Last year, I spent most of my work trying to bring the potential of my fellow developers into full play. I was pretty confident about the routine I have established. This year, I’m trying out a new approach based on experiences from last year. I’m certain it will help others be more focused on their growth.

The background

Currently, I take care of 18 developers and their growth. The way we work is mostly based on the approach I have described in my book “To-Do: Team!”. Since I no longer work in an office, I had to adjust the described methods a bit, so they would be more remote friendly.

In a nutshell, the way we work together consists of establishing goals on a weekly basis. Every week, each of my fellow developers sets aside an hour for personal development. This is a time meant for his or her own professional growth and improving their craftsmanship. On top of that, we sync every week on Slack or Google Hangouts where we figure out what to do next week.

A big part of what I do consists of coming up with new goals for the developers I work with. They often have big dreams and ideas about what they want to do. Breaking those down into smaller, manageable tasks makes the whole experience more motivating. It also provides a way to monitor progress every week.

The realization

I noticed that most of the developers I work with, have done a wide variety of things throughout the last year. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in exploring a lot of areas of interest.

Unfortunately, not having a specific guideline might be a recipe for dissatisfaction.

Developers that turned out to be the most satisfied, were the ones that did a lot of things around one area of interest.

For example my friend Kelvin, who ended the year with a Community Leadership Excellence award.

I have asked all developers I am working with to take a week to think about who they want to become this year. Most of them gave ideas on what they want to do, to the contrary of my advice.

Very quickly, it became clear what would be the theme of the year for each one of them.

It is crucial to the process to think of higher purpose values instead of immediate actions.

Give it a name

After discussing their goals, I figured out that a good practice would be to name those goals.

This way the themes are more tangible and serve as a guideline on who you want to become this year.

Here are just a few of my notes that I have taken during the talks:

Joel is convinced that the problem of security will increase in short term. He wants to invest in OS/software security skills. Thus his theme will be:


George wants to focus this year on mentoring younger developers, empowering communities, hackerspaces etc. So his theme for this year will be:


Kasper wants to finish 2 of his React libraries this year and creating some GitHub presence for himself is also a priority. His theme for this year will be:


Gianluca has grown a keen interest in all things Serverless. He wants to experiment a lot with it and, in the end, create an online course on that topic. Thus his theme for 2017 is:


It has been a month since we started using the method and I am seeing a lot of enthusiasm from all the developers. They say this will make them much more focused on what they want to achieve. Getting a satisfaction boost at the end of the year will also be a bonus. Some of them have already made quite some progress in their theme.

I am certain that this will result in an avalanche of accomplished goals.

If you want to keep your actions focused, try picking a theme for yourself this year and give it a name. You will not regret it.