Being a great programmer definitely isn’t easy, it’s a practice that takes more than just substantial credentials for someone to excel at. Some people may think the goal is to simply get a few years of professional experience and magically become great.
However, simply doing the job isn’t nearly enough of what can be expected from a great modern programmer. Let’s look at a few characteristics that pose as dead giveaways for great programmers:
1. Experience Matters
Experience is the best teacher, so it’s safe to say that a programmer with more experience will be better than one that hasn’t been around the block. In this case, judging a programmer’s qualification based on their experience means judging them on their ability to be insightful and innovative in their work practice.
For example, an experienced programmer that’s well-versed in older languages can put their experience to good use when faced with a problem and tackle it using different methodologies and perspectives, while a programmer that’s inexperienced and only effective with less frameworks and languages will most likely resort to repetitively trying the few methods they know, getting the same results over and over again.
While it may not exactly be the “fairest” way to determine a person’s worth, experience is and always will be the most valued trait a coder can have.
2. Remaining Calm Under Pressure
Nobody wants to crack under pressure and throw a fit in their workplace, and nobody wants to see that scenario playing out in their office – especially when it’s a work-colleague they see every day.
Veteran programmers know exactly how frustrating programming can be; those irritating times that a code doesn’t compile or a command doesn’t execute as expected can be quite nerve-racking to say the least, especially when working under a tight deadline.
As a result, great programmers are patient with their work process. They will calmly and logically think about the issue their facing knowing that there’s a logical conclusion they are missing. They see their trouble as a great learning experience that they’ll figure out as long as they don’t give up.
3. A Thirst for Knowledge
It’s a well-known fact that programming is an ever-changing practice – new ways to refine coding, debugging, maintenance, documentation and so on are being invented and innovated every day. Every year new frameworks and programming languages are released and in start-up culture, knowing the latest and greatest technology will get you far.
As a programmer, you’ll also have to accept that you aren’t always in control of the technology you have to use to solve a problem. You might prefer to use Ruby on Rails, but your boss might want to you to build a new project using PHP.
A great programmer will always be ready to learn new things no matter how experienced they are or where they work. Companies are always looking to do more with less, so being specialized in a specific discipline is becoming more and more rare.
If you’re ready to learn some new programming languages, take a look at our best websites to learn coding guide.
4. Problem Solvers
The greatest programmers are those with a knack for problem solving. Some people may spend their careers avoiding problems in other professions, but as a programmer you’ll often be tasked with solving issues in new ways.
You don’t have to get it right the first time or be the most brilliant mind anyone has ever seen to be a great programmer. You simply have to enjoy the challenge of facing problems no one has solved before and tackling them with little guidance.
5. Attention to Detail
Whether it’s an inborn trait or something you’ve learned throughout life, having an attention to detail is utilized vastly differently in the physical world than in the world of programming. With programming, being attentive for small details mainly serves the purpose of finding a particular line of code within thousands of others or keeping an eye peeled for bugs/problems that aren’t obvious in the way they present themselves.
Having killer attention to detail in exemplified in things like not being careless with your variable names, properly documenting your code so others (or yourself!) can understand it later, and always thinking about the full implication of the code you’re writing to ensure there aren’t disastrous unintended consequences.
6. Passion for Coding
As with any other practice, the best programmers have a love for it. It’s certainly possible to get by with an average career as a programmer if you don’t care for your work, but if you want to be great you have to have more.
When you think about passion and programming, the context of the coding matters. Some people may find themselves to be so-so, uninspired programmers simply going through the motions if they work on a project they find boring.
But when these same coders get a new job at a new company, they can find themselves inspired by the mission of the company or the fun problem-solving they get to work on. If you’re feeling like you’re losing your passion for programming, consider if a change of scenery would be a cure!