Nortal HQ, November 19, 2021
It is not enough to know one programming language to be a developer nowadays. Instead, you must be knowledgeable on numerous topics, including cloud computing, source control workflows, how to orientate in the world of tools and libraries in selecting millions of options, etc. In other words, if you want to be good at what you do, you must prepare yourself for constant out-of-the-comfort-zone mode. We spoke with Nortal developers and Hive Leads Klaidas Ivaškevičius and Seimur Alyjev to hear their views and tricks on how to stay on top of your development game.
An important part of the more modern specialization paradigm is the so-called T-shaped competency model that states that a person should be highly proficient in one area but sufficiently proficient in other related areas. If and how does it apply to the work and challenges of developers?
Klaidas: It does apply because the main challenge for developers today is to stay up-to-date and be fluent in all the best principles, even in the ones that were created before you were born. Instead of learning only FORTRAN or COBOL, although they have disappeared nowhere (nor should they), and having general knowledge of IT, today you need a much wider amplitude of knowledge. Not to mention, there are so many paths to choose from: back-end, front-end, cloud, mobile, security, automation, performance, and so on. The world of development is a truly versatile environment, and it takes a lot of time, dedication, and the right skills to be successful.
Seimur: I agree; the main challenge for developers is to prepare yourself for all the unknowns and keep up with all the new information that is being constantly released. Only then will you remain competitive. This journey includes a lot of learning, of course, whether by reading books, watching experts on YouTube or in conferences, talking to your colleagues, Googling, etc. You will try, and you will fail. But if you remain consistent and persistent, you will succeed. Furthermore, in my experience, it is not enough just to work on your project if you want to become a good developer since the project will cover only narrow aspects of the big picture.
It sounds like developers need to be a little bit “jacks-of-all-trade,” knowing many things but not that much about each specific thing. Both of you have led the learning curve of Nortal developers for years now via a learning community called Hive. How do you see this learning hub concept supporting the critical need to have a broad knowledge base and quickly adapt to changing ecosystems?
Klaidas: Our mission with the Developer’s Hive has been from the very beginning to create engaging and easily reachable opportunities to learn from other developers’ experiences or to anchor your own knowledge by sharing your experience and expertise with others. Hives offer the chance to bounce off ideas via discussions or Q&A and feedback sessions. The end goal is to help people become better at what they do and realize their full potential. And I can say that I have seen many cases where Hive sessions catapult the developers’ motivation.
Seimur: I believe the main advantage of the Developer’s Hive concept is that people can decide what they want to learn, express that and then participate in these specific trainings. You have the freedom and resources to design your learning path yourself. What’s more, I really like how Nortal approaches self-development. I mean, you have one day per month that you can use for personal growth.
Can you name some of the most impactful Hive events or learning sessions from the past three years that your fellow developers rated highly and found insightful and valuable?
Klaidas: I could list many, but the most hands-on events have been the International Hackathons with 100+ participants. Plus, we have had numerous insightful sessions in our world-class speaker series, for example, Uncle Bob’s live session. The best part is that you can learn together with other great minds.
Seimur: I would like to add one more benefit of Hive sessions, and it’s the international nature of the events and the community. Hives help to connect our colleagues and experts from North America to Europe. And the knowledge-sharing on a global level adds a lot of value since the approaches and toolkits can vary significantly in different geographies.
Since a big chunk of responsibility carving out the perfect learning program is still placed on the shoulders of Hive Leads, can you describe what it takes to work out an inspiring program that is of practical value to all the community members?
Klaidas: Well, I never do it alone. I always ask for advice and get feedback from my team members, HR Business Partners, and the most active Hive members. Also, we have tight collaboration with architects, technical leadership team members, delivery managers, etc. And most important, I have had good cooperation with Seimur and other Hive Leads. We bounce ideas off of each other, validate or cross out some topics, and all-in-all help each other whenever necessary. In general, we test out the ideas in the Hive community, and if it doesn’t get enough audience or good feedback, we try something new. If we succeed in creating a solid event, other Hives will copy and localize the event.
Seimur: I agree; a Hive Lead is not alone in this task. I always had Klaidas to pitch my crazy ideas to. And to find out whether the sessions or events turned out to be relevant for the participants, we always request feedback. This has proved to be a helpful resource when planning future events.
Next to the mission of creating learning opportunities for others, what do you feel has been the main gain for you personally while leading the Developer’s Hive?
Klaidas: I have met a lot of great people. I learned a lot while organizing and participating in Hive events – and not only about Nortal’s projects, AWS, Angular and other technical stuff, but also about planning, budgeting, prioritizing, managing, communicating, etc. As a Hive Lead, you have the ownership of bringing your idea to life; you are expected to experiment, which is motivating. Not to mention, we have great meetings and workshops with other Hive Leads where we share, brainstorm, and learn from each other. That really fills your inspiration cup.
Seimur: Obviously, meeting like-minded, motivated, and interesting people at Nortal is the main gain here.
Last, it’s said that the core principles in development have stayed the same and will stay the same for a long time. Regardless of what “new and exciting ways” are conjured, the need for developers’ ingenuity will not only remain but deepen. Based on your insights as the Hive Lead, where do you see the role of developer heading in the next five years, and will there be any must-have skills that every developer should have in their toolbox?
Klaidas: Actually, there is already too much of everything to know and learn. The challenge is that you must choose a path. And it doesn’t matter if it won’t work out for you, you can change the course easily. It just takes some time to adapt your skillset. Regarding trends, there are so many tools available with a zero-code approach or where the code is generated for you, which will make a developer’s life easier. So, I expect more of those. Everything is more and more automated, agnostic, etc. Still, even if AI does most things for us, we as developers need to be present to improve and customize, take care of the security, GDPR, and other rules. And most probably, the systems that need FORTRAN or COBOL developers will also be around.
The field of software development moves both slowly and rapidly. Slowly because the core constructs have not changed and will not change for the foreseeable future. And rapidly because their application shifts, changes, and re-invents itself with each passing day. There is value in learning that core (regardless of languages and frameworks), and there is value in interpreting and shifting it to new uses. And having in mind the T-shaped competency model, there is value in pushing your career vertically, constantly taking on new and more significant challenges. And there is value in pushing it horizontally, being ever more proficient, and attaining mastery in what you do.
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