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Context: Been in IT for ~25 years, developing web+databases+apps/datascience/helpdesk/sysadmin depending on where I was at -

I feel like I am a specialist of nothing, and ~average at a lot of things. I am good at learning on the spot or finding information on how to do something I never heard of before I guess?

My present contract is as a developer (and sole IT person in the business); yet I need to work on a lot of different projects with different technologies and frameworks. Often I need to start from scratch to get something done. And this is taking time - I don't feel as efficient as I could be.

Question: I would like to improve but I never have anyone to talk to about issues. No one to review the code, or discuss on how to do better algorithms, or just technically improve. Reading SO/SE and forums works to a point but..

How should one approach this?

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  • 2
    Why are there so many discrete technologies and frameworks in use? Jan 28 at 15:45
  • 2
    And have you spoken to your manager about this? Jan 28 at 15:48
  • 2
    Most locales have software user groups that generally have a presence on LinkedIn. It might be that you need to reach out to your local developer community at large for assistance and guidance. Jan 28 at 19:27
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    "I am good at learning on the spot or finding information on how to do something I never heard of before" - these are incedibly valuable skills, in manys more valuable than knowing one technology inside out.
    – deep64blue
    Jan 28 at 20:06
  • 1
    Could contributing to open source be an option? Open source projects often have a good review process in place. Feb 7 at 0:27

6 Answers 6

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It can be challenging being the only developer at a company. As you noted, there is nobody to bounce ideas off of and nobody to perform code reviews on your code. It's not an idea situation but it can be managed.

As I noted in the comments above, use what outside resources you can. I don't think you're going to want to post your entire code base for review but critical sections that you have concerns about are certainly fair game there.

As far as being a "specialist of nothing" there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. People who have a broad skill set and especially those who can learn new things quickly are very valuable in many organizations and it sounds like yours is one such place. But if you desire to become more specialized, that's up to you but the way to do it is to work with that technology all that you can. That's true even if it means working on that in your own time. But there is no requirement to be a specialist in my opinion.

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    Jack of all trades master of none..but often better than a master of one, i’ll take a generalist life over a specialist any day, it’s great to be the best at something, but i personally need the change and challenges of new things. Not to mention it’s rare the knowledge one had gained isn’t transferable to the new thing anyways. Jan 30 at 10:55
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Sounds like impostor syndrome

It is very common in IT world :) we all have it to some extent

Funniest thing thou, for me its the more i known, the bigger the feeling that i don`t know enough.

This article can help :)

This one good as well

@marsisalie You can also suggest hiring an additional developer for code validation, skill matching etc, but it may not be accepted due to "doing things the way they always been done" vibe i get from your description of the management.

In that case you would have to make a decision if you want to stay in that environment or look for something more structured

Personally thou, and it should not affect you in any way, i love the setting you are in currently. And, if it is comes with great salary and benefits can actually see myself retiring from that place :)

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    I just read the articles. Imposter Syndrome is real and I may be affected by this! Yet, issues remains, as no one read my code, as I work 'in a silo' right - while I read on soc. medias how others are appreciating the review process and how they improve themself by working with others! Trying to find ways to get out of my silo even thought it is not obvious since we are in a small shop. Thanks for sharing.
    – marsisalie
    Jan 28 at 16:34
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    Have you considered using the Code Review Stack Exchange site?
    – jwh20
    Jan 28 at 17:27
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    The question doesn't at all sound like imposter syndrome. I think it is a pretty reasonable thought that an isolated developer will not learn as much as they would in a team of other (and partially more experienced) developers.
    – Helena
    Jan 28 at 20:09
  • @jwh20 yes I think I will risk it. (Time to be shy is over!) - checking this out at once.
    – marsisalie
    Jan 28 at 20:10
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I feel like I am a specialist of nothing, and ~average at a lot of things

You're not, you have a unique skillset.

I am good at learning on the spot or finding information on how to do something I never heard of before

This is your speciality, you have learnt how to learn and apply solutions to diverse problems. It's a valuable skill in it's own right.

I would like to improve but I never have anyone to talk to about issues.

Don't create a problem that doesn't exist, for the work you're doing you have it covered. You don't need a team of expensive specialists to solve a problem if you fully understand the problem. You know enough of many fields to provide solutions that work, and that's what people need.

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I've been a similar situation. What I would suggest is to use this opportunity to learn. I'd dive deep on the different technologies and grow your skills. It can be harder to learn because you're without help but a great opportunity because it's teaching you to teach yourself.

A caveat is that it's very important to have someone review your work.

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    I would also make certain that your estimates include learning how to development software the "right" way. Quality Control, TDD, Error handling...at least for critical systems. Code review is unfortunate not possible, but one can avail themselves of the many tech sites that provide guidance.
    – paulj
    Feb 1 at 12:37
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I would like to improve but I never have anyone to talk to about issues. No one to review the code, or discuss on how to do better algorithms, or just technically improve. Reading SO/SE and forums works to a point but..

How should one approach this?

Some folks can thrive in a single-person group, learn what they need to learn from their professional network, online sources, and just be doing. Others can't.

If you have been in IT for about 25 years, then you have a solid grasp of what you need to succeed.

And if you are someone who needs others in your group in order to learn, improve, and succeed, then it appears you'll need to do it elsewhere. For your next contract, check how many others are in the group before you accept.

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First time when I started to work from home as a freelancer it happened after 4 years of office work.

I couldn't imagine it was so hard!

I did not have any ways to enter in a work pattern and was so stressed about the product delivery that I totally moved it 1month later.

After a few days I started running outside and lowering the stress.

After 3 months I got back to my 9 to 5 office job.

Few years later I came back to the freelance work.

I found better habits and motivation.

Try to see the positive side. Having your own schedule in the morning. Waking up at what time you like. Do some exercise before. Go outside, have a coffee with a friend or just walk. Attach some deadlines. It will show you the tiger! Work from a cafe or a co-working space. It will bring you up on the run! Talk to your remote co-workers. Have a better overview of the project. I have 5+ years working remotely experience now. I would not change it.

I built my own schedule and managed to do some extra learning and some small side projects.

Just be brave!

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  • I fail to see what this has to do with the question.
    – Llewellyn
    Feb 3 at 19:52

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