Geeks With Blogs
Fran Hoey

Recently I was speaking with a junior programmer who was worried he would get stuck on the bottom rung and was planning a lot of training to ensure that didn’t happen. I wish I’d said it at the time, but technical skills are not the sole requirement of being a good programmer and advancing your career.

A programmer is a person, interacting with other people and that interaction is often were we fall down. As we are technically minded people we often overly focus on the technical aspects of our job. So much so, that as a group we are often stereotyped as unhelpful, smelly, moaners.

So here are four skills that will make us better programmers, advance our careers and make work more enjoyable.

Be Inquisitive

It’s easy to learn that if I x is broken and I alter y the problem is solved. A good programmer doesn’t learn by rote. Look one level deeper. What actually happens when I alter y? How does that relate to x. Find someone who knows and ask them, always try to deepen your understanding of the domain.

Be Positive

We are natural analysts, when someone gives us a problem our analytical brain jumps to attention. As solutions come from problems our first thoughts are often problems. There is a tendency to find the problems and tell the users immediately to show that our analytical skills are superior. Suppress it, don’t stop at the problems, carry on and think through the solutions. Don't be a blocker.

Be Helpful

Don’t hoard your code or systems. People will see you as a problem, and problems need solutions. If you do what you can to help other coders and business users you will become an invaluable knowledge base. Take it further, don’t let your role be a limit, if you can see a way you can help someone by a bit of knowledge you’ve learned or a potential tweak in your code, offer it.

Be Friendly

It’s obvious, but perhaps not so easy for us. I heard of a study that showed most techie people are on the autistic spectrum. Personally, I find introducing myself and small talk hard. We have to find a way through it, you don’t want to be known as what-his-name in IT. Being friendly means you will understand the problem you are coding better, business owners will be more open about what they are doing and what they need and take more time explaining it to you.

It's not about brown nosing, it's about being a human being that people are happy to know.

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2013 9:18 AM programming , career | Back to top

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