Personal Retrospectives


We spend our time at work reflecting on our team's progress. We look for the root cause of problems to identify ways to make our work life better.

We spend our time at work reflecting on our team's progress. We look for the root cause of problems to identify ways to make our work life better.

Yet it's easy to forget to follow these same self-evaluation processes for our own professional development. The beginning of a new year is a time of reflection, so I'm taking this time to do a little retrospective of my own. Books like Chad Fowler's " The Passionate Programmer: Creating a Remarkable Career in Software Development " and Johanna Rothman's " Manage your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects " offer some suggestions about guiding your personal career which are good fodder for a self-retrospective.

Here are some questions I'm asking myself this year:

  • "What language will I learn this year?" " The Pragmatic Programmer " suggests learning a new language every year to build your programming skills. This isn't just to build a resume; it's to help you learn new ways of programming. And these new ways of thinking about problems can help you in your other languages; for example, learning Haskell might help you learn to program with more immutable state in Java. I'm considering Clojure this year for its very different approach to concurrent programming.
  • "What didn't go so well?" It's easy to get caught up in a problem, sometimes feeling blindsided. While it's common for teams to ask this question on a week-by-week basis, I often forget to ask myself this about my own experience. By identifying the causes of some of these situations, I hope to look for warning signs to identify them sooner.
  • "What went well?" Focusing on the positives is important, and for me at least, I often to forget to look there. If you do something well, it might be time to find more opportunities to do it.
  • "What's on my reading list?" Again, The Pragmatic Programmer is here - always be learning and finding ways to improve your skills. This past year I really enjoyed Steve Freeman and Nat Pryce's Growing Object-Oriented Software Guided By Tests , which had a lot to say about iterative design. I'm looking forward to reading The RSpec Book to learn first-hand from some BDD practitioners.

What questions do you find helpful for guiding your professional development?

About the author

Daniel Wellman's picture Daniel Wellman

Daniel Wellman is a technical lead at Cyrus Innovation, a leading agile consultancy based in New York, where he leads development projects and coaches teams on adopting agile software development practices. Daniel has more than ten years of experience building software systems and is an expert in agile methodologies, object-oriented design, and test-driven development. Contact Daniel at

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