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Why Developers Should Share What They Know

In any programming language, there are big names that many developers strive to be like, at least when it comes to code. But what is it about these developers that makes them admired role models? Are they highly experienced, and usually the people who actually develop the language itself? Yes. Do they put out tutorials and talk about programming in a way that is useful, awesome, flashy, and at times intimidating? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

I met and asked Android Developer Jake Wharton about his following and how he built up such a portfolio of expertise at a conference last year. As it turns out, it’s not a magical thing that he does. Yes, it requires an incredible amount of work, and a pairing of personal and professional interest, but he does what all of you are able to do: speak, write, help, and show what you do and what you’re interested in, with consistency.

Sharing what you know can be as big as presenting at a large conference in another country, writing an ebook guide on a topic that you know a lot about, or as humble as thoughtfully answering questions on Stack Overflow. The broad spectrum of knowledge sharing allows for growth on four levels: Personal, Team, Company, and Community. No matter your career plans, sharing what you know can open up opportunities that you never thought possible! If nothing else, you will learn something in the process.

(Gasp) Public Speaking

We have a large group of developers here at Labs who are interested in, or are actively speaking at, conferences around the world on both technical and team or career-related advice. Every single one of these speakers started out like you! They knew about a technical topic, they had a specific angle with their viewpoint, and they wanted to share what they knew. While an international developer conference can be intimidating, start small. Speak at a meetup group or give a lunch and learn. Ask for feedback, refine your talk, and pitch it to local conferences.

There’s no faster way to get really good at a skill than to realize that you will have to explain it to a room full of people. You learn to build rapport with a room full of people, which is a translatable skill no matter what you want to do — but especially valuable if you want to be any kind of leader.

I asked our Director of Training and Development, Erika Languirand, for some insight. “This is straight personal gain. Through all of the sharing, and speaking, and teaching that I have done throughout the community (I’m a Girl Develop It Detroit co-founder among others) and at conferences, I have security in my field. I love this company, but if we folded tomorrow, I know who my first three calls would be. Speaking gives you security in your field. It helps other people say, ‘That person knows about that field and we should try to hire them.’”


I may be a bit biased, but writing about what you know is a low barrier to entry if you’re thinking about starting to share what you know. This can be contributing to your company’s blog (if applicable), or starting a personal one. The importance is having some consistency.

Blogging contributes to your company, the community (especially if it is a tutorial), and also your personal portfolio. Are you wanting to take a deeper dive into a niche area? Write about it. Did a Stack Overflow question inspire you or — let’s be honest — make you angry enough to want to show how you solve the problem? Write about it. You can always go back into those SO threads and link to your post. You can share your tutorial with language-specific weekly newsletters like Android Weekly and Swift Weekly. If you’re proud of what you built for work, the open source community, or a personal project, write about it and share what you’ve learned.

Answering Questions on Stack Overflow

One of the first things that I learned from the Detroit Labs Apprenticeship program was that everyone can teach something. You may be a new developer or a senior developer, but I guarantee you, there is something you can teach to developers asking questions. It may be hard to gain visibility on popular subjects, but if you start with a niche area in which you have knowledge and can be specifically helpful in this area, you can begin to build street cred as a developer who has handled x a lot, and is willing to give suggestions or be consulted, be it in your own company or the community at large. The authenticity that flows out of you as a developer talking about solving a problem that you had is not unique to you. Others may also have the same problem and want to solve it. Work on something that has meaning to you, solve it, and share what you have learned to help the community!