5 Skills to Help You Thrive in Computer Programming

By John Koehler May 1, 2019

What more do you need to be successful as a programmer than programming skills? A lot more, actually. Success in the industry depends on a combination of soft skills and technical knowledge. A programmer can only write a properly-working code with critical thinking skills, and he/she needs perseverance to create a complex program after a series of failures.

Programmers will tell you there are a lot of specific skills that go into computer programming. According to some, however, they are not more important than a range of soft skills. One programmer said, “If you can solve problems, learn things quickly, name things well and deal with people, you will have a much greater level of success in the long run than you will in specializing in any particular technology.”

Here are five key soft skills to master if you want to thrive in a programming career:

1. Problem-Solving

As explained in a 2019 article on simpleprogrammer.com, problem solving is a fantastic tool to have in your programming toolbox; “So many developers, they're focused on the syntax, they're focused on the language, they're focused on learning to “code” or to program, but not on solving problems.”1

Programmers are problem-solvers by occupation, which it is one of the most vital soft skills for success in the industry. The entire basis of the job is to solve issues by creating solutions to what different industries need. After writing codes and creating programs, programmers also find and fix any issues that may appear. This is not often an easy task since even the tiniest of errors has the ability to wreak havoc on a program.

UA Grantham’s online Introduction to Programming certificate program can help you boost your problem-solving skills. Our curriculum involves challenging real-world problems, so you have applicable experience to use in your career.

2. A Sharp Memory

After staring at complex sequences of programming instructions all day, your brain may feel a little scrambled. This can lead to a jumble of information in your head that may make you forget simple things. While this seems harmless, it can hurt your progress while you’re programming.

A surprising way you may be harming your memory is by multitasking. While many people find the ability to multitask one of the most efficient soft skills, it is not always beneficial for your brain. A decade-long study performed by Stanford University found that, “People who frequently engage with multiple types of media at once performed worse on simple memory tasks.” The researchers recommend changing your working habits to minimize multitasking, which may boost both memory and efficiency.2

Do you think your memory needs some improvement? There are several techniques you can try! Some easy ways to help your memory include eating foods that boost brain function, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, learning a new hobby and/or playing brain games.

3. Efficient Laziness

This is the opposite of what your parents probably told you. However, some successful people, such as Bill Gates,3 live by a simple mantra: if you want a difficult task done quickly and in the best way, ask a lazy person,4 The reason, they say? People who are lazy will likely find the quickest way to complete a task efficiently. In this context, laziness is not inaction but efficiency. For this to be a positive soft skill, you must complete tasks on time but eliminate waste along the way.

The point of programming is essentially to make processes simpler and more efficient for a company to save time and money.4 In other words, a business needs “lazy” people to automate complex processes that allow everyone else to be a little lazier.

While UA Grantham can’t teach you how to be “lazy,” we can help teach you the most efficient tactics and routes to take while using different programs, such as JavaScript, HTML, C and C++.

4. Self-Motivation and Independence

Self-motivation sounds like the opposite of laziness. However, the two soft skills create a balance that may help when it comes to tackling complex work and meeting deadlines.

Deadlines are important in a programming career because they often mean making businesses more effective and, most likely, more cost-efficient. Programmers are often left to work alone with projects that can be completed independently. This gives some programmers the option to partly work from home.

If you telecommute, there may be less of a supervisor presence to keep you on track, which means it is your responsibility to keep yourself motivated and meet deadlines.

Programming, especially from outside the office, could require a lot of communication about progress with clients and coworkers. It’s important that you’re able to take initiative and stay on track with deadlines. The ability to self-motivate allows you to be independent and work resourcefully — even if you are “efficiently lazy.”

5. Perseverance

It is rare that a code or a program will work on the first try. It often takes programmers multiple attempts and a lot of work to get an application or webpage to run smoothly. It isn’t uncommon for programmers to scrap hours of work and try a completely different approach. That is why it is so important to be able to handle failure and keep pushing forward if you want to be a programmer.

One way to handle a setback is to look at it “as a challenge rather than a sign of defeat.”4 Errors are like intricate puzzles to solve — they can be frustrating along the way and may take several tries. However, there is a sense of accomplishment once you finally solve them.

Learn more about UA Grantham's Computer Science Online Degree Programs.

About the Author

John Koehler
John Koehler is a senior marketing specialist on University of Arkansas Grantham's marketing operations team. John is passionate about enabling education opportunities and a positive experience for prospective students. John holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Marketing from Rockhurst University.
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