Only a small portion of what programmers do is write code. To be a complete senior developer, you must master these five additional skills.
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- We automatically associate programming with coding. As a result, we prioritize code design and creation skills such as language and framework mastery, clean code, design patterns, TDD, and architecture.
- However, writing new code is only a small part of what we do on a daily basis. We spend far more time navigating, searching, analyzing, reviewing, and debugging code than we do writing it.
- Though these activities appear simple, they require the same specialized skills and experience as coding. True senior programmers distinguish themselves from the crowd by mastering them. And what makes you stand out and get noticed when starting a new job.
- In this post, I’ll look at the key characteristics of professional software development, how they affect your day-to-day work, and what skills you need to become a complete programmer.
The Common Misconception About Programming
People automatically associate programming with coding. It also does not apply only to laypeople. Unfortunately, many experienced programmers have this bias as well. Of course, not in a naive way. We understand that coding is more than just typing, and that having awesome keyboard skills does not make you a great programmer. Even so, we focus solely on coding skills.
Consider what the majority of books, blog posts, and talks are about. What causes the most heated debates in your team? What are the most frequently asked coding interview questions?
Code that is easy to read. Deep, almost esoteric understanding of programming languages and frameworks. Create patterns. Architecture. Algorithms and data structures. Creating visually appealing unit tests.
Yes, those are fundamental abilities. However, they continue to prioritize code creation.
I’m not saying these skills aren’t important. They are crucially significant for a senior developer. And they have so much depth that they could be studied for years. However, they only cover a small portion of what we do on a daily basis. And concentrating solely on code creation while ignoring the rest will result in a very incomplete and ineffective programmer.
A well-rounded skill set is needed to consider yourself a true senior programmer. However, in order to develop this skill set, you must first recognize what defines how we work.
What Professional Software Development Really Looks Like
As programmers, we are impacted daily by the several traits of professional software development:
1. Software Development Is a Team Activity, and Most of the Software Is Long-Living
The majority of the code you’ll work with is either written by someone else, modified by someone else since you wrote it, or written by you long enough ago to forget it. This means that most of the code you’ll work with is legacy.
2. Humans Are Prone to Mistakes
Testing and debugging are crucial aspects of software development, regardless of your level of experience or the quality of your codebase. Even the most experienced programmers introduce errors, and it’s important to catch and fix them before they make it to production. A rigorous Quality Assurance process can help prevent bugs from reaching users, but it’s still important to constantly test and debug your code during local development.
3. Modern software stacks are too complex to memorize everything.
The workload for programmers is high due to the number of technologies, APIs, and updates. Even experienced programmers need to take breaks to look up information.
4. Commercial software is often developed under tight time and resource constraints.
Balancing cutting corners to generate business value faster and keeping the codebase healthy for long-term performance is a constant struggle, especially if it’s not just your personal hobby project.
5. Understanding a New Codebase Quickly Is a Critical Career Skill
A strong first impression is crucial in a new job, as it can shape how you are perceived for a long time. To establish yourself as a competent senior, you must quickly and independently navigate the new codebase and start contributing meaningfully. This requires skills such as analyzing and reviewing code, debugging, finding information, and striking a balance between under- and over-engineering.
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