No topic is off-limits

My favorite thing about software development is the breadth and depth of the profession. On the one hand, there’s a ton to learn about computer science, programming languages, operating systems, databases, user interface, networking, and so on. On the other hand, there’s even more to learn about math, payments, sociology, team dynamics, finance, commerce, linguistics, business, design, etc. Pretty much the whole world around us!

Some folks tell you topics are off-limits. “Front-end developers don’t need to know databases”. “Back-end developers don’t need to know design”. “You only need to know Linux if you’re doing dev-ops”. “The humanities are a waste of your time.”

Those folks are wrong. 😡

You can pick up whatever ideas you want. You can study a topic at any depth. Choose your own specialization. Learn whatever you want, however you want.

Maybe you want to know just enough Fourier math to understand how imaging and audio systems work. Maybe you’re so hungry for clever math you work the problem sets from a college course. Either way is fine!

Several years ago I wanted to understand the jargon and mechanics of economics and finance. So, I listened to a bunch of podcasts, read a few books, and consistently read a magazine. I can throw around words like “negative externalities” or “financial instrument” now, but I’m no expert. I’m cool with that. I’m just here to understand the shape of things, not to become a professional.

Point is, all of these ideas could come in handy under the very large tent that is software development. Go learn economics, databases, design, or whatever. The more you know, the more likely you are to create a connection between adjacent ideas.

Beyond the languages, the libraries, and all the hype cycles, the ability to understand domains of knowledge is what sets great developers aside from good ones. And none of that knowledge, whether technical or otherwise, is off limits!