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Brian Douglas
Brian Douglas

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3 Areas To Focus on as a Developer in 2021

Every year around this time, I sit down and write my programming goals for the year. This exercise has been tremendously helpful in my future focus/coding sessions, and I think every developer, especially new devs, should take time and identify areas to enhance their knowledge.

This list is not meant to be the ultimate guide for 2021, but just my list of areas I plan to focus on based on my insight.

Also, feel free to leave a comment below--I would love to hear more ideas and why they will be a focus to you.

You can also watch me go into more detail in my latest YouTube video.


My first focus this year is Automation. It is really the key to putting yourself back in a place where you need to be (writing code). Whether it's visual test automation through Applitools or applying ChatOps to assign folks to GitHub issues, this is an area that any developer (despite skill) can provide value right away.

Join in learning how in learning Visual testing later this month

There are countless ways to automate decisions as well and get folks back to code. To name a few of the ways I am looking to incorporate into my developer workflow:

  1. Automate consensus for making code decisions and style choices.
  2. Automate GitHub discussion posts and good-first-issues that are still unresolved.

I am only getting started with Automation thanks to GitHub Actions. If you have an interest in things I have automated, check my GitHub Actions series on YouTube.


I have low confidence in working with databases, mainly due to my frontend focus in the last four years. I have killed or avoided side projects because of this low confidence in solving scaling issues independently. I am looking forward to shipping new projects with a scalable database infrastructure soon.

Supabase is a project that I have been able to peak at on occasion, and I am excited to see the growth of their platform. They provide an approachable interface for folks new to databases, and I am to start shipping with them. Supabase is only one of many options, and I think this is an exciting space ripe for innovation.

As mentioned, The Database side of the backend has been an area I lean on the ORM (Object-relation mapping, i.e. Prisma), and I am looking forward to playing around with it.

Learning SQL is not the goal, but being familiar with the technologies to build and scale projects is the goal. I think a lot of there's been a big push and the last four or five years, probably over the length of the NoSQL movement of not using SQL using key-value stores. And I think there's a lot of value-added to that, but I think there's been a lot of advancement in the traditional SQL space.

Follow me here on DEV for future content exploring different database technologies while learning in public.

Developer (Video) Content

So, how do you get a job in 2021? I honestly don't know the best way without things like in-person meetups and conferences.

My recommendation has always been writing blog posts, and being active in niche Twitter communities is the best option. Still, the next best option might be something I have personally avoided until 2020.

The tool to stand out from the rest will be Video. Making YouTube or TikToks will be a valuable way to set yourself apart, and I will be exploring this all year. I can't say which platform is the best, but I don't think you can go wrong with YouTube content at this point. I am also intrigued by places like egghead and the learning advocate program.

Shout out to the following folks making DevToks a thing.

  1. seaotta
  2. cassidoo
  3. JoeKarlsson1

It is clear in-person conferences are still on hold, and most that are still around have transitioned to remote videos. The majority of them are doing pre-recorded videos, and the best way to find those speakers with pre-recorded speaking experience is those doing it already.

The traditional conference talk is still possible, but conferences are evolving. If you are looking to get started, I recommend joining a coding discord and sourcing content ideas through an existing community. It is a great way to validate ideas before hitting record.

I cannot recommend code live-streams enough as well. While folks are watching, the practice of writing code is challenging; It requires constant interaction with the viewer while also coding. I leaped last year in January and happy I did. If you are interested in that route, watch Chris's intro to live-streaming course on egghead.

I started leveraging code live streams like webinars, which doesn't work. You need to engage with the audience, which I enjoy doing with chat interactions. The chatbot interactions take a little of the cognitive load away while you are trying to solve bugs.

If you are interested, I wrote a post on that experience.

It's not easy to be able to talk and write code at the same time. Um, which is why not many people are doing it, but if you could do it, that's another way you can set yourself apart. So check me out. I'm on Twitch.

I do hope you found this useful. If not, at least you know what I will be working on this year.

Find my work in progress at

Top comments (3)

codemonkey51 profile image
Codemonkey51 • Edited

Cool topic choices, seems interesting

bdougieyo profile image
Brian Douglas

Thanks, I was trying to think outside the box for my goals and not focus on learning Svelte or Rust.

0vortex profile image
TED Vortex (Teodor Eugen Duțulescu)

automation -> hyper-automation :p