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8 qualities of efficient web developers that employers love

What are the top qualities of efficient web developers? I get this question a lot from my friends who’re getting into the “mysterious” world of web development.

Let’s start with a simple definition:

Efficient means “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials)”. This is how Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word efficient.

And no wonder employers love their efficient web developers.

But can a beginner be an efficient web developer?

Absolutely!

It’s all about following a few simple rules. If you’re an efficient web developer, the characteristic that I’m about to uncover are about you.

Let’s see what they are.

It starts with being Curious

Curiosity is a habit; It’s a habit of being absolutely okay with our ignorance on a specific topic.

Being curious is one of the most important qualities of efficient web developers; Curiosity makes us better learners, better listeners, better friends, and better developers.

Shunryu Suzuki has a profound quote in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind book: 

In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind, there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki 

Curious people always have the mind of a beginner.

This tweet from Elon Musk says it all:

Curiosity has led human civilizations to revolutionary inventions and discoveries.

As a child, we’re derived by curiosity. We’re thirsty to learn and understand our surroundings.

But as we age, experience and knowledge (and a bit of ego) take over.

Newton’s apple incident is a good example. We’ve read in the books that he was inspired to formulate his theory of gravitation after seeing an apple falling from a tree.

But what would happen if he just ignored that?

Curiosity and learning aren’t the same

Curiosity isn’t just learning how to use a specific tool but also trying to understand: 

  • Why things are the way they are. 
  • Why do they work the way they do.

Imagine you hear the term Vue.js for the first time; You look it up and learn it’s a framework for front-end development.

You find it interesting and want to learn more; You even set up a new project to see how it works.

But your curiosity kicks in! You want to learn more. 

You dig deeper to see how Vue works internally. After reading the documentation, source code, and a couple of articles, you learn about the concept of reactivity in front-end frameworks.

Time goes by…

It’s been a while since you heard about Vue.js for the first time. But now, you’re comfortable with Vue.js! You even know how it works internally.

You’re the go-to person in your team when the app behaves strangely. 

The problem with abstractions is they are tricky to optimize! But not for somebody who knows how things work under the hood.

Do you want to be this person in your job interview?

Then, be curious!

Don’t let any confusion slip through the cracks. Even if a question sounds dumb, don’t be afraid to ask.

Remember, the first step in learning something is to accept you don’t know it.

The first step in learning something is to accept you don’t know it.  

You are curious because:

  • You ask more questions
  • You actively listen
  • You tell stories about how your curiosity has inspired you in the past to come up with innovative solutions
  • If you don’t know something, admit that you don’t know but you’re willing to learn.

It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something; When you say I don’t know, but I’d like to learn more about it, people would recognize you as an honest and curious person.

That’s what makes you stand out from the crowd in a job interview.

I love this Will Smith dialogue in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. In this movie, Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is desperately looking for a job.

In an interview, he tells the interviewers:

“Can I say something? Um, I’m the type of person that if you ask me a question and I don’t know the answer, I’m gonna tell you that I don’t know. But I bet you what, I know how to find the answer and I will find the answer. Is that fair enough?”

Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness
A scene from the movie The Pursuite of Happyness, where Chris Gardner is attending a job interview.
A scene of the movie The Pursuit of Happyness

Efficient web developers are good communicators

Being a communicator doesn’t necessarily mean talking well! 

Becoming a good communicator starts with being a good listener! You listen more than you speak.

Teamwork is based on efficient communications. No wonder having good communication skills is among the top qualities of efficient web developers.

A good communicator enters a conversation with an open mind. They are eager to learn and know about other perspectives. When talking, you keep things simple; You don’t overuse jargon. It’s because you need to make sure people understand your point. 

When talking, you keep things simple; You don’t overuse jargon. It’s because you need to make sure people understand your point. 

That’s the key to making efficient web development teams.

When communicating, you make everything about the audience; You keep them engaged instead of giving a speech.

You make them feel what they say matters.

When somebody is talking, instead of composing an answer in your mind as they speak, you focus on what they say because you want to avoid misunderstandings, and assumptions.

You’ve mastered body language

because you know non-verbal communication is as important as verbal communication.

Just a wrong movement of your hand might change the meaning of your words. It’s like using the wrong emoji in a text message.

You also keep an eye on the body language and facial expressions of your audience to keep them interested and engaged. It’s all about them, after all.

You’re a storyteller! 

You communicate your words in the form of fascinating stories.

When the audience listens to the story, they self-relate thanks to a brain process called neural coupling.

When you hear a story, your brain neurons fire in the same patterns as the speaker’s brain! On the other hand, their brains are synchronized with the speaker’s, and they connect with the speaker emotionally.

Jim Kwik, world-renowned memory and brain coach and the author of Limitless, said “Information by itself is forgettable. But information tied with emotion becomes unforgettable.” – in one of his podcasts A Simple Hack To Boost Recall & Form New Habits.

A burst of laughter, sadness, and empathy can make people remember things clearly.

A burst of laughter, sadness, and empathy can make people remember things clearly.

You have empathy 

Speaking of empathy, you have empathy and connect with your colleagues emotionally

You’re not just a colleague to them; You’re a friend. 

Your team knows you care about their well-being, and it encourages them to continue communicating with you. 

Efficient web developers are problem-solvers

Problems happen; They slow down the work and prevent companies hit their targets.

Problem-solving is nothing but using logic and experience to find the root cause of a problem and fix it.

This is why employers are interested in candidates with problem-solving skills; People who act even without assigned tasks.

Being a problem solver is indeed one of the greatest qualities of efficient web developers.

Even though there are many problem-solving strategies, the process always starts with identifying the problem via two steps:

  1. Recognizing a problem
  2. Finding the root cause.

As a problem-solver, you start your research by talking to those affected by the problem.

And ask questions like:

  • What isn’t working as expected?
  • Is it really a problem?
  • When was the last time it was working properly?
  • What if we don’t do anything at all?
  • Is there a temporary solution
  • Any recent changes?

Once you have a clear view of the problem, you brainstorm the possible solutions with the team. 

Different people have different expertise, and they look at problems from different angles. As a team, you’ll be a solution generation machine.

To solve complex problems, you must be a good researcher. 

For instance, if you’re a software developer, using Google search efficiently is a game-changer

It also helps you ensure you don’t re-invent the wheel. 

Bill Gates has a simple problem-solving technique, which is to start your research by asking two simple questions:

  • Who has dealt with this problem well?
  • And what can we learn from them?

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve tackled every big new problem the same way: by starting off with [those] two questions. I used this technique at Microsoft, and I still use it today.

Bill Gates on GatesNotes.

Once you have a list of potential solutions, you evaluate them and pick the one that ticks all the boxes.

  • Is it financially reasonable?
  • How effective is it?
  • Will it cause new problems over time?
  • etc

When you have a solution, you plan the implementation

But this is not the end!

After implementation, the team will be monitoring and collecting feedback from people affected by the change; This is essential to confirm the solution was effective.

Everything should be back to normal by now!

Interviewers take any opportunity to evaluate your problem-solving skills. They might ask you about your past experience in solving problems. Or instead, they might give you a hypothetical problem to see how you approach the solution.

Efficient web developer master the fundamentals first

The first step in learning anything is to master its fundamental concepts.

As an efficient web developer, you know the fundamentals and best practices of software development.

You’re aware of the environment you’re coding for. You know how the Web works, what HTTP is, and how browsers fetch and render HTML documents.

You also know the fundamentals of computing; You know what algorithms are, and how programs are executed on a computer.

You even know a programming language quite well. That’s your master sword after all!

You have all you need to apply for a developer role with confidence.

For instance, if you want to apply to a front-end engineer role, learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (as the cornerstones of the Web) is a must.

Everything else you can pick up later on!

And this is enough for employers; They want people with a strong background and curious enough to learn their technology stack.

Get your fundamentals down, and the level of everything you do will rise.

Michael Jordan

And to get your fundamentals down, don’t feel uncomfortable asking basic questions; even if you think it’s dumb, it counts.

Those who have top-notch bug fixing skills are usually the ones who have mastered the basics.

By knowing the fundamentals in core technologies (not the abstractions), you’ll be able to find & fix specific issues on your own, even if no one has posted about them on the Internet.

Besides, you’ll you can be more creative and come up with more efficient alternatives, rather than just using pre-made code.

Efficient web developers try to do more with less

As an efficient web developer, you know when to code and when not to!

What does it mean? you may ask.

It’s simple; You focus all your energy on making features that bring value to the customers. Nothing more, nothing less.

Here are a few things that can help you do more with less.

Never re-invent the wheel

You’ve probably heard this idiom before. And you’ll hear it more often while working with a development team.

To work efficiently, you only implement solutions if there’s no out-of-the-box alternative available.

For instance, writing a Content Management System (CMS) from scratch is a terrible idea.

There are plenty of actively maintained and well-tested CMSs in the market you can start using right away. 

Why would one make a CMS from scratch while they can have a better one for free? 

Another mistake is making in-house applications for internal purposes. 

For instance, making an in-house CRM system instead of investing in a SaaS solution. 

A SaaS product is a web-based application you can use online with a monthly/yearly subscription (usually on a per-user basis).

A SaaS service may look like an expensive option at first. However, in the long run, you minimize your ownership and maintenance costs.

With a SaaS solution, you can start right away without waiting for your in-house solution to be ready after a year.

These are examples of re-inventing the wheel. Pick the quicker approach. Do what you have to, nothing more.

Focus more on value than feature

The Pareto principle (a.k.a 80/20) says roughly 80% of your achievements are owing to 20% of your efforts.

Or wecan put it this way: 20% of your app functionalities solve the problem of 80% of your users.

In 2002, Microsoft learned that approximately 80% of system crashes in their software were caused by 20% of the errors they had detected.

It meant they could only solve 20% of the bugs, to solve 80% of system crashes.

Your focus must be on adding value with less work. And that’s only possible by working on the most valuable features first.

Every extra piece functionality requires time for testing and maintenance, which will increase the overall cost of ownership in the long run.

Measure twice, cut once!

Coding isn’t just typing symbols into a code editor.

If you’re thinking of a solution while watching TV, you’re coding – but you haven’t put it into your editor yet.

One of the mistakes some programmers make is jumping on writing code without thinking and asking questions.

If you jump onto a solution without thinking, you might end up spending hours debugging an unexpected behavior. Or even worse, refactoring the whole code because you got something wrong from the beginning.

Technical interviewers always measure this trait. 

So how would you solve a coding interview problem?

If they give you a hypothetical problem to solve, don’t rush to the code editor. 

Ask as many questions as you need. Always ensure you fully understand the problem before approaching a solution.

Asking questions in an interview has two benefits:

  1. It implies you’re a curious person, and you know what you’re doing
  2. They’ll happily give you helpful pointers to solve the problem

Ask as many questions as you need. Always ensure you fully understand the problem before approaching a solution. 

Rest enough

You might have heard some developer bragging about being up all night to get a project done.

Let me tell you the truth; If a developer stays up all night to get something done, it simply means they failed to meet a deadline. They couldn’t get it done during the day, so they had to make it up during the night.

Some say caffeine is a developer’s fuel. It’s not if you ask me.

It’s not caffeine that can keep you going, it’s your sleeping habits and routine.

By having enough sleep, controlling your caffeine intake, and eating healthy, you’ll have enough energy to get anything done and a brain that’s 100% present all the time.

So find a routine and stick to it. Your brain will thank you for it.

By having enough sleep, controlling your caffeine intake, and eating healthy, you’ll have enough energy to get anything done and a brain that’s 100% present all the time.

Efficient web developers are mindful of their time

Every manager would agree time management is one of the most important qualities of efficient web developers.

As an efficient web developer, You break down your tasks into achievable goals. 

Breaking down complex tasks into a set of smaller sub-tasks helps you understand the complexity of a feature; How long does it take to implement? What resources do you need?

These will be easy questions to answer.

When a task is broken down into pieces, you can prioritize work at the feature level.

Complex tasks get us distracted

We usually get pulled towards social media when facing a challenge at work; Oh, let me check Twitter for 10 minutes and get back to work. 

But maybe we’re just looking for a getaway to feel comfortable again – at least for a short time. 

If a task is simple enough, we’ll more likely finish it quickly. And once you get it done, you feel a sense of pride, and you want to achieve more. 

After doing a couple of tasks, you’re in your focus zone. Nothing can stop you at this point until you tick off all the items on your to-do list.

You can also try time management techniques like the Pomodoro technique. Or you can make it even fancier by using a sand timer to do your work in 30 mins intervals with 5 minutes-rests in between.

When you master your time management skills, make sure you allocate your precious time to the tasks that bring value to the business.

Efficient web developers are adaptable

Loyalty is one of the best human qualities. Loyalty doesn’t apply to software technologies, though. 

Just because you spent your precious time learning a piece of technology, it doesn’t mean you should be using it for the rest of your life!

Throughout your career, you spends years on mastering tools that become obsolete at some point.

But that’s absolutely okay! In fact, that’s how it works! That’s how you gain experience.

You should always be ready to learn, re-learn, or even unlearn stuff.

Why do you think companies hire people who are willing to learn?

It’s simple! 

They know abstraction becomes obsolete from time to time. Rather hiring new people, they can use the potential of their current employees and ask them to acquire new skills instead.

Also, make sure to learn core technologies before abstractions (e.g., frameworks). For instance, try to learn JavaScript before jumping straight to Vue.js.

Frameworks come and go, but programming languages never die. 

If you get dependent on a particular framework/library and forget about the language, a major update of your favorite framework (or library) might pour your framework knowledge down the drain.

But if you master your programming language, you can learn new frameworks real quick.

And as a result, you won’t be biased towards any software technology because you can use any of them by just reading through their documentation.

Efficient web developers know the business context

Efficient web developers are aware of what problems their company is trying to solve and how customers use their services.

This is one of the top qualities of efficient web developers that differentiates them from other team members.

Sometimes business problems are actually software problems, or at least you can tackle them with technology. And nobody understands the technology better than the people in the tech team.

“Give your developers business context”. These are the words of Mark Porter, the CTO at MongoDB. In his article, he introduces an interesting concept, which he calls the “Innovation tax”. 

He defines the Innovation tax as:

Companies pay this tax when they fail to understand the nature of the work developers do or provide a safe and productive environment for them to do it.

He adds:

Don’t insult the intelligence or maturity of your developers. They can – and must – understand the business rationale for their work. In fact, painting the strategic target for developers will result in a better work product as they align their key decisions in the architecture and design experience of your software. Once they understand the business context, they’ll find better ways of achieving it bottoms-up than any tops-down leader, even a CTO like me, possibly can.

So even if the company doesn’t provide you enough business context, do it yourself! 

Keep asking until you have a good understanding of the whys and hows behind a feature.

Trust me, sometimes you can propose a simpler solution. Developing business acumen is one of the top qualities of efficient web developers.

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