How Helping Others Makes You A Better Developer

Have you ever been killing time on Stack Overflow or Reddit and some question caught your eye enough that you decided to google around and see what you could find? And then, while you didn’t find much that helped on the original issue, there were some intriguing leads on some unresolved issues at work?

That’s happened to me quite a few times, and that bits of exposure that I had stored away from the first time around were enough to get me halfway to a good solution. In short, one of the best things you can do to help your growth as a developer is to help others who are stuck, even if you don’t know the answer. The process in which you help search for a solution results in two things. Firstly, enhances your skills at using search engines to find answers to questions, and secondly, the exposure to different problems outside of your area of expertise results in more knowledge stored in your memory that will come in handy sooner or later.

Whether its participating in a Slack group where you find yourself digging through the Django framework’s bug tracker for a problem or answering a SO question on an issue in a Dockerfile, spending time helping others reaps a great deal of benefits at the end. However, its easy to get overwhelmed and have a sense of burnout due to a cacophony of similar questions or users wanting you to solve their problem for them. If and when you get to that point, there’s nothing wrong with muting a few channels and taking time away, or being much more selective as to who you choose to help. Personally, the best thing that someone can do to make me interested in helping them is to show they’ve done their due diligence in searching for a solution beforehand. Sometimes its just a pointer to a better search query, or a particular section in the documentation and the other person just takes that bit of help and runs with it.

So, try it out! Join a slack group or IRC channel and pick something that perks your interest, and go from there. You might be surprised how much enthusiasm you get for your work and that the amount of effort you’re using to help others returns that investment in spades over a number of unexpected areas.