7 simple tips to become a better programmer
5 MINUTE READ
Self-improvement is key to staying relevant in today’s tech sector.
In fact, in Japan they have a whole culture dedicated to self-improvement at work known as “kaizen”. Under this framework, everyone from the CEO to an assembly line worker reflects on their strengths and weaknesses in order to better themselves.
However, analysing one’s strengths and weaknesses can often be difficult. Especially when trying to figure out how to become a better programmer. There are so many different aspects of the job to consider. Often, it’s hard to even know where to begin.
Is my code clean enough? Am I good at managing stress when working to meet delivery deadlines? Will the languages I know still be relevant in 5 years time? These are the sorts of questions you’ll need to ask yourself in order to figure out how to become a better programmer.
But there’s no need to despair. Based on our conversations with senior developers on our podcast, here are 7 simple tips on how to become a better programmer:
Be open and receptive to criticism
Pride is an essential workplace quality. It gives you confidence and allows you to assert yourself. However, as with most things, it’s only good in moderation. Being too proud means shutting yourself off to criticism and starting to believe, “I know best.” One of the most important lessons to learn in any industry is being able to admit what you don’t know, or what you’re not good at.
Luckily there’s always someone on hand to let you know where your could improve. All you need to do is ask them for their opinion. It takes courage to listen to other people pick out your shortcomings as a programmer. But it’s important to remember your co-workers aren’t attacking you. They’re actually doing you a favour. Unless you know exactly where you’re going wrong, it’s very difficult to improve.
Never stop reading code
Part of becoming a better programmer involves learning from other developers. In software, there are countless ways to solve a single problem. And some solutions are better than others. Paying attention to the code written by your co-workers can open your eyes to entirely new approaches.
When reading someone else’s code, look at it critically. What did they do well? What could they have done better? Then apply these lessons to your own programming skills. Looking at how other people code can give you a new perspective and allow you to attack a problem from a new angle.
Expand your knowledge
Being an expert in one coding language is good. But being an expert in many languages is the best way to future-proof your career. The world has many programming languages, all with their own unique qualities. Learning multiple languages allows you to write code most appropriate to the task at hand. Each new language is like adding a new tool to your tool box.
Don’t underestimate soft skills
You can be the best programmer in the world but if you can’t communicate with your team or your superiors, you’re going to keep hitting a roadblock. It can be easy to neglect improving your soft skills and focus on the more hands-on technical work. However, it’s important to remember that you use your soft skills every day. And improving them can help you advance your career much quicker.
A key soft skill that can always be improved is communication. If you are trying to explain something technical to other non-technical colleagues make sure to cut out any jargon and use examples or analogies to help put things into context. Like anything, this takes practice to get good at. But it is an invaluable skill for career progression in tech. If you can’t communicate complex ideas clearly, it will decrease your chances of moving into a management role. But even for hands-on techies, effective communication with other developers on the team is key to keeping projects running smoothly.
Review. Review. Review.
Much like in literature, the first draft is never the final draft. Everyone makes mistakes and the only way to spot them is to review your work. Reviewing your code at least three times will ensure you get rid of any silly mistakes. If you can, get a co-worker to review it as well.
In addition to looking for silly mistakes, critically analyse your code. In order to become a better programmer you must constantly ask yourself; Can I make this process faster? Can I simplify this code? Can I make this code work for other processes? Critically reviewing your code will keep you on your toes and help you improve your programming skills.
Keep security in mind
Security Today reported that the global average cost of a security breach is $3.8 million. That’s not pocket change. And unfortunately many data breaches can be traced back to poorly written code. In the years ahead, those developers who keep security at the forefront of their minds will gain an advantage in the job market.
When you code, program as if you expect to be hacked. Look at your code and imagine if you were a hacker what could you do to get access to sensitive information. Once you spot possible trap doors in your code fix these, or ask a more senior member of your team what you could do to avoid making these mistakes again.
Step outside your comfort zone
It’s tempting to become proficient in a very specialized field of programming and stick to it. However, if you want to become a better programmer you must learn to take risks and tackle new challenges. Applying yourself to something new can be scary because inevitably when you try something completely new you’re not going to be good at it. However, that’s where everyone has to begin.
Stepping outside your comfort zone will give you a new skill set and improve your programming in a completely new way. Becoming an all round good programmer is more beneficial than specializing in one specific area.