I can't add substantially to the material posted here, so I'll add a nit instead.
After you know what a piece of code should do, and before you implement that piece of code, you should write a unit test for that piece of code. This is just so you can be sure that your component works properly, before you go on to build bigger and badder things.
The more crap your unit test does to your component, the better off you will be. Test basic functionality, test weird cases, do stress-tests, throw bad data at it, etc. Learn how your components behave, improve them, and get your component as good as you can possibly get it. It might not hurt to throw in a couple of performance tests, either.
I've gotten bitten by not doing proper unit testing. On the other hand, I once managed to turn my reputation around from 'incompitent' to 'damn, he just saved the contract' by doing proper unit testing.
Just two cents, and sorry I don't got more.
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