Becoming a successful software developer can be trying, especially if you have limited programming experience. Besides learning how to code, you need to use your software development knowledge to create, test, and deploy projects. You must also set work goals and a realistic career roadmap to push yourself further.
Read this guide to learn more about goal setting for new developers. Along the way, we'll explore what software developers do, what is goal setting, and why career goal-plans and performance improvement plans are important for developers. We have also included a downloadable goal-setting template for new developers.
What Do Software Developers Do?
Before we dive into goal setting, you need to know what software developers do.
Software developers design, program, create, test, deploy, and maintain software using programming and design skills. They also construct, test, and maintain software systems that power devices and networks. Other duties include:
- Collaborating with other developers and departments to design flowcharts, workflows, and algorithms
- Gathering and analyzing user feedback
- Recommending and implementing improvements
- Producing clean and effective code based on specifications
- Troubleshooting, upgrading, and debugging existing software
To perform these duties well, software developers must have a wide range of skills, including:
- Professional development skills
- Machine learning skills
- Ability to evaluate code quality
- First-rate communication and problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- The ability to automate DevOps pipelines
- Experience with object-relational mapping (ORM) and databases
- Experience working with various software development methodologies, such as Agile, Scrum, Lean, and Scrumban
Software developers work in various industries, including technology, business, education, manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace, and government jobs.
What Is Goal Setting?
Now that you know what software developers do, let's define goal setting.
Simply put, goal setting is the process of setting goals for yourself. It is a powerful way to think about your future and motivate yourself to transform ideals and goals into reality.
There are three types of goals:
- Process Goals: These are specific actions that are 100% controllable. An example would be deciding to code for two hours after work every day.
- Performance Goals: These goals are based on personal standards and are mostly controllable. An example would be achieving an A in a programming course.
- Outcome Goals: These goals are based on winning. An example would be landing a job at a tech company you've always wanted to work for. Outcome goals are hard to control because of external factors such as the job market and employer hiring budgets.
Why Are Software Developer Goal Setting Examples Important?
And how might they help a software developer on your team? This not only helps them create clear initiatives within your company, and communicate what the expectations of the developers, but will also help shape a developer's career and future. Career goals are important for developers and help them with their own career trajectory for several reasons:
Align and Guide Your Focus
First, career goals can align and guide your focus.
Without goals, you may find it difficult to determine what you want out of your programming career. You may also pointlessly waste your efforts, energy, and time on things that don't directly contribute to your career.
For example, you may decide to learn Python frameworks on a whim, without considering whether it's a good fit for your end goal. This results in months or even years of wasted time and energy.
Achieve Your Dreams One Step at a Time
Many people lose track of their goals because they don't know how to get from point A to point B effectively. Goals can motivate you to reach these goals by breaking your end goal into smaller tasks.
To illustrate, let's say you want to be a freelance software developer. However, you're about to give up because you feel like there's too much to learn. To motivate yourself, you can break your end goal into smaller, doable tasks, such as:
- Learning about a programming language every day until you master the basics
- Coding in that programming language until you understand how to assemble an app
- Learning about testing methods until you have the confidence to test your apps
- Testing your apps until the testing process becomes as familiar as the back of your hand
Goal-plans can also encourage you to improve every day.
Once you've reached a goal, you should continue setting new goals to develop your skills. If you don't do this, you can easily fall behind the curve, making you less competitive than other developers on the market.
What Are SMART Goals and How Do You Use Them: Examples
One of the best ways to set goals is to use the SMART goals model. SMART stands for the following:
Effective goals must be specific. They must answer questions like:
- What do you want to accomplish? For example, do you want to learn a new programming language?
- Who is responsible for accomplishing this goal?
- What steps must be taken to achieve this goal?
To illustrate, let's say you want to learn how to use Python to create a mobile app. Your specific goal may look something like this:
Learn how to create a mobile app with Python.
Once you've created a specific goal, you need to quantify your goals by making them measurable. You can do this by adding trackable and measurable benchmarks, times, and dates.
Here's what your Python learning goal may look like once you've added measurable and trackable benchmarks.
Learn how to create a Python mobile app by learning and practicing Python from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
The next step is to ask whether your goal is achievable.
In other words, do you have the time, energy, and dedication to learn and practice coding in Python from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily? If not, what would be a more realistic goal? Consider reducing the frequency if you have limited free time.
Here's what your goal would look like after adjusting for attainability:
Learn how to create a Python mobile app by learning and and practicing Python from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Sunday.
Remember, goals should always be realistic. Otherwise, you will be too daunted and overwhelmed to reach your goals.
Then, think about the big picture. Why are you setting this goal? What are you trying to accomplish? Is your goal integral to your larger career goal of becoming a successful mobile developer? If not, consider pivoting to a more suitable language for mobile development.
For reference, Python is not the best language for mobile development. In fact, many seasoned developers consider Python to be a poor choice for mobile development. Compared to languages like Java, Kotlin, PHP, Swift, and C++, Python is substantially slower to execute. It also boasts high memory consumption, which can cause a lot of lag. As such, you should consider choosing another language to reach your ultimate career goal of becoming a successful mobile developer.
Here's what your goal could look like after considering relevancy and choosing Java over Python:
Learn how to create a Java mobile app by learning and practicing Java from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Sunday.
Finally, you must determine the timeframe for reaching your goal. This will motivate you to reach milestones on and ahead of time and stick to your goal.
Here's what your finalized SMART goal could look like after incorporating dates and time-bound parameters:
Learn how to create a Java mobile app by learning and practicing Java from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Sunday. I will do this starting in December 2022. I am to be able to independently code, test, debug, and deploy Java applications by December 2023.
Downloadable Goal-Setting Template for New Developers
Goal setting doesn't end with getting hired by a company. Quite the contrary — once you're hired, you must set more developer goals to succeed in your new workplace.
Use this software developer goal setting examples template to kickstart your goal-planning process. We've included explanations for why you need each goal below.
Congratulations! You've just been hired. Follow these goals during your first week to gain a better understanding of:
- Other developers and departments you'll be working with
- The tech stack you'll be working with
- Your company's work culture and preferences
- Your team ceremonies
Onboarding With the Tech Team
First, you need to go through the onboarding process. Also called organizational socialization, onboarding is a human resources (HR) team for introducing a new hire to an organization. It is a vital part of helping employees understand their new job and position requirements.
Onboarding processes usually include the following:
- Job training
- Culture and policy training
- Benefits education and paperwork
- Employee handbook training
- Tours of the company building or office, if the job is hybrid or in-person
- Team introductions
To make the best first impression on your employer and teammates, remember to be courteous and engaged. Make sure you understand your new position and ask as many questions as needed. This will demonstrate your passion, dedication, and proactive attitude.
Install the Environments on Your Machine
After the onboarding process, you should install your company's preferred integrated development environments (IDEs) on your machine. IDEs are software applications that offer full-suite facilities for software development, such as source code editors, debuggers, and build automation tools.
Popular IDEs include:
- Visual Studio
- IntelliJ IDEA
- Komodo Edit
Understand How To Structure and Organize the Company's Files
Next, you must understand how your company structures and organizes files. If you don't follow their method of structuring and organizing files, team members may have difficulty locating your files, leading to delays, miscommunication, and disagreements.
Participate in Your Team's Ceremonies and Take the Opportunity to Ask Questions to the Team
You also need to participate in your team's ceremonies and practices. For instance, if you're part of a Scrum team, you must regularly participate in four Scrum ceremonies, including:
- Sprint Planning: This Scrum ceremony ensures that the team is prepared to get things done every Sprint. Sprints are short timeframes where a Scrum team works to complete a shippable product, such as a product update or prototype.
- Daily Scrum: This ceremony requires team members to get together every day, define their daily goals and tasks, and identify blockers to success.
- Sprint Review: Team members perform Sprint Reviews at the end of every Sprint to showcase all of the work they've completed. Sprint Reviews allow stakeholders to see products sooner and adapt or inspect the product during the production process.
- Sprint Retrospective: This ceremony allows the team to look back on the work they completed during the Sprint. It is an opportunity to identify items that can be improved.
Talk To the Product and Design People of Each Team
Additionally, you should talk to the product and design people in each department or team. This will give you a stronger idea of what internal and external stakeholders are looking for in software development. Be sure to ask the following questions:
- How would you design [software or app type]?
- What are your system design goals?
- What is the company's approach to user interface (UI) design? How do we make products easy to use?
- How do we measure customer satisfaction? For example, do we have in-app customer surveys for evaluating our UI designs? What metrics do we use?
After reaching your first-week goals, start setting goals for the first month. These can include:
Have At Least One 1:1 Meeting With Each Person on Your Team
Now that you have a general idea of who's on your team, you need to get to know everyone on a deeper level. You can do this by having at least one one-on-one meeting with each team member. If you don't have the time to meet with each person in the flesh, consider meeting with them on Zoom, Skype, or Slack.
Get To Know Other Areas of the Company
You should also get to know other departments in the company, such as marketing, HR, and legal. This gives you a clearer idea of the company culture and prepares you for future cross-department projects.
Make Your First Software Delivery
By the end of the first month, you should be able to make your first software delivery. Make sure you meet all deadlines on and ahead of time — otherwise, you will risk making a bad impression on your teammates and management.
Host Some Team Presentations
Hosting team presentations can help you get to know more people in your company. It will also demonstrate proactivity and passion for software development.
Talk To Someone From the Customer Experience Team To Understand the Most Frequent Complaints From Users
Now that you've made your first software delivery, you need to develop a deeper understanding of what users want. The easiest way to do this is to talk to someone from the customer experience team about the most frequent user complaints. You should also ask them the following questions:
- Who is our target audience? Can you show me our top marketing personas?
- What do they want from our products and services?
- What security features do customers want and need from our products and services?
Know the Delivery Priorities and Main Business Rules of Each Product
First-rate developers always meet their delivery priorities on time. They also know the business rules of each product and service they work on. Accordingly, you need to ask team members and management the following questions:
- What are the delivery priorities for [customer group or tier, such as "Business-tier customers"]?
- What business rules do we follow for [app or product type]? For instance, what do we do when a customer wants a return outside of the default 30-day window?
- How many priority systems do we have, and when do we use each?
First Three Months' Goals
Once your first month ends, you need to set goals for the next two months. Examples include:
Know the Context of Your Team
Knowing each person on the team and working with them daily isn't enough. To truly succeed and make a great impression on your employer, you must identify your team's context. This means attending cross-department meetings and talking to colleagues to identify:
- The larger organizational setting in within which your team works (i.e., how your team interacts and collaborates with other departments)
- How your team identifies and resolves conflicts
- Your team's internal processes, habits, and routines
Know the Priorities of Your Team and the Company
By the end of the first three months, you should know the priorities of your team and company. Specifically, you should know the answers to the following questions:
- What is my company's vision?
- What are my company's goals?
- What are my team's goals? Does my team instill code ownership goals?
- What are my company and team's long-term goals? How about short-term goals? What is the relative value of each goal?
Make Consistent Deliveries With Measurable Results
You should also know how to make consistent deliveries with measurable results. You can ensure this by:
- Implementing and following a continuous learning culture
- Developing and maturing Agile practices
- Automating infrastructure
- Improving delivery cadence by applying microservices architecture
Be Integrated and Get Along Well With the People on Your Team
Finally, integrate and get along with teammates by listening to them, considering their feedback, and participating in team-building activities. If you're a senior software engineer or developer, you should also consider mentoring junior and entry-level developers.
The Importance of Setting Goals for Software Developers
Becoming a software developer can be an uphill battle, especially if you have limited expertise and relevant working experience. If you don't set the right goals, you can easily lose your motivation.
That's why you should develop SMART goals for your software development career. Not only will SMART goals align and guide your focus, but they will also help you achieve your dreams and improve continually. If you don't know where to start, use our downloadable goal plan for new developers to kickstart your development goal plan.
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