New Year’s Resolutions for Software Professionals
Coming up with resolutions is easy. For most of us, goals like exercise more, eat better, and watch less television immediately spring to mind. But coming up with work-related resolutions (that you’ll actually stick to) is a bit harder and involves more self-awareness and constructive criticism than the usual end-of-year mottos.
Here at Exago, we are taking time to think about our professional goals for the coming year. Since many of them are software-specific, we thought we’d share them with you, our industry partners. Below is a list of possible New Year’s resolutions for people in software that will help improve your professional (and personal) life in 2018. We’ve even solved the problem of choosing one from the list by placing them on this wheel for you. Just give it a spin!
1. Be More Proactive in QA
You may be thinking, but there’s a whole department for that! But in reality, anyone who has their hands and eyes on the product--whether it’s Support troubleshooting reported issues in the application, Sales doing product demos for prospective clients, or Development reviewing bits of old code--should be on the lookout for errors and inconsistencies and thinking of ways to make the product better. Instead of just glossing over or working around issues you find, take the time to write them up, or at the very least flag them for later investigation.
2. Learn Another Programming Language
Multilingual programmers are assets to software companies due to the combinations of languages behind each application. With so many free resources like MDN available online, becoming a code polyglot is easier than ever. You just need the time and the motivation. Below is a chart put together by GitHub showing the number of pull requests for each language to help you stay relevant.
3. Calibrate Your Work-Life Balance
It may seem counterintuitive to include a goal that implies working less on a list of professional-performance-geared resolutions, but savvy organizations like Forbes have come to realize that improving employees’ work-life balance could actually increase their productivity. Listen to these TED talks to get some advice on how to pursue this goal.
4. Leave Your Product Comfort Zone
Too often we pigeonhole ourselves and simply stick with what we know. In software, we get developers who rarely interact with the user interface and product specialists who avoid handling code. If you take on this challenge and you are a developer, spend some more time in the UI to understand the UX. If you are in a client-facing position or are a product specialist, spend some time exploring the back end.
5. Stay on Top of Industry Trends
The pace of the tech industry requires every company to stay on top of, and hopefully ahead of, trends. You might consider whether your UI needs a design update or if the very functionality of your application needs to shift or expand to fit the changing needs of your users. Try devoting 15 minutes of your time each day, perhaps when you are first settling into your chair with steaming mug in hand, to read industry-specific news.
The resources below can help you get started!
6. Streamline Communication
The more a company expands, the harder it is to maintain efficient communication. If you’ve found yourself on the wrong end of games of intraoffice telephone or in frequent overlong meetings that could have been e-mails, Googlers Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg have some suggestions that can help you streamline your company’s correspondences. This chapter from their book How Google Works will help you and your colleagues become better “routers” in the coming year.
7. Strengthen Your Team
Development is not just for developers. Professional development, like communication, is another fundamental practice that has long-term benefits for the entire company. Managers know that firing and hiring new employees is costly and time-consuming, so why not give current employees the chance to advance or even gain entirely new skills? Professional development makes employees feel valued, which boosts morale, employee longevity, and company revenue to boot.
8. Challenge the Status-Quo
It may not always be a positive sign when company operations are status-quo. Every so often, it is good to stir the pot and mix things up a bit. Are you part of a small, core team working to get a startup off the ground? Try stealing a technique or two from large, established corporations. Is your corporate environment starting to feel a bit stagnant? Try reinvigorating your workplace by reverting to startup strategies.The support team at Exago took this resolution to heart and recently implemented daily 15-minute stand-up meetings to calibrate and communicate every morning (see resolution #6).
9. Get Creative
Outside of work! A recent study found that, “People who have a creative hobby outside work may find it boosts their work performance.” So start stimulating that right-brain in your off hours by taking an art class or playing a musical instrument and you may find yourself more focused at work.
10. Revamp Your Routine
Make your routine feel less like a routine and more like personal preference. Instead of going out to a restaurant for a lunch break, eat at your desk and use the hour to take a long walk, go to a museum in the area, get a manicure, go to the gym, or find another creative way to beat burn out. Avoid broadcasting your “case of the Mondays” and instead look at the work week ahead as an opportunity. If you’re the type to zone out in meetings, switch things up and impress your coworkers by not only paying attention, but contributing to the conversation in a meaningful way.
11. Read More!
Since most of our work is done on screens, try limiting time spent using screens in other, non-work related capacities, like abstaining from launching right into a three-hour social media, television, or video gaming binge as soon as you get home. But you have to do something engaging during your leisure time. Why not challenge yourself to increase your literary intake and try to counteract your Computer Vision Syndrome in the process? Business Insider has 10 ways reading more makes you an excellent employee.
12. Prioritize Your Information Privacy
One thing we learned this year (I’m looking at you, Equifax) is that we all need to make security a priority, especially when your product handles sensitive user information. One small but important step individuals and organizations can take to be more secure is to use a password manager. Another is to be nice to your system administrators and make sure they have all of the resources they need!
13. Continue Your Education
When asked his New Year’s Resolution, one of our developers expressed a desire to continue his education either by getting a Master’s in Computer Science or by taking advantage of the MIT open courseware. One should never be under the impression that he or she has nothing more to learn, especially in an industry that is constantly innovating.
14. Develop a Soft Skill
Humanities majors among us, rejoice! A major trend that has cropped up in the last few years is a restored emphasis on soft skills like communication and working well as part of a team. This article from The Balance lists the “Top 7 Most Important Soft Skills” employees can bring to their workplace, all of which are directly applicable to the day-to-day operations of a software company.
15. More Cats in the Office
Exago currently has a fair number of dog visitors, but many of us would like to expand the presence of furry friends to include felines, since everyone knows cats are an introvert’s best friend.
Keep in mind when deciding on your New Year’s Resolution that abandoned goals are typically too broad, unrealistic, or unsustainable, and have no specific plan of action or accountability measures in place. So...
Be specific! Come up with a step-by-step plan of action or timeline for your goal.
Be realistic! Consider the following questions before setting your goal: Will I be able to reasonably fit the tasks required by this goal into my daily routine? Do I have the resources (time, money, tools, people) to achieve this goal? Is this goal sustainable enough to become a long-term life change?
Hold yourself accountable! Simply telling someone close to you what you plan to do is not enough; write your goal down somewhere you and others will see it on a regular basis. Mark the calendar and set regular digital reminders.
Most of all, be inspired! Remind yourself each morning why you chose this goal and create a rewards system for when you meet benchmark accomplishments.
Good luck, and Happy New Year!