(This is a repost from August 2019)

It’s been a year!

I think the Discord server that holds Better Developer members together has existed for about a year now. A few weeks prior, I had first made a Reddit post reaching out to people who wanted help becoming developers.

One person reached out, and together we worked on a slew of things, both tech related and beyond.

Learning how to program was the bare minimum. Understanding HTML, CSS, and some JS followed. Then, we fired up a Virtual Private Server and installed Wordpress from scratch, LAMP stack and all. From there, projects and other random things supplemented growth.

Since we were remote, soft skills such as oral and written communication improved too.

From our short time collaborating, that first person started making a living after a few months. This early success was validation I needed to know that what I was doing was actually effective.

Just One, then Much More

I appealed to people of the interwebs again and created blog posts for all of the things that I kept needing to repeat. I Personally gave every single person my time, which always started with, “Hey! How are you? What would you like to do or learn? Tell me about yourself.”

100 people joined the discord server, 20 people consistently participated, and about 7 people now work as developers. Not only was I able to contribute to changing peoples’ lives, but these people who I’ve come to call friends also played a large part in changing mine, providing me with purpose during a time when burnout got the worst of me.

Replicating that success in others was addicting, and providing help to those who wanted to learn was surprisingly contagious. It felt good to help, and people in the community who pitched in by answering questions and providing assistance received positivity and validation: being competent enough to help, and gratification from doing so.

My Heart. It Swells

Here’s messages I’ve received from four people who are working as developers now:

From J: I finally have $1k saved in my savings. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever seen that much money in my account. So again, just wanna thank you

From A: you’re seriously a bro man I cannot express that enough over the past 16–17 months I’ve known you, you have helped me immensely There’s no way I can ever pay you back for all your help I just want you to know how endlessly grateful I am to have met you and for all the help you’ve given me

From G: I just accepted a full time position here in s.d. I got to skip the jr. position tho so I’m a Software Engineer now. I did it man, didnt beat my goal of 12 months but i started this journey just 13 months ago. I get to work w/ C# too! …you gave me the initial ideas for all this. Then it just became actually doing these things. It was like a black hole. You pushed me into the event horizon. I just vanished in after.

From S: Oddly enough I was thinking the other day, imagine if I never opened Reddit that day and seen your post and clicked the link. I wonder what I’d be doing now lol. I was on the self learning path and I think I’d have done okay, but I’ve definitely got a lot more structure and direction in my learning now, it’s efficient compared to just splashing around on my own so I’m thankful I opened Reddit that day!

In the past I disregarded important habits and relationships of my life to grind away for months on end to deal with a pretty impactful release of software, some of the most important parts of which only I was able to complete. The reward? A thermos that I have yet to use.

From starting Better Developer, I’ve been able to make a lasting impact and develop deep connections with people. Shoot, I actually met someone from the community here in California who was traveling internationally on holiday! Needless to say, I have friends in so many different places around the world that I can have a beer with now =); I’ll take that over drinkware.

My Takeaways

Through this all, I am certain that my effectiveness as a helper could not have worked if there wasn’t someone on the other end who wanted it bad enough. On one hand, crazy enough to put such faith in a random person from the internet, but overall bad enough to follow my advice and put in real work to make things happen.

I had to learn that helping everyone isn’t really possible. Sometimes I’d only get as far as the initial introductory conversation. Some stories were bad. I really wish I could have helped and still think about those people from time to time.

Sometimes all I had to do was to point someone in the right direction. I’ll tell someone what to Google or say a few words to “connect the dots” of knowledge that was someone’s head. At other times it seemed people just wanted someone to listen. Maybe that’s the case for those who ghosted me.

Aside from that first job offer, the most fun I have is when people have those, “A-HA!”, lightbulb-above-the-head-turning-on moments.

In one way or another, the intent to work with me to develop software was serious at one point. Those motivations were fueled by different situations: the inability to put food on the table, a what the hell am I doing with my life?!?! Time to scour the internet for help “emotional asthma attack”, a career change, curiosity, and more. Maybe a combination of all of the above and then some. Who knows.

Not being able to be there for everyone sucks. It’ll always suck, but I’m getting over it by becoming more efficient in the help I give and ensuring that I’m there for the right people.

As I prepare this post for its release, I come to realize how such drastic changes can be attributed to something as simple as a casual browse through the internet. Likewise, the current job that I have now is easily been the best opportunity I ever had. The position came from a recruiter who called me out of the blue (I gotta make a point to find out how he got my number).

There will always be merit in making decisions that require research, time, and chance, but a little effort in being playfully serious about random occurrences can be fruitful.

Plans for the Future

Coincidentally, we pretty much all started new jobs at around the same time. Everyone’s been grinding. While we’re all on great terms and catching up with each other directly, public activity hasn’t been great. Even so, that’s not too important to me. The majority are constantly interacting with each other privately and hyper focused.

I plan to continue sharing experience, insight, and technical content that can serve the community. Just as importantly, I will continue to connect, improve, and thrive from these collaboration. I think sharing other peoples’ journeys and experiences can be helpful too.

No matter what, the mission remains: becoming a better developer. Whether that means being a better software developer or the continuous refinery of the efficiency and velocity by which one gets things done, we’ll keep climbing.

To the readers who are fellow Better Developers: thank you so much; let’s keep going!

To the ones who fell off: you know who you are. You know what you’ve got to do, or at least who you can reach out to for help.

To the ones who want to get involved: let’s start.

Cheers to the next year.