Technology is no longer a frill, or an optional enhancement to make a couple of things easier around the office. Entire businesses are operated online, now. Many older, small-town diners have websites, or at minimum a social media account or two…if they haven’t upgraded to using POS software for entering orders. Even many machines used for labor have computer components guiding them through specific processes. The increase of so much electronic tech also increased the demand of people who can program these things, and program them correctly.
What Does it Take to Be a Good Programmer?
While what counts as a “good” programmer can seem very subjective, there are traits that consultants and hiring managers look for based on their experiences with recruiting programmers and what worked out best for them. Characteristics that they noticed the top quality programmers had include:
Impressive Technical Skills. Unfortunately, there is no solid checklist that can guarantee these. The best experiences came from programmers who had a solid background with older languages, but has added newer ones. This reflects having a good foundation of information as well as the adaptability to stay relevant. Having a background in a variety of languages can demonstrate an understanding of exactly how programming works while understanding the nuances of when different types of languages may be better for select situations.
Willingness to Learn. Technology is ever-evolving, and it does not take much to fall behind. Much like medicine, law, and parenting, what was “known for sure” a few years ago can be completely unlike what is known for sure now, which will be different from what is known for sure a few years from now. A CV indicating constant continuing education stands out as someone staying with the times.
Debugging Skills. Writing code is only one part of the programming process. It is very likely that a fresh code will have a few kinks in it, and being able to locate and fix them with the least amount of time, and for that fix to not lead to new issues, is crucial.
Working Well Under Pressure. There is an absolute perfection required in this profession, and that is despite deadlines, which are very prominent. People seldom have the luxury of needing something, but not until you have time to get it right. They need it, and can give a little time, but will often have a date that it is expected. Even what seems like ample time can speed by as bugs start popping up, and each fix leads to a new issue, and people keep asking about the status of it, and asking for tweaks and changes, and that date stays the same. Freezing under stress can be what makes a project fail.
Communication Skills. Though the stereotype programmer is portrayed as a socially-awkward isolationist who can get a simple instruction for a program and just scurries off to write it, that is not at all how it works. Many times, the person making a request does not have any programming knowledge. They know what they want, or think they do, and a programmer may have to get very creative with how to translate the desired end product into code, or could have to explain why a certain function might not work. If introducing tech/software to a new company, or implementing it into an existing company, understanding the person making the request and having them understand you is the only way to make things happen.
Passion for Industry. With the intense nature of the work, it can be easy to burn out if the programmer only entered the industry because it’s a growing field. With the constant evolution of technology, as mentioned, there will be a lot of professional development throughout a career, with a lot of self-motivation needed to stay current. Being half-hearted about the field will only lead to half-hearted product.
Laziness and/or Impatience. That may sound counterproductive to some of the things mentioned above, but there’s sound reason behind this one: Laziness is the mother of invention. The lazy perfectionist will find the quickest, easiest, most efficient way to do anything while maintaining quality, and will likely find ways to automate things that a requestor didn’t think to ask for simply because the automation benefits the programmer.
Forethought and Planning. “Measure twice, cut once” is a transferable concept. The best programmers will learn as much as they can about the desired product before getting started. This makes it easier to streamline the creation with minimal risk of having to redo an entire segment (or entire code) as something that wasn’t considered pops up with new information. This, alone, often makes or breaks deadlines.
Programming isn’t for everyone. Though it can be a very useful skill to know, there is nothing wrong with owning that it isn’t your thing. If this is the case, at least you know what to look for in a programmer when it is time to hire one.