I have always been a gadget guy, always wanting, but not always buying that next coolest thing that I thought would make my life better in every way, shape, and form. Fortunately, I also had a father who constantly reminded me that all that glitters is not gold, and I now have a wife that believes the same, taking a different approach to force me to really think if I need that cool new gadget or not. If it were not for these two, I might be surrounded by piles and piles of useless junk that I used for about a week until they were no longer cool, or something even better caught my eye. Given that information, I still have my favorites and believe that each of these devices aid in my ability to produce better software.
Stay still, and the world will pass you by
Most developers could spend hours swapping war stories about the times that they went for endless hours without leaving their machine - programming all through the day and deep into the night. While this might have solved the problem at the time, it might have been solved faster or in a better way if the developer had just spent some time away from the screen. A smart watch or fitness tracker reminds you that there is more to life than sitting or standing at the desk. Whether you are sitting or standing, staying in the same spot for extended periods of time, is not good for the body. Moving prevents low metabolism, stiff joints, obesity, and a host of other health issues. Moving also allows the blood to circulate throughout the entire body, including the brain – more oxygen to the brain, better ideas, faster processing…you get the idea.
Smartwatches also come in handy when leaving the comfort of the office to interact with customers. Having a smartwatch allows you to stay connected with the office without awkwardly checking your phone. When a reminder, email, message, or other information comes through on the phone, you can glance down without interrupting the meeting and determine whether or not the notification needs immediate attention.
Tune the world out
Every developer needs an amazing set of headphones. Not only does listening to music change the way the brain thinks and allow for more creative solutions, but it also allows the developer to keep the rest of the world out and focus on the task at hand. Even at a large office, headphones allow you to create your own workspace. Having headphones on sends visual cues to your fellow coworkers that you are attempting to concentrate and should not be disturbed. Having a rough day? Change the music to fix your mood without altering the mood of others.
Key in on the natural connection
Due to the nature of the work, developers are often confined to the office. Occasionally though, we’re needed outside of the office to meet with clients. Dragging along a laptop to these meetings, while more natural to those of us who love a good keyboard, does not lead to natural meetings. Typing, even with the quietest of keyboards, is loud and distracting, and drawing is never quick and easy. All the while, both keep your attention focused on the machine and not on the customer themselves. Good customer interaction involves eye contact, and having as little as possible between you and your client. To solve this problem, I have seen two very effective approaches: owning a tablet with a good digital pen, or owning an endless notebook. While the first approach is technically cool, it is also expensive leading you down the path of always wanting to upgrade and get the latest version of the tablet as they roll out, perhaps even having to add it to your mobile carrier plan.
As technology progresses, I am amazed at how natural a pen and paper still feel. I love using an endless notebook and find it to be the preferred solution – only ever having to buy pens when they run out of ink. I recommend the Rocketbook Core Smart Notebook. This notebook has real paper specifically designed for taking notes and drawing diagrams, which are then automatically sent to specific cloud destinations that you predetermine. When the notebook is full, simply clean it and use it again. Taking notes using this method allows you to be more connected with your customers and leads to better customer service, while still saving time not having to type out handwritten notes when you return to the office.
Although this does not look like a gadget, this is probably one of the most powerful gadgets at your disposal. To stay current with the latest trends and latest tools in software development, you must strive to continuously be learning. The difficult part in all of this is balance; trying to get the tasks that you need to complete for work and customers done, keep up with your family and responsibilities, remain an active member of society, and find time to learn something new and keep up with the latest technologies. While independent learning allows you to search and learn at your own pace, I find by the end of the day, my eyes are often tired and no matter how much reading I attempt to do, I end up rereading the same material again and again without much of it seeping into my brain. Throughout time, a variety of methods have been created for learning, however, the best and most repeated often involve a teacher and a student.
Today, you can still learn at your own pace, and bring the teacher to you when it is most convenient. With either a digital subscription to a learning site, like Pluralsight, Code Academy, or Udemy, or simply through searches on YouTube, a person can learn new concepts and languages. Through paid subscriptions, users can save their location in the lesson, take quizzes to ensure they understand the concept, and receive certifications verifying they have met acceptance criteria for the concept.
Wait, there’s more…
I could spend hours telling you about the coolest gadgets out there from desks, to keyboards and mice, to chairs, time tracking tools, lighting that changes with you...all that solve one or more items on your things I need to play with, er...I mean products that make me a better developer list. However, I’ll stop here. I have covered the items that I have been able to fully justify, and have made a true difference in enabling me to be a stronger developer.