This post is intended for keen, junior developers who reside in a community that does not afford many opportunities such as user-groups, conferences, etc. (I'm thinking of small towns in Atlantic Canada, but the main theme applies elsewhere.)
Hey nerds: discover PEI Hacks, and sign up for the day-long hackathon on August 24.
No, really: sign up. It's free.
"Why?". I'm glad you inquired (see intro)...
It'll be fun and rewarding. You'll meet neat people.
It will help shape your professional world-view, your sense of reality.
Since I've returned to the Maritimes, I've discovered a small segment of developers who are bright and ambitious, but don't have a lot of experience. Despite all the online resources, books, etc, at their disposal, their world-view ends at the boundaries of the current daytime, 40-hour gig.
That's professional suffocation. A word to the wise: break out of that rut. Never bound yourself as being an employee for Acme Corporation. Work for You Inc. (in spirit, not legally), and honour an agreement with Acme: 40+ hours work for salary, benefits, whatever.
To break the rut, engage with real people, at real events: conferences, user-groups, meet-ups, hackathons - anything. You'll learn a ton of material outside of your daytime focus. You'll be profoundly humbled by talent, and challenged to improve. Generally, you'll be a participating in a broader community, a citizen of the tech world.
Will any of this assist your daytime work? Maybe, but it doesn't matter: this is for You Inc.
Find a mentor and ask him/her about favourite conferences, user-groups, and real-life events. Oh, btw, you'll find some fabulous potential mentors at PEI Hacks. So, come on out and play!