It’s undeniable that the world of developers today is pretty much an old boys club (actually, a young boys club). But the current state of the workforce is not an argument for men having a more natural affinity to be developers than women (I’m sure there are plenty of reasons, not the least of which is the gap that still exists in women earning STEM degrees). Key to being a great developer is a core set of disciplines. As you will see, they are gender neutral. Whether you’ve been in the industry for years, considering attending General Assembly, or are anywhere in-between, the most important step is to make the following five traits a part of your working day. Do so, and you’ll succeed in this constantly evolving industry.
1. Understand the Puzzle, Don’t Just Solve It
Why you hit a roadblock is just as important as how you were able to go around it. The process a developer goes through to solve a problem can often be more important than the end result. Comprehending not just the inner workings of what you are performing, but why you are performing that task and how you go about solving a problem are critical to growth. A great developer will ask “why did the code work?” instead of “what did this code accomplish?” Knowledge gained from understanding the process of problem-solving programming issues is just as important, if not more, as being able to solve a problem. This is essential to all who are truly successful in the field.
2. Have a Growth Mindset
Technology is always changing and developers must change with it—“Growth Mindset” is the idea that the brain can change and develop over time and does not get fixed at a certain level. As a developer, this mentality is essential. When someone asks you to start a project on a piece of technology that is different than what you are used to, you need to be able to train yourself on how that new technology works. Having this mindset to continually grow our abilities is what allows developers to stand out.
3. Try to be a Jack of all Trades and Only a Master of Some
As a developer, I recommend you choose and master a platform for your core knowledge, but continually work on expanding the breadth and depth of your knowledge. Boxing yourself into a certain discipline can be a slippery slope. While it allows laser focus on a specific technology stack, you miss out on other stacks that may be more interesting or beneficial. Rapid technology change combined with the rigors of development require increased amounts of flexibility—an agnostic developer is more suited to succeed in the long run.
4. Always Practice, Practice, Practice
This mantra can be applied to most things in life, but is especially essential for a developer of any age. With new ways to accomplish tasks via different frameworks and libraries, and the rise and fall of programming languages over time, practice is critical. To continually sharpen skills one needs to put in the time to refine and test new abilities as well as old ones. Putting in extra time outside of work on side projects or pair programming with other developers on tasks you are unfamiliar with will help make you more effective as a developer.
5. Allow Yourself to be Teachable
No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to learn all aspects of this intricate industry. Being a developer has many different disciplines and numerous technologies and languages tangled together and, if you’re smart, you will find yourself relying on the knowledge base of others to help accomplish tasks. Being able to learn and take criticism from others will help you strengthen your abilities and improve holistically.
Of course, a great developer will have many more traits than the ones I have listed above, but focusing on these pillars is an important start. My hope is that others can learn from what we have tried to instill here at Grafik, and begin to understand that anyone can be a great developer as long as they commit themselves to growth through learning.