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Once you have the basic grasp of programming, you will find yourself wondering how to become amazing with it. In this post we are going to explore what makes the difference between the average developer and the highly skilled developer. For this post I’ll be disregarding your education background and taking into account only  practical knowledge instead of the boring theoretical stuff.

Taking things to the next level

If you just finished learning the basics of javascript (or whatever language you are trying to learn) and you are wondering how to take your skills to the next level, you first need to understand what you want to pursue.

Development is more than knowing some logic and styling. As a developer you will be better off specializing in your interests.

Don’t only be a front-end developer because you need a job (although it is a good move if you want to get started), after knowing the basic stuff that makes you “job ready”, you should start investigating your interests within the tech world.

Once you find an area that appeals to you, you will find yourself a lot more motivated to discover how things work and how to reproduce (or even reinvent them).

Now, to give you some context, I’m going to share with you the story of how I started to become a better developer…

The one thing that made me better

After I got my first job at a LA startup that was dealing with a very unique web application (and initially, I was the only web developer), I started to understand what makes a developer “good”. It is not the tech stack you use and it is certainly not about wheter you have a CS degree or not.

It all boils down to this one thing, challenges. Not the fizzbuzz type of challenges (although they can help), but how bold you are willing to get with your projects and learning, your progression milestones.

Before I got my job at the fast paced Californian startup, I attended a bootcamp for web development, there, I had to create multiple projects and I also had access to see what the other students were working on.

My first project was called RocketFinder the task was to use AJAX to pull data from a public API and do whatever I wanted with it. At first, I had no idea what I was doing, and I saw most students creating forms and just handling all data as if they were nothing more than text.

Although at the most bare bones level of development that is pretty what can be done (if we are dealing with a very simple API without any files or cool functionalities, just strings), I knew I wanted to experiment with a different level of logic, something more visual, more importantly, I wanted to find out the limits of the web as a development platform.

That was the first time I got bold with my learning and experimentation, that was my first real challenge in development, my milestone.

In Rocket Finder I had to figure out more than just how to do the standard things, such as handle the parameters of the API I was dealing with, but also, with the introduction of latitudes and longitudes in a 3D environment, I could take all the fundamental stuff I learned at the bootcamp and apply it in a more interesting way, that is why I chose to go with a more visual approach.

And, after this project I would keep challenging myself to create more unique applications that break away from the standard formats, being playful with your code is the best way to discover your challenges and passions within programming.

Because of this experience I knew I wanted to pursue a visual style of programming, something that would require image processing, natural algorithms or simply, creating beautiful apps. 

Maybe you will find that you prefer automation, data, security or back-end stuff like syncing data across platforms and cloud computing. There are many different areas in programming that you can explore (even as a web developer) and find your interests.

All you gotta do to get started with it, is explore.

(I might make a compilation of resources for exploring different areas of programming later on, for now I’ll recommend CodePen and ChromeExperiments for the web developers)

Conclusion

Now that you understand your loops and object traversal (and hopefully your asynch code), it is time for you to explore programming as a hobby and to keep creating challenges and goals for yourself within your interests.

You may find very unique communities of developers that deal with the type of tech you are curious to learn, reach out to them, make contacts and keep on learning!