New software developers often feel a bit put off by the idea of working with old code. It might not seem very interesting compared to creating something brand new. But this view misses the chances to learn and grow that come with understanding and updating old code. This article looks at the good things that can come from working with existing systems.
The Challenge and Chance to Learn
When starting in software development, many people want to make something new. It’s a normal feeling, but it’s good to know there’s much to gain from working with existing code. It might seem like a limitation, but being able to understand old code is a skill that many people need.
Why Look at More Code Than You Make?
In the real world, programmers often read more code than they create. Getting good at understanding old code can help you stand out. Just like a new writer learns from reading books by great authors, understanding old code enables you to become a better programmer. Looking at code, getting what it does, and fixing it up can turn you into an expert.
Developing the Virtue of Code Reading
In programming, reading code isn’t just a job to do; it’s a skill that needs practice. The article “Read Code Like a Ninja” tells us that we often read code more than we write it. This isn’t just something we do without thinking; it’s more like studying a complex subject. By learning how our minds work and finding ways to read code that fits with that, we can get better at it without wasting time. There are tools and practices to make reading code easier, and just like any skill, the more we do it, the better we get. This way of looking at old code makes it more than just a tedious task. It’s a chance to grow and get better at something that’s at the heart of what programmers do.
Here is a must-read article on this subject that would help you learn to acquire code reading skills: 7 Ways to Improve Your Code Reading Skill.
Fixing and Finding Problems in Code
Learning how to fix up code and find issues is a crucial skill. It’s about more than just stopping code from worsening; it’s about improving it over time. Books like “Refactoring” by Martin Fowler can help you learn these skills. They show you how to keep code working well.
Learning Through Side Projects
Along with working on old code, trying outside projects and looking into new technology helps you learn different skills. This way, you’re not just stuck with old code but are also trying out new things. These projects keep you up to date with what’s new in the field.
Being a software developer isn’t just about working on the latest projects. As software grows and gets older, it turns into what’s called “legacy code.” But that’s where your expertise can shine. Rather than shying away from this aspect of the profession, embracing it can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling career. Remember, knowing all parts of software development and constantly learning is critical to doing well in this field. With an open mind and the right help, even tough old code can be a chance to grow and succeed.
Here are some resources that might help you:
- Martin Fowler – Refactoring https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35135772-refactoring
- Joshua Kerievsky – Refactoring to Patterns: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/85041.Refactoring_to_Patterns
- Refactoring Catalog: https://refactoring.com/catalog
- Refactoring to Patterns earlier paper: http://www.tarrani.net/RefactoringToPatterns.pdf
- Christian Clausen – Five Lines of Code: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55892270-five-lines-of-code
- Chris Birchall – Re-Engineering Legacy Software: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24850349-re-engineering-legacy-software
- A refactoring example in 50 easy steps: https://www.lagerweij.com/2011/05/28/code-cleaning-a-refactoring-example-in-50-easy-steps/