The importance of role models for aspiring software developers

Probably some of you know that I am heavily involve in delivering trainings to people that want to learn programming and didn’t study computer science in school and college. I look at all my students and see basically me 4-5 years ago when I have started to learn programming on my own. Recently some of my students were asking me what they can do besides the course (exercises and practice included) to make the most out of this journey. To come up with an articulated answer was not that easy since I began to think what did I do besides courses. Thinking about it I realized how important role models are on such a journey! So this article is intended for all aspiring software developers! Probably sharing my role models with the world will prove useful for certain people.

What is a role model?

A role model is an individual who is looked up to and revered by someone else. A role model is someone who other individuals aspire to be like, either in the present or in the future. A role model may be someone who you know and interact with on a regular basis, or may be someone who you’ve never met. Especially nowadays having role models that you actually never meet is very easy due to social media. And in fact this is mostly my case.

One thing to be aware of if you’re starting late on the journey to become a software developer (as I did. I started to learn programming at around 30) is that unless you’re a genius you’ll probably never be “that good” as you’re role model. For me, the main challenge was and still is to come as close as possible. And that’s how you’ll get the best you can be. That’s actually the goal we aim to: be the best we can be given our exact circumstances.

What can you get from a role model you’ll probably never meet?

First of all technical expertise. But that’s not all. People like the one I’m going to mention are deeply involved in developer communities. They write blogs, produce podcasts, talk at conferences, are active on Twitter and so on. Following them means to get in touch with what’s next in the software development business. And learn something from it. So following them wherever they produce some content is really important. Read, listen, watch whatever they produce, even if you think that it’s to technical for you. It really doesn’t matter at the beginning. What does matter is you coming in contact with a lot of new concepts, ideas, tips. Then set some goals to research, try out whatever you get from your role models until you understand those concepts, ideas and tips.

Try to be like a sponge! Absorb as many concepts and ideas, even if you don’t know what to do with them at the beginning. This attitude combined with a growth mindset will yield some important results. You just need to be patient and keep doing it. You’ll make small, but important steps and when you’ll look back after a year or two you’ll realize that you actually learned more than you have imagined.

My role models? Here they are!

First of, since I’ve started in the .Net world most people I’ll mentioned here are from the .Net ecosystem. Also, I’ll mention them in the order I actually made them my role model.

Bob Tabor is the first person I came in contact with. The very first C# course I took was called “C# for absolute beginners” and it was available at that time in the Microsoft Virtual Academy library. I really enjoyed the way he was able to explain a lot of concepts in a language that a total rookie would understand. His passion for teaching others how to code was astonishing. He was fairly active on Twitter and has a lot of YouTube videos. Looking back and seen that now I’m delivering my own courses I would say that his influence on me was quite important.

Mark Russinovich was and still is a role model for me. Even though the content he produces is mostly not developer oriented it’s still very important for developers. He is the Azure CTO at Microsoft and since nowadays the applications we need to build are either cloud native or at least cloud aware, learning about cloud technologies is a really important matter. For instance he talked a lot about Docker when Docker wasn’t already the buzz word it is today. And that surely gave me a head start even if at that time I didn’t really understand how important Docker was. But the technical expertise is not the only thing I’ve learned from him. Mark Russinovich is a great speaker so if you think about talking at conferences in the future just search the web for recordings of his talks and you’ll have a lot to learn from him. Further he also writes novels. Last but not least he is probably the only role model I’ve actually met at a Microsoft conference in Seattle. If you want to keep in touch with what he’s doing, you can follow him on Twitter or check out this Microsoft blog.

Scott Hanselman is for me a role model similar to Mark Russinovich, but mostly with developer oriented content. And his talks are probably funnier 🙂 For aspiring software developers in the .Net ecosystem, Hanselman is a role model you really shouldn’t miss. Most of the newest and coolest stuff on ASP.Net Core I learned from his content. He also has this gift to explain complex things in a simple language. And he produces a lot of content so that I still wonder if his day is also 24 hours long or not. Scott Hanselman runs a blog, produces a podcast, is very active on Twitter and talks at a lot of conferences around the world. So no matter where you are, chances are that sooner or later he’ll be close enough that you can consider to attend one of the conferences.

Immo Landwerth is the newest on my role model list and I keep asking myself how can a developer know so many things. He’s very active on Youtube and Twitch, therefore he produces a lot of video content but is also very active on Twitter. The only thing is that Immo’s content is not particularly easy to follow by rookie software developers, but once you get your software development skills jump started you have a lot to learn from him.

P.S: If anybody from the mentioned individuals should read this article, this is a BIG THANK YOU for what you do day by day!

My advice for whoever is reading this article is: start following these guys. You’ll have a lot to learn from them! Having such role models is very important for your career as a software developer, even if you’re not a beginner anymore. This list is of course limited to guys I consider to be my role models. I’m sure there are a lot of others out there that would be equally suitable for this role so don’t be shy and share your role models by commenting here. Cheers!

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Dan Patrascu-Baba

Dan Patrascu-Baba

Developer, consultant, trainer at Codewrinkles
,Net Developer.Focusing on both the .Net world and Microsoft Azure. Experienced speaker and trainer.
Dan Patrascu-Baba
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