The New Year is a chance to reevaluate.

To take stock of where you’ve been, where you are, and how the world is changing around you.

If you’re a mobile app developer, this is even more important.

Because in this industry, what worked even last month may not work today. And that’s to say nothing of last year.

So, at the beginning of another year, take the opportunity to do some self-reflection and critical thinking. To strategize.

The world is changing. And whether you’re coming up with mobile app ideas or writing the code, you need to adapt to those changes.

So what does the tech industry really want in 2018?

Soft Skills in a Hard Industry

This may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re a coder in 2018, one of the best things you can do for yourself isn’t to learn a new programming language (although don’t get us wrong, that’s still important).

It’s to work on your soft skills.

Communication. Active listening. Working within a distributed team.

All the things that most people take for granted – all the interpersonal competencies that lubricate an organization – are going to be crucial for app developers that want to set themselves apart moving forward.

Because here’s the thing: outsourcing and automation are coming for you. Yes, even for developers.

There’s an unlimited number of freelance offshore developers willing to build mobile apps for a fraction of the cost of US service providers.

In the past, quality was what made the difference. If you contracted someone for $8 an hour halfway across the world, you’d expect poor code.

But that quality gap is closing.

As a developer right now, your technical chops have to be top notch, sure. But that’s not enough.

Increasingly, what matters is everything that supplements your technical ability.

Your ability to communicate with clients, to make them feel heard, and to integrate yourself into their process – that’s what’s going to set you apart.

Business Acumen for Everyone

The days of “keep your head down and code” are over.

Everyone is an entrepreneur now. It doesn’t matter if you’re freelance or a worker bee in a huge multinational.

You must think like an entrepreneur.

Developers who succeed in the future – especially mobile app developers – are the ones who have an innate sense for the business behind the software they’re writing.

Why? Because that innate understanding will seep into the code you write.

It will guide the decisions you make in your code. How you solve problems. Why you choose the architectures you do.

If you can ground your software in the value it produces for users and make every decision with an eye towards the overarching business goals of the product or the organization, you’ll be much more valuable to clients and employers.

In the tech industry of tomorrow, studying Steve Blank is equally as valuable as learning a new programming language.

Play the Long Game

Of course, hard skills still matter. No matter what anyone says, they always will.

The key is getting good at the right hard skills.

As the tech industry matures, grunt work will depreciate in value.

Putting all your semicolons in the right spot is still important. But you can expect it to get less important as time moves on.

Increasingly, automation, code smell detectors, and AI are going to be able to check for syntax errors and other minutiae in your code.

So don’t focus purely on being the best programmer.

Focus on developing skills in the areas poised for growth.

Blockchain, AI, natural language processing (i.e. chatbots), AR, VR, big data, and the Internet of Things – these are the multibillion-dollar industries of tomorrow.

Start learning them now.

You don’t have to be a genius. But whatever portion of time you spend sharpening the saw of your dev chops, it’s time to start using it sharpening the new tools in tech.

It’s easy to spend countless hours doing rote work that feels “productive.” But that doesn’t mean it gives you an advantage.

If you’re careful about what you improve, you can position yourself to be a higher-value developer in 5 years than you ever have been.

But you must be strategic in how you spend your time. Select the high-growth industries that appeal to you and learn what makes them tick. Learn what you need to succeed in them.

And get started now.

Like it or not, we’re all Accelerationists now. Things move faster and faster, of their own accord.

If you want to keep up, you have to constantly look ahead of you, anticipate the changes, and position yourself to capitalize on them instead of getting left in the dust.

Because the world will never stop changing for you.

But if you’re willing to change with it, it’ll be happy to take you along for the ride.

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