Writing Well: a must-have skill that no one teaches software developers
Forget that hip new technology! To take your software development career to the next level, learn... how to write well.
I started writing because the generous community of programmers had helped me by sharing their knowledge freely over the Internet. I wanted to contribute to this incredible trend so I could be a part of something bigger than myself.
Little did I know that it'll be me who gets benefitted the most by pursuing this noble cause.
3 years of writing on the Internet has done more for my career than what 4 years of college education did.
I published 14 articles in the past 3 years while I was teaching myself programming, data science and machine learning. These have allowed me to
- reach hundreds of thousands of readers around the world,
- make valuable connections,
- get a unique job opportunity,
- work with people from multiple countries and
- make more money than I hoped for.
In this article, I'll tell you why being a good writer can take your career to the next level and how you can start your writing journey as a software developer.
The Writing Revolution
We are living through a Writing Revolution where good writing skills can have an immense impact on the life of every ambitious software developer.
In the past 30 years, our world has changed in a fundamental way - Internet has demolished the cost of distributing information.
"It turns days into minutes," Andrew Grove, the legendary CEO of Intel, commented on the arrival of email. "A lot more people know what's going on than did before, and they know it a lot faster than they used to."
Today we have email, Slack, Notion, Github, Twitter, Facebook and a plethora of Internet apps focused on written communication.
For 200, 000 years of human history, speaking and listening was the primary mode of communication. But in the past 30 years, reading and writing has overtaken it as the primary mode of communication.
You are now living in the early years of a Writing Revolution that has changed the way humans communicate with each other.
Traditional education, however, has failed to recognise this human-scale revolution - good writing tuitions are still reserved for students of the liberal arts.
You cannot wait for traditional education to catch up when being a good writer can benefit your career now.
Especially, with the remote-working revolution underway.
The Remote-Working Revolution
Some of the biggest companies of our generation like Facebook, Twitter and Shopify have recently announced a permanent transition to remote working. Inevitably, they have paved the path for entire industries to follow.
Therefore, it's highly likely that your next company will be working remotely.
In remote settings, with little face-to-face interaction, written communication becomes the key.
Your competitive advantage in a tough job market
Work-from-home means that the competitors for your next job are not just from your city, they are from your entire country and potentially the whole world. Add economic depression and rock bottom unemployment rates to the mix, and you have a saturated job market.
You need to find a way to stand out.
Being a good writer will help you.
When deciding between a few candidates to fill a position, companies like Basecamp hire the better writer. People of Basecamp have been working remotely for more than 20 years and great writing is a prerequisite for every single position they have.
Being a good writer boosts the arc of your entire career
Being a good writer helps you get a new job. A better job.
But more importantly, it helps you do your everyday work better and therefore, changes the arc of your entire career!
Here are 3 ways it boosts your career:
1. Grabbing the valuable attention of people around you
- You need your peers to read that awesome idea you propose.
- You need your subordinates to pay attention to you.
- You need hiring managers to read your next job application.
- You need interesting people, that you admire, to read and answer your cold emails.
- You need your connections on LinkedIn or Twitter to pay attention to your posts - we all know, better connections mean better opportunities.
Yet, you can't rely on the awesomeness of your ideas to grab their attention. Everyone has loads of them.
What differentiates successful people is their ability to convey their ideas in ways that makes people want to pay attention.
"Being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit."
- David Heinemeier Hanson and Jason Fried, founders of Basecamp
2. Finding new career opportunities
Writing on the Internet can advance your career. A well-written article, published on the Internet, works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to find new opportunities for you!
Therefore, your blog is like a resume, only better.
Writing a useful article is the quickest way to establish yourself as an expert in that field. No degrees required.
Two years ago, I wrote an article to help people get started with reading Deep Learning research papers. It still fetches me LinkedIn connections from PhDs in universities around the world. Funny thing is that I have read only one research paper in my life - when I wrote the article!
"By making it easy for people to find you online, you’ll create a vehicle for serendipity."
- David Perell, creator of the popular course Write of Passage
Good online presence allows you to connect with like-minded people around the world, who you would never be able to meet in real life. And meaningful social connections are often the source of surreal career opportunities.
3. Improving your thinking
"You don’t just write to share what you think. You write to discover what you think in the first place."
- Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, the company behind Wordpress
Compressing your thoughts into the written word removes noise from your thoughts. Clear writing induces clear thinking.
This is why Jeff Bezos makes his executives prepare 6-page narratives instead of 20-slide Powerpoint before any meeting. Bezos believes that Powerpoint presentations conceal lazy thinking. Instead, he wants his employees to think deeply and take the time to express their thoughts cogently.
I'm often amazed to see how writing an idea leaves me with a better version of the idea itself. It makes me realise how sloppy my thinking usually is.
Writing clearly can have the same effect on your thinking too.
Despite all this, writing is not taught in most CS courses and bootcamps. There are no good courses or tutorials for coders to learn how to write well.
I plan to change that.
I'm going to publish a series of articles here on Hashnode to help learners who are in the same place as I was a few years ago. I'll share quick practical lessons help you get started with writing on the Internet.
This article is the first one in the series. So, follow me to get the notifications.
Also, if you would like to get these lessons delivered to your email, one per week, sign up here for my free email course.
Love this! Just signed up for the newsletter. I started my blog on Hashnode to accomplish this. I want to be a remote web developer and writing is helping me communicate more clearly.
I agree with you Nityesh Agarwal. Writing has helped my software engineering career in more ways than I can imagine.
Every software engineer should really start blogging.