In the programming world, it’s critical to have a diverse skillset. The odds of finding someone who is supremely gifted at just one aspect or language of programming, such as C++, but has virtually no command of anything else, is pretty small. This is because technology is constantly growing and evolving, which in turn changes the stacks that companies work with. The need to diversify one’s portfolio of skills and maintain proficiency in a variety of things is very important for any diligent developer who wants to stay on the cutting edge. Which is why you’ll see people maneuvering through a variety of languages, frameworks, and libraries. While the answer to what kinds of specific tools you should pick up (C vs. C++, Python vs. Go, etc.) does not have a strict answer, and instead depends on what you wish to do or who you’re working for, one skill that all programmers should pick up is the mastery of GitHub. Here are three reasons why:
1. Everyone uses it
GitHub is, in short, incredibly popular in the developer community, and only continues to flourish. In the tech world, the success of a new piece of technology has as much to do with widespread adoption as it does actual innovation. A beautiful, efficient new language may catch fire like it should if no one cares to pick it up. If everyone had turned their noses up at Python when it first came out, it wouldn’t be the darling it is right now; it would have stayed as another side project of Guido van Rossum. But, since people flocked to it, it’s now one of the most popular programming languages out there.
The same goes for GitHub – as of 2015, there are over 9 million users of the service and over 21.1 million repositories. It’s the most popular source code hosting facility out there, and it’s still growing. With a cool new $250 million in funding raised and a valuation of around $2 billion, GitHub isn’t going anywhere, which only ensures its continued proliferation and position at the cutting edge of programming.
2. Source control
Source control is essentially a standard skill for programmers in the industry, and with good reason. Consider a master code repository you might have. If you and a group of people all want to work on it at the same time, you might potentially run into some trouble trying to do that. How do you know the code you write won’t interfere with some code they wrote? What if some of another person’s code is wrong? Normally, these would be valid concerns, but with GitHub’s distributed version control systems, you copy the entire repository to your own system and makes changes on that. This way, you and your group aren’t all messing on the same program at the same time, and can each make your own changes without destroying the integrity of the main repository. Different changes can also be reviewed and consolidated, ensuring the maintenance of good coding quality. Finally, all changes, if approved and good to go, can be merged back into the main repository.
3. Get active in the community
GitHub has a large community of developers constantly updating and improving open-source technologies. Some of the most-used technologies today, such as Django and Node.js, are hosted on GitHub, which reflects the cutting-edge nature of GitHub and its community. In order to get involved, simply head to GitHub’s trending page to see which repositories GitHub users are most active on today. By joining in on the fun, you’ll not only flex your own programming skills and upgrade them, but also become a more active member of the larger open-source community filled with peers, mentors, and, more than likely, future co-workers.
GitHub is undoubtedly a valuable skill to have as a programmer, not only in the workplace, but also personally. Tell interviewers you don’t know how to use GitHub and they’ll probably look at you a bit funny; tell fellow developers you don’t know how to use GitHub and they’ll probably start extolling its virtues almost immediately; or, remind yourself that you don’t know how to use GitHub, and then think of all that you’re missing out on. Alternatively, if you’re not sold on GitHub or prefer your code to be private, you can check out a similar service in Bitbucket. Google has also released its own competitor in the Google Cloud Platform, and the similarly-named GitLab stands as a potentially formidable rival with the ability for developers to install it on their own servers.