Developer Documentation I've Used Throughout My Career

There are a few personal documents I’ve used at various stages in my career so far, in this post I share descriptions of these docs and how I used them.

The Surprise Journal

Credit: How I hacked my imposter syndrome using personal tracking by Lin Taylor

This document is a spreadsheet with the headings “Date”, “What I was surprised or confused by”, “What I thought would happen”, “What actually happened”, “What did I learn”, “Notes”, “Categories”, “Related PR” that I used largely in my first two years working as a developer to build up the habit of investigation. It helped me reflect and track my learning, and to see patterns in areas where I was lacking experience or knowledge.

The Brag Document

Credit: Get your work recognized: write a brag document by Julia Evans

This is a document of achievements (big & small) during my time working at a given company. I used it consistently 2017-2020, sometimes for review by a manager but largely for myself to map specific examples to the corporate career rubric.
In 2020 I added a timeline view of this work since the impact evaluations were also time sensitive.
I’ve added an outline of what mine looked like below, but I highly recommend reading the original post by Julia Evans linked above and trying out what works for you!

Brag Document Outline:

## YEAR Brag Document

### Goals
Goals for that given year. Some examples include giving an internal talk etc.

### Projects
- Table with headings: "Project", "Contributions", "Impact", "Results", "Personal takeaways"

### Collaboration & mentorship
Specific mentoring experiences and formal roles go here

### Company building
Interviewing candidates

### Organizing
- Lunch n Learns you've hosted, events you've run

### Outside of work
- Here you can list blog posts, conferences spoken at/attended etc

1:1 Note Taking

My most effective 1:1s were ones I had prepared for and shared a set of talking points with my lead. Doing so helped guide the conversation, and ensured my points were getting addressed.
It also provided a historical record of what had been discussed in each 1:1, which helped frame the overall arc of the conversation. I also used the brag document and surprise journal to help me come up with talking points that helped with reflecting on and furthering my career.
In terms what specific tools I used to do this; notes were mostly taken collaboratively in Fellow but Notion or something similar would work just as well.
Weekly 1:1s are easy to start taking for granted, but they can be a powerful tool for improving your overall job satisfaction. Do not hesitate to take what you need from that time!


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