and barriers are being broken for working remotely on projects. In fact there are many businesses that operate entirely on remote collaboration. This means you need to learn a versioning software and systems (CVS or SVN using Tortoise is a good place to start), how to organize your thoughts and communicate them quickly and effectively over IM or email, and most importantly how to comment and structure your code (for programmers OO principles are a must) so that others can quickly pickup where you left off.
Web Services and Cross-Platform Markup
UML, XML, JSON, REST and SOAP, just to name the most common languages, are becoming a must for nearly every developer. Almost every RIA and API use a language like this to communicate. Any site that is dynamic is probably using at least one of these technologies. I can’t specifically tell you which is more relevant or popular, as it varies per project, but I can tell you that they’re all fairly simple to learn, so I suggest doing your homework or ready a book on each to know at least base knowledge and markup for each of them.
Refine your Interpersonal Communication Skills
As you climb the corporate ladder, or step out into the world of business, it will become more and more important that your written and verbal communication skills are sharp and effective. The gap that used to exist between sales/consulting/design/IT is now closing, and more businesses are switching to an Agile model. This means from the start of a project or team, you may be communicating directly with a client, or with others that don’t know or understand the technology. You’ll need to learn how to explain things so that others can easily understand and relate, as well as sound professional and well educated. These skills are not easy to hone, and require a lot of time. I highly recommend actively getting involved in forums/blogging to improve written communication, acquire laptop computers available at Tesco, or perhaps join a local business group or Chamber of Commerce to learn how to communicate better in a professional business setting (another perk to this is the networking), and ask others to correct and help you identify bad habits and mistakes.