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Content Marketing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Developers Who Write

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Patrick O'Fallon

October 5, 2017

When planning a career as a developer or a technical practitioner, the thought of being a writer rarely occurs as a potential future job or role. However, proficient technical practitioners who understand how to relay highly technical data effectively often find themselves becoming writers. Some write alongside their jobs as developers or in various technical roles, while others make the shift and become technical writers full time. Although an unlikely match, writing can help amplify developers’ expertise, knowledge, and make them better overall practitioners.

Exposure to new ideas

Exposure to new ideas is one of the major reasons writing can benefit technical practitioners and developers. As developers, we are all familiar with pseudo-code, in which we map out our scripts or algorithms as operational flows prior to converting them into code. Writing about an algorithm or DevOps tool helps developers take a deeper dive into an algorithm or solution. Similar to writing about a technical concept for a college term paper, writing about a technical problem that you are focused on allows more complete coverage of a technology you are operating with.

Writing about DevOps tools and solutions can also help make developers more effective, as it compels them to be open to new technologies and ideas. This may not seem very significant, but the typical technical practitioner is generally not open to new technologies and ideas, and tends to prefer to stay within his or her knowledge domain. By exploring and writing about new tools and ideas, technical practitioners will find themselves more dynamic in their work, and empowered to leverage more effective methods into their work.

Diversification of knowledge domains

Another benefit of writing alongside working as a technical practitioner is the ability to span knowledge domains. For example, as a developer, there is a diverse set of technical tasks and skills necessary to simply publish code to production and ensure everything works successfully. This spans from writing code to publishing code; interacting with server architecture and testing server infrastructure—and, of course, securing the entire process. Now that the DevOps movement has made such a strong impact on overall efficiency, developers now find themselves orchestrating IT environments, as well as securing these IT environments, and the platforms and technologies that run on them.

This seems like an excess of job roles to put on a particular person or team, but more commonly than not, developers find themselves operating with new technologies that span across several knowledge domains (from DevOps, ITOps, and SecOps) in order to do their jobs. As developers pivot to technical writing to supplement their expertise, traversing multiple knowledge domains becomes easier as these developers learn about and write about new tools and technologies that directly affect their job efficacy.

The influencer

The eventual goal? To become an influencer—not just a guru with thousands of followers (though that may happen). As a true influencer, your code, your algorithms, and your approach actually influence other developers. What does this mean, in practical terms? Recognition.

Invitations to speak, promotions, job offers, requests to write—These can all be forms of recognition that you value. Recognition can also come in the form of people approaching you as a sounding board, asking you to be their mentor, or even deciding that you are their worthy opponent. Certainly, it can also mean recognition in terms of actual dollars and cents. All of these things feel good, and the best part is, you are more than a showboat—The recognition comes from contributing to a community, not hogging the limelight.

The takeaway

Why do I write? Because I write when I code. Revealing the story behind my approach and the lessons learned connect me to a broader community. It can lead to recognition. It can be gratifying in an egotistical sense. But it can also expand my horizons, and expose me to the thoughts (and criticism) of my colleagues. And in the end, my writing makes me a better developer. It can do the same for you.