Should you get certified as a developer?

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When you start out as a developer, you’ll probably be asked if you want to obtain one or more certificates. However, it can be challenging as a junior to figure out which certifications, if any, are worth obtaining right away. For some roles, hands-on practical experience may be preferred, but potential clients will often request certifications to verify your expertise in a specific method or technology. Since we get this question from a lot of our junior developers, we decided to share our perspective to help you decide which path to take.

Do most junior developers go for certifications right away?

When we ask our employees if they want to update their current certifications or obtain new ones, we’re met with mixed replies. Many of them prefer to start working on a project to develop their practical skills, before adding what is often seen as a list of badges to their profile. In these cases, we try to assign them to some of our smaller (in-house) projects, where they can acquire their first experiences under the guidance of a senior developer.

Other junior developers, generally those that decide to keep working here after their internship, start by taking a course to learn the basics of fullstack Java and JavaScript development. In these cases, we recommend going for the Java SE 8 Programmer Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) certificate, since we consider this an industry standard. By ensuring that most of our developers go through the same certification programme, we try to level the playing field and get everyone on the same page when they tackle their first projects.  

How can I grow my skill set as a junior developer?

While studying for certifications, our developers often find themselves reflecting on their coding practices and the intricacies of the technology they are studying. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pursue a certificate if you want to be a good developer, although some of your future clients may think so. Certification programmes are certainly a good place to start, but the most important thing is to challenge your current frame of knowledge.

Besides certificates, you have many other options as a developer to expand your skills and expertise:

  • Recreate existing applications that inspired you
  • Write blogs on technical topics and use cases
  • Take part in meetups, debates and conferences
  • Give presentations and participate in knowledge sharing activities

So, if you are a junior developer, we definitely recommend taking a look at which certifications interest you. At the same time, make sure to always keep looking for new ways to learn. There are plenty of opportunities out there, so don’t limit yourself to just one method!

The most important thing is to challenge your current frame of knowledge

How can I set the right goals for growing my career?

There’s one final piece of advice that we want to share with you: set clear goals for yourself within a limited timeframe. For example, trying to get certificate X by the end of the year, or presenting on technical topic Y sometime in the next two months. If you’re not sure how to define these goals the right way, we recommend using the SMART criteria for setting objectives:  

  • Specific: aim for a specific technology or (soft) skill set that you want to acquire or improve.
  • Measurable: try to find a way to track your progress, so you can see if you’re on track.
  • Achievable: don’t shoot for the stars, but start small and grow from there.
  • Relevant: think about the bigger picture, especially for advanced career goals.
  • Time-bound: setting a deadline helps to manage expectations and keep yourself accountable.

We also suggest checking these goals with your employer and/or colleagues. They may have another perspective based on their own experiences. Keep an open mind when they suggest alternative goals or ways to develop your career that you did not expect. Good luck, and have fun!

If you’d like to start or develop your career in a great environment to learn, we’re always looking for interns and fullstack developers at Optis. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to code together soon!

Keshia Niemegeerts

August 7, 2023

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