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Three ways software developers can advance careers

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Today’s software developers need the skills and ability to innovate and build agility into every process while fighting for positions. ROSS MCLAREN, redPanda Software Senior Development Manager, offers three tips for software developers to accelerate their career.

Few could argue that the corporate environment has become an ultra competitive, high-pressure world. Across industries and within businesses of all sizes, both leaders and employees have to constantly fight for their positions – and be persistent with their ambitions. Within the sphere of enterprise technology, and software development in particular, the pressure to continually evolve and grow is immense. Enterprise systems and platforms become outdated very quickly, and today’s software developers need the skills and ability to continue to innovate and build agility into every process.

So how does one not only survive, but also continually succeed and produce great outcomes in such a challenging environment? We believe there are three core things that every software developer should be doing to stay relevant and keep expanding…

Be Curious

As an organisation, we look to hire people who are curious and interested in continuous learning. In essence, we are attracted not to what they already know, but to what they want to know. It is usually easy to identify this quality in software developers – they are the people who pursued interesting projects in university; they always have their own pet projects at home; they attend hackathons, events and any type of gathering where new skills and knowledge can be gained and tested.

They are passionate about technology and curious to see where the boundaries of innovation and invention lie at any given moment.

For young graduates and up and coming developers, it is critical to keep expanding your skill set and to look for practical ways to get your hands dirty, so to speak. Dive into projects and always be learning something new.

Look for a Mentor

For software developers at any stage in their careers, but particularly for newcomers, mentorship is essential. Every industry and career path has its challenges and nuances, and it can be immensely valuable to have guidance, as well as a sounding board, as a career kicks off. Mentors can help newbies to integrate into new teams, provide practical insights around best practices, and simply offer advice around conduct and communications in the work environment.

Assigning specific mentors for young developers may not be standard practice in every organisation. It is therefore up to individuals themselves to seek out a suitable mentor and develop a trusting relationship. The feedback loop is beneficial for both parties, as ideas are shared and fresh perspectives emerge.

Develop ‘Soft Skills’

While every software developer certainly needs outstanding technical skills, it is critical to develop the softer, emotional skills as well. Often, this is something that is overlooked when plotting a career path. Within every business, the most successful and engaged employees have developed strong interpersonal skills, and they understand how to communicate and engage with both colleagues and clients. This requires developing traits such as empathy, patience, and the ability to listen deeply before responding.

In essence, by becoming well rounded and fully developed on a personal level, talented software developers can apply their technical skills in a far more meaningful and impactful way. They can truly push the boundaries of innovation and bring an edge to their work that truly sets them apart…

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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