The Best Advice I Received When I was Stuck in a Programming Rut

Feel like you’re bored at work and completely uninterested or unmotivated to get anything done? Here’s some advice a co-worker gave me that changed my entire approach to software development.

Do you feel stuck at work? Like starting to code in the morning is akin to pulling out your own teeth? About a year ago I felt that way to the extreme. I was making the same components over and over again, setting react state, passing data through props, rendering it in jsx and slowly dying every day single day. I felt completely and utterly unchallenged by every task I was given and was discouraged, questioning if I even loved writing software anymore.

I consoled in a friend and co-worker at the time who had much more experience than me and she gave me a piece of advice I’ll never forget. She said, “Instead of copying and pasting or writing the same code over and over again, try to think of ways to make it better and do it that way instead.” Simple, right? An answer you hear in interviews or articles all the time about how the right engineers should make code better and cleaner. But until that moment, I didn’t take those words seriously. Sure, I would refactor code where I saw fit or spruce things up here and there, but I never fully committed. Her words that day woke me the f*ck up.

I started looking deeper into every single task I did, searching for ways to improve any and every project I was assigned to. Suddenly it was like I was given a pair of prescription glasses and for the first time in my life I could see the leaves on every tree (aka so many flaws in our code base) that I didn’t care to notice before. I started reading more books and articles on software design and principles and pitched those ideas where applicable in the appropriate settings at work. I read about the system design behind the Twitter news feed and implemented a very similar concept in one of our new social media projects. One of our data-intensive web applications was suddenly causing a multitude of problems because of heavy data-processing related bugs so I suggested strict data modelling and implementing TypeScript to prevent those errors from happening in the first place. This mindset started to permeate every aspect of my work life.

Not only was I looking for areas of improvement in the code, but also in our company itself. Where could I grow as an engineer? What are the steps to becoming a Senior or Lead Engineer? How could we make our business processes more efficient?

Now I looked back and at least a year has passed since my co-worker passed those words of wisdom on to me and so much has changed. My entire approach to work has shifted and I’ve become a more pro-active engineer because of it. So if you’re stuck in a rut at work and feel like a robot, doing the same thing every day, change the way you work! Work smarter. Challenge how everything is done! It really becomes so much more fun!