Published: 02/01/2016


As a software engineer we spend a good portion of ourselves developing software for the companies we work for and people we may or may not like. As a software engineer its important to invest in yourself, not just in building your skills but in the whole person.

Investing in yourself means to become healthier, happier and smarter. It means to discover hobbies and interests outside of software like skiing or playing games. It also means to focus on learning, reading books, buying better equipment and developing your skills.

Invest in fitness

I don’t mean by buying a gym membership. I mean by focusing on doing things that will help you live a better life. If you need technology to help you get up and go, get a Fitbit and start tracking those steps!

For my own wellness, I’ve started to take more walks, sleep more, relax on the weekends and take a lot of baths. In his book, 8 weeks to Optimum Health, Dr. Andrew Weil explores how to create a lifestyle that lends itself to healthy living. He advocates eating more whole foods, breathing exercises, stretching, walking and having flowers at your desk. His approach is holistic: diet, simple exercise and relaxation techniques to improve your state of mind and well being.

For myself I am focusing on a few key areas:

  1. Reducing acid reflux by eating a cleaner, lower acid diet. By also drinking less coffee and more tea.
  2. Prioritizing spirituality and alone time to think and relax.
  3. Enjoying recreational hobbies like skiing or swimming to reduce stress and enjoy a fuller life.

Fitness isn’t about being a runner or looking athletic. It’s about the whole body wellness and focusing on making you healthy, vital and energized. I love the quote “You weren’t born to just pay bills and die.”.

Invest in your gear

Recently I started to feel pain in my arms and shoulders. After looking online for some guides I made adjustments to my workspace. First I put the monitors on stands. Next I bought a Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. I have to say, this is one of the few Microsoft Products that I absolutely love. It feels so much more natural to type on this keyboard then anything else. Infact I am typing this blog post on that very keyboard.

Lastly I got a LogicTech Trackball mouse. This thing is driven by my thumb and no longer do I need to move my hand to move my mouse. It allows me to control everything very precisely and easily. Right next to it I put a “HandStands” wrist pad to reduce wrist discomfort.

Other things I invest in are tools. I use a ton of Sublime plugins and I’m often searching for new tools to add to my workflow. I’ll do a future blog post on Sublime plugins because there are many. I also buy tools, I find that Tower for Git Diffs and the visual history of Git is extremely useful. I use 1Password for all my passwords. I invest time in finding the right tools for my needs. I also invested a long time ago and bought a Mac. If you’re doing *nix based software engineering I don’t think there is a better piece of hardware you could buy from a laptop.

Invest in your career

How many books did you read last year? I read the Passionate Programmer, I also started on the Pragmatic Programmer, Javascript the Good Parts and High Performance Javascript. They are all great books and while I need to do a better job on finishing books, something that has really helped me is Audible. I use it to listen to audio books, mostly fiction, but recently I picked up “Soft Skills” by the Simple Programmer. Its a book all about developing your soft skills (or people skills) as an engineer. It has done wonders for inspiring me to be the best I can be.

Another thing is to start a side project. It doesn’t have to be anything serious or crazy. I have a few side projects:

  1. I mentor people in the software engineering field. From newbies just graduating a code school to seasoned pros looking to upgrade their frontend chops.
  2. I created a program to analyze trends in Powerball data… Still working on it.
  3. I created a retirement calculator to determine how long my retirement money would last before I die.

Another great thing you can do is go to Meetups or User groups. I have to admit, I’m really terrible at this. I don’t do a good job, mostly because it’s intimidating for me to talk to complete strangers. I’m not THAT out going, sure 1 on 1, thats awesome and wonderful. But 30 on 1? Holy buckets, not my cup of tea. What’s my plan? Go there anyways, drink some hard cider and try to chill out. I need to expand my network and discover new people and new ideas.

Lastly you need to speak. In college I loved public speaking, not only did I always get an “A” for an oral presentation I had a TON of fun doing it. I used to be apart of toastmasters. This year, I’m going to give 6 presentations on web topics at local Meetups.

Investing doesn’t have to be expensive, by focusing on making you a healthier, well equipped and career oriented developer you’ll repeat all kinds of benefits. I truly believe that if you put down the Mountain Dew and went for a walk, that you read a couple of books instead of catching up on the latest Bachelor that your life would greatly improve. That if you buy good gear for your system that you’ll be happier and a better programmer.