Sunday, October 25, 2009

From Good to Great Developer

Last week I watch a presentation called “From good to great developer“ from
Here is the link :

Chris Hedgate made a really great presentation. He pointed out that good developer writes code quickly but hard to maintain; but great developer has long term goal and try to write clean code and make it easier to maintain.

He also gave the advices how to become a great developer. I really like the 4-stage learning model he introduced: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence. The learner in different stage will take different actions: inspiration, training, practice and reflection.
I am an agile believer; I’ve been trying my best to write clean code and trying to improve the design. But I am really frustrated by my colleagues and my manager. They don’t think keep code clean and refactoring is necessary, just something extra features make it looks beautiful. Now I know the reason: they are at the first state - unconscious incompetence, the best solution is inspiring them first. You need to be a good coach. You need to be lead by example. You have to become great first.

Talking about becoming a great developer, which is the same idea coming from Agile. It means craftsmanship, professionalism, discipline, and mastery. I think every serious developer should have a goal to become a great developer or master programmer, just like kong-fu master or samurai. It is a whole life’s practice.

Being a great developer is not an easy job. You need to understand the agile principles, understand design patterns, have disciplines and patience to write clean codes and keep refactoring; you have to constantly reflect yourself; you need to keep learning new technologies. And you need to help other people and try to motivate and inspire them. This is raising the bar, it is hard, but this is the only way to create a remarkable career for you, the only way to give you a passion, and the only way to transcend yourself.

Here I add some other videos which share the same philosophy:

1. Craftsmanship and Ethics, by Robert Martin:

2. Developing Expertise: Herding Racehorses, Racing Sheep, by Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas is the author of “Pragmatic Programmer, from journeyman to master”. This video talks about the Dreyfus model, which is 5-stage learning model. The details about it is in the Book “Pragmatic learning and thinking” by Andy Hunt.

3. I Come to Bury Agile, Not to Praise It, by Alistar CockBurn
This video talks about a Shu-Ha-Ri, a 3-stage learning model, I first learned Shu-Ha-Ri from his book “Agile Software Development”

4. Deliberate Practice in Software Development, by Marry Poppendieck,
Marry Poppendieck is regarded the first person who apply Toyota’s Lean technology into software development, this video she provide the 10-year rule theory, emphasizes the craftsmanship and clean code.

5. Productive Programmer: On the Lam from the Furniture Police, by Neal Ford
The author of “Productive programmer”, he talked about the principles in his book, the book of “Peopleware” and “pragmatic learning and thinking”

6. Transcendence and Passing Through the Gate, by Dave West

This video is really interesting, it talks about agile, but he use the concept of Zen. He mentioned the famous 10 Bulls pictures which describe 10 different stages of a human being to describe the agile development.


  1. We should all try to become great developers. Only then can we produce very good results in the project. But in many projects, it is just a matter of delivering projects on time. But not many people care about quality and how it is done.

  2. Hi Steve, we should indeed try to guide good developers to become great ones. This will definitely help developers to climb the skill hill.