How to avoid burnout

Published on November 19, 2015 in Career · Read time 6 minutes

You work hard 7 days a week, and you do your best to stay up to date with the latest industry trends. Inevitably you will become demoralized and demotivated and eventually suffer a partial or full-on collapse where all your progress comes to a grinding halt. After a period of time (days, weeks or months!) you get back on track and pick up where you left off, eventually leading to the inevitable burnout cycle where you end up back where you were. I’ve been through this cycle several times, and I’ve even blogged about it before , but now I have learnt the ultimate techniques to break the endless cycle and find a more maintainable work-life balance. Here are my 5 ultimate tips to avoid burnout. Stop Start by reducing your workload. You are probably doing some or all of the following on a regular basis; Watching training videos, doing some form of professional online training Freelance or other paid work for friends, family, or professionally Contributing to open source, or some form of unpaid work where you have responsibilities and deadlines Your day job You probably can’t stop doing your day job, so you will want to give that the highest precedence. However, I can’t tell you how…

Devs, this is how I got fit

Published on September 04, 2015 in Career · Read time 14 minutes

Right now, I’m in pretty good shape. I have the confidence to say this because I’ve worked very hard over the last 18 months to get to this point. I’m not a muscular person, like what you might see in a designer underwear advert…and this was never my personal goal, but I certainly don’t feel embarrassed anymore when I take my shirt off. I’ve discovered a few very simple patterns for losing weight, gaining muscle (at a slow rate) and generally feeling better about myself. This has been such a big success for me, that I felt it only right to share with you. I talk about myself a lot in this post, and I apologize for that, but it’s hard not to. I believe that if you follow this advice and these tips, you can achieve the same results as me. Backstory Poor diet, smoker, drinker, allergic to exercise guy Growing up as a teenager in North-West England, UK, in the early 2000’s, I was skinny. I had an extremely poor diet and frankly was “allergic” (not literally, just mentally) to vegetables and healthy food in general. I flat out refused to eat vegetables because I simply didn’t like them. For tea I would have “chips and something”, usually chicken, beef, pork, typically skins on and deep…

ASP .NET 5 (vNext), first thoughts

Published on August 21, 2015 in C#, Career · Read time 4 minutes

Microsoft ASP .NET 5 is a major shift from traditional ASP .NET methodologies. Whilst I am not actively developing ASP .NET 5 applications at the minute, .NET has always been my bread and butter technology. When I look at industry trends here in the UK, all I see is .NET .NET .NET, therefore it is important to have one eye on the future. I’ve watched all the introduction videos on the ASP .NET website , but I also wanted to take a look at what ASP .NET 5 means to me . This is not meant to be a fully formed post. This will come later down the line. Right now, I think ASP .NET 5 is evolving too quickly to be “bloggable” fully. Version disambiguation and terminology Lets take a second to disambiguate some terminology. Microsoft’s understanding of versioning has always been different to everybody else. This tweet from Todd Motto really sums it up; Bill Gates on counting to ten. 1, 2, 3, 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10. Todd Motto (@toddmotto) August 3, 2015 Looks like versioning is not going to get any simpler for the time being ASP .NET 5 (ASP .NET 4.6 is the current version) Previously known as ASP .NET vNext, ASP .NET 5 is the successor of ASP .NET 4.6 . In the past…

Why I don't want to be a front-end web developer

Published on June 25, 2015 in Career · Read time 4 minutes

The job title isn’t representative of my skill set As a front-end developer, you portray yourself as having a narrow set of skills. This probably isn’t the case. I did a quick search on a popular job forum for front-end developer jobs, and there is a clear recurring theme as to what skills are required to be a mid-level/senior front-end developer; (X)HTML (5), CSS, SASS/SCSS, LESS. Backbone, Angular, Knockout. Responsive web design (I’m assuming Bootstrap knowledge, Foundation etc). Adobe Photoshop, Magento. Knowledge of source control and some form of client side unit testing. My perception of these skills; HTML has remained relatively unchanged since it was invented in 1990 . If you don’t agree, just take a look at the source code for the first web page . HTML is easy, whatever the flavour. That’s actually is greatest strength, no barrier to entry for new developers. CSS is easy to learn, impossible to be great at. Thankfully tools such as SASS/SCSS and LESS are eliminating the pain. A web developer of any skill level and experience can learn to use these CSS pre-processors in 60 minutes or less. They’re simple. They just work. If you’re good at responsive web design, this is…

Every developer must be proficient at these 7 things...

Published on February 21, 2015 in Career · Read time 8 minutes

In 2015, it is as important as ever for developers of all levels of expertise and experience to re-train and update their skills. In the fast moving world of technology, failure to do so can result in career stagnation and ultimately not reaching your full earnings potential. This post is an update to the popular post 10 things every software developer should do in 2014 . All of the points made in that post are still relevant and valid so I recommend you take a look. This post is entirely based on my own opinion and I highly recommend you use this to figure out your own learning plan, based on your own level of skills an expertise. 1. Source Control Lets start simple. You must be using source control. There is literally no excuse. 99% of companies today are using some form of source control, and its becoming expected that you have at least a basic understanding of how source control works. Most source control systems have the ability to create branches, view history, merge changes, and display differences between revisions. You should be familiar at least at a high level, how to perform each of these actions in at least 2 different solutions. As a minimum, I strongly recommend…

Books I read in 2014

Published on January 01, 2015 in Career · Read time 5 minutes

Last year I set out to try and diversify myself and learn new things. I have focused primarily on software development for at least the last 13 years, and this year I wanted to do something different. I shied away from reading software development books and started reading sci-fi books, books of historical importance, fantasy, and yes the occasional development book when I felt the urge. Here are some of the books I read during 2014 (in no particular order); Harry Potter Complete Series ( Book 1 , Book 2 , Book 3 , Book 4 , Book 5 , Book 6 , Book 7 ) The Hobbit The Hunger Games Series ( Book 1 , Book 2 , Book 3 ) Professional ASP .NET MVC 4 This Is The One (Sir Alex Ferguson auto biography) Just A Geek (Wil Wheaton auto biography) ASP .NET MVC 4 Recipes The Green Mile How to Win Friends and Influence People A Game of Thrones A Clash of Kings Soft Skills: A Software Developers Life Manual Mein Kampf There are 21 books listed above (1 or 2 have been excluded for personal reasons). How did I manage to read so many books in 1 year? The key is consistency. Read for between 1-2 hours a day, and try not to stop reading mid-chapter where possible. Reading is good for the mind…

8 things every .NET developer must understand

Published on September 19, 2014 in Career · Read time 6 minutes

You’ve been in your current job for a while now, and you’re really starting to get good at what you do. You’re perhaps thinking about finding something new, and you’re wondering what sort of questions a potential new employer might ask. I’ve been interviewing a lot recently and I have noticed there are 8 questions that get asked a lot. Spend some time and make sure that you understand each point in turn, doing so will help make that dream job become a reality. SOLID Principals The ultimate acronym of acronyms. You’ve heard of it, but do you know what it stands for? Do you really understand what each principal means? Yeah thought so. This awesome video by Derick Bailey will clear things up a lot for you; Garbage Collection & IDisposable One of the best features of developing with any .NET language is the lack of effort you have to put in to garbage collection. You generally don’t have to care too much about 1st/2nd/3rd gen collection cycles, de-allocating memory or anything like that. Its still a very important topic, however, and every .NET developer should understand how it works. Once you become a more experienced developer (and I’m especially talking to WPF developers here…

Should I get certified?

Published on July 28, 2014 in Career · Read time 5 minutes

The value of Microsoft certifications has split opinion for years, and both camps feel very passionate about their side of the argument. In this post I’ll try and look constructively at the value of Microsoft certifications, so you can make the decision for yourself. I’m specifically talking about Microsoft developer certifications here, but the concepts/points could likely be applied to any certifying body. 1. What are the current Microsoft Certification paths (for developers)? There is a route for just about every job role in the industry, I have to narrow the criteria quite a bit just to stop this post from becoming long and boring. Here is a high level overview; MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) This is a foundation level certification targeting people getting started in their career. There are 3 main routes; IT Infrastructure (up to 4 exams), Database (1 exam) and Developer (8 exams). Reading the overview of each route shows that each exam is meant as an introduction to that particular field. MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) This is a middle-level (most developers will probably fall into this band) certification with several different routes; Web, Windows…

How to pass Microsoft Exam 70-487 (Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services) in 30 days

Published on July 26, 2014 in Career · Read time 6 minutes

Before you continue reading this blog post, you need to be aware of the following; This is not a “quick fix” or an “easy solution”. I have not discovered some secret formula to guarantee you pass with 100% marks every time. The exam is genuinely challenging and the only way you are going to pass is by working hard! You will not find any brain dumps here! If you’re afraid of working hard to achieve your goals, you best leave now … Still Here? Congratulations, you are taking your first steps towards passing the Microsoft exam 70-487. The purpose of this post is to link to all the resources that I used when revising for the exam myself. So why 30 days? Well its important to set yourself a target. Setting yourself a target motivates you. If you are paying for this exam yourself (like I did), you’ll really want to make sure you give the exam your best shot (after all, £99 is a hefty amount of money!) Know the exam objectives Probably the most important thing you should do before starting studying for any exam is to find out what the exam objectives are. Basically the exam objectives tell you what to study for! There is not much point in learning material that is of no relevance! You can…

My learning hangover

Published on June 29, 2014 in Career · Read time 5 minutes

Its virtually unheard of for me to write blog posts about anything that isn’t a language, framework, or technology but my experience recently has affected my life in so many ways it got me thinking…there must be lots of other people who have experienced this, or are heading towards it. It’s too important to not share with the community. I am of course talking about my learning hangover. Note that this is an honest and frank post, and that, to some extent, I am still experiencing a learning hangover. Despite this, I am starting to see glints of light and the end of a long dark tunnel. Background I have been what I like to refer to as a “traditional” Software Engineer for many years. I have developed a wide range of desktop applications written in Windows Forms and WPF, and I am skilled in various backend technologies and frameworks, including SQL Server and WCF. Traditional software development has been my passion since I was 11 years old, and I’ve never looked back. All good things, however, don’t last forever. I recognised that the technological landscape was changing. The world of desktop applications is fading to black and I wanted to keep with the times. I have met people over…

How to pass Microsoft Exam 70-486 (Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications) in 30 days

Published on February 01, 2014 in Career · Read time 4 minutes

Before you continue reading this blog, you need to be aware of the following; This is not a “quick fix” or an “easy solution”. I have not discovered some secret formula to guarantee you pass with 100% marks every time. I am not trying to sell you anything. The exam is genuinely challenging and the only way you are going to pass is by working hard! You will not find any brain dumps here! If you’re afraid of working hard to achieve your goals, you best leave now … Still Here? Congratulations, you are taking your first steps towards passing the Microsoft exam 70-486 in just 30 days. The purpose of this post is to link to all the resources that I used when revising for the exam myself. So why 30 days? Well its important to set yourself a target. Setting yourself a target motivates you. If you are paying for this exam yourself (like I did), you’ll really want to make sure you give the exam your best shot (after all, £99 is a hefty amount of money!) Know the exam objectives Probably the most important thing you should do before starting studying for any exam is to find out what the exam objectives are. Basically the exam objectives tell you what to study for! There is not much point in…

10 things every software developer should do in 2014

Published on January 18, 2014 in Career · Read time 8 minutes

It is important in the world of software development that every developer re-train and update their skills regularly. Failure to do so will probably result in stagnation and loss of earnings over an extended period.There has been a massive shift over the last few years from development of traditional desktop applications being written in Windows Forms (WinForms) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to the web and mobile. Open standards, including HTML 5 and CSS 3, have been driving a new era in user experience and a large array of new devices are shifting users away from the desktop. 1. Sharpen your design skills Like it or not, the days of developers being able to get away with having no design skills are over. Applications and websites are becoming a lot more design focused and interactive. Websites can make-or-break a business, especially start-ups, so they must be graphical, colourful, and easy to use. Windows 8 Store Applications Windows 8 store applications are all the evidence you need here. Love it or hate it, Metro (for lack of an official name) is here to stay, in one form or another, and there is really nowhere to hide with applications like this. You have the…

15 reasons why I can’t work without JetBrains ReSharper

Published on December 28, 2013 in Career · Read time 13 minutes

If you know me personally, you’ll know how much I love JetBrains ReSharper , I use it every day and I swear by it. People often ask me what I like most about it, and here I often stutter. The truth is, there is no one killer reason why I love ReSharper… it’s a combination of many small features that make it a tool I literally cannot work without. I’m going to explain my 15 favourite features, and urge you to give it a try. If you’re still not sold by the end of this, you’re never going to be converted. Note that the reasons are in no particular order, other than the order in which they came to mind. This post was written using Visual Studio 2013 and ReSharper 8.1 (EAP at the time of writing). Top tip: Don’t fight with ReSharper, embrace it. If there is a warning/error/configuration that irks you, change the setting! ReSharper is highly configurable and the team at JetBrains have done everything they can to make ReSharper work with you, not against you. Common Myths and Moans First things first… some people have used ReSharper in the past and for whatever reason, they have abandoned it. Usually, they have two main complaints. Myth: ReSharper is slow. JP says: No its not. I…

How to pass Microsoft Exam 70-480 (HTML 5, CSS3 and JavaScript) in 30 days

Published on September 20, 2013 in Career · Read time 6 minutes

Before you continue reading this blog, you need to be aware of the following; This is not a “quick fix” or an “easy solution”. I have not discovered some secret formula to guarantee you pass with 100% marks every time. I am not trying to sell you anything. The exam is genuinely challenging and the only way you are going to pass is by working hard! You will not find any brain dumps here! If you’re afraid of working hard to achieve your goals, you best leave now … Still Here? Congratulations, you are taking your first steps towards passing the exam. The purpose of this post is to link to all the resources that I used when revising for the exam myself. So why 30 days? Well its important to set yourself a target. Setting yourself a target motivates you. If you are paying for this exam yourself (like I did), you’ll really want to make sure you give the exam your best shot (after all, £99 is a hefty amount of money!) Know the exam objectives Probably the most important thing you should do before starting studying for any exam is to find out what the exam objectives are. Basically the exam objectives tell you what to study for! There is not much point in learning material that is of no…