By Joshua

In the competitive world of software engineering, technical mastery is a baseline. You need leadership potential, strategic problem-solving, and a thirst for lifelong learning to truly stand out. Exceptional developers—those we'd call "unusual"—intentionally cultivate habits that elevate their code while influencing and impacting the development process. Here are five daily habits to accelerate your journey toward becoming an "Unusual Developer."

Habit 1: Focused Learning: Master a New Skill Every Month

Unusual developers never stop learning. But instead of chasing every new trend, they prioritize deep dives. This means picking one new skill, concept, or technology per month and dedicating yourself to mastering its fundamentals – be it Agile methodologies, UX/UI principles, a new programming language, or a cloud computing technique.

While dabbling in many things is tempting, research shows that focus leads to a deeper, more nuanced understanding. By immersing yourself in a single topic, you'll uncover insights that those with only superficial knowledge miss. 

Why It's 'Unusual': Many developers fall into the trap of superficial learning or getting distracted by shiny new trends. This focused approach ensures you build deep, practical knowledge.

Habit 2: Commit to Daily Engineering

Like any skill, mastery in software engineering requires consistent practice. Make time every day to engage with coding, whether through personal projects, coding challenges, courses, podcasts, or audiobooks. Think of it like lifting weights: consistent effort builds stronger "coding muscles." Just as you can't take a long break from training and expect peak performance, sporadic bursts of coding won't lead to lasting gains.

Balance is key. 

Avoid the urge to cram too much learning into your sessions, and remember to take breaks. Podcasts and audiobooks provide a lower-stress way to absorb valuable insights while handling other tasks.

Why It's Unusual: Many developers only code during work hours or when projects demand it. Proactive, daily practice—even for short periods—demonstrates remarkable passion and a drive to continuously improve your core coding skills. It will show and make you stand out from your colleagues.

Check out this notion template to help you track your habits and level up your day as a developer.

Habit 3: The Developer Quest: Embrace Ambitious Goals

Think bigger! While consistency in daily practice is needed, it's equally important to set ambitious goals that challenge you.  Challenge yourself with a bold quarterly goal that forces you outside your comfort zone. Build a complex system, create a game, or tackle a project that feels intimidating. The most significant learning and breakthroughs happen at the edges of our knowledge. 

Whether you ultimately succeed or uncover valuable lessons along the way, ambitious goals expand your abilities and boost your confidence. Over time, this translates into remarkable growth.

Why It's Unusual: Many developers stay within familiar territory. Embracing ambitious goals demonstrates a hunger for growth and a willingness to take calculated risks – traits that define an unusual developer.

Habit 4: The Unusual Approach to Code: Prioritize Readability

Do you find yourself overwhelmed by complex code, whether it's a lengthy stream or a convoluted Webflux implementation? Unusual developers are open to code that appears complex and unfamiliar. They recognize that elegant code, advanced techniques, or a different style doesn't mean something is inherently "too difficult." 

Instead of blaming others, they remain humble and view learning and expanding their skills as challenging. They understand that growth happens when they step outside their comfort zone.

Why It's Unusual: Many developers create a mental block when faced with code they don't immediately grasp. They prioritize familiar patterns, even if they could be more efficient and maintainable. This mindset hinders growth and collaboration.

Habit 5: Proactive Code Reviews: Become a Code Quality Champion

Focus on more than your own tasks. Be the developer who proactively seeks opportunities to review your company's codebase, looking for areas where it can be improved. However, don't just be a critic—take initiative and thoughtfully propose solutions. This deepens your understanding of the system's architecture, demonstrates your problem-solving skills, and makes you an invaluable resource for your team.

Go the Extra Mile: True leaders are fearless in taking ownership. Engage with your team or leadership to discuss ways to turn your code review insights into initiatives that boost overall code quality, maintainability, or performance. This mindset sets you on a path to more significant influence and impact, whether that's within your current company or potentially as the founder of your own venture.

Why It's Unusual: Many developers only focus on their assigned work. This proactive, solutions-oriented approach to code reviews makes you stand out as someone invested in the entire project's success.

Check out my video for my favorite books for software engineers.

Becoming an "Unusual Developer" is a journey of constant self-improvement. By embracing these daily habits, relentlessly seeking out challenges, and committing to lifelong learning, you aren't just building an exceptional career; you're shaping yourself into a developer who can make a real impact.  I hope you gained some ideas to help you out, and don't forget to leverage the resources for the Developer OS!

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