Anyone can learn how to create computer programs, but that doesn’t mean everyone can build a career in programming. In fact, you can be a good programmer (maybe even an excellent one) yet still be a poor match for career programming. This may sound a bit strange and it may not even make any sense at all to you, but it is a lot truer than many of those who are in the tech industry may think. Just because you are good in what you do and you earn a good sum from it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right career for you.
You see, programming as a career involves more than just an aptitude for coding and software development. It requires some passion as well as a set of personal skills and attributes that have nothing to do with your amazing skill in math and science. It goes well beyond your academic credentials. You can’t just be good at what you do; you have to enjoy the work as well. To help you determine whether a career in programming is the right one for you, here are a few signs you would do well to be on the lookout for:
1. Problem-solving is no problem at all
There are people who work their way around a problem, and then there are those who proactively seek a permanent solution to the problem. If you belong to the latter and are the type of person who actually enjoys the challenge of finding solutions to problems, then coding and software development may indeed be the best career for you.
2. You love strategy games
Many people think computer games are a complete waste of time, but gaming can actually be good, especially when you’re fond of strategy games. This type of game helps enhance your decision-making skills as well as your ability to take both short- and long-term consequences into account every time you make a decision. Offline games that require careful thought and strategizing (e.g. chess, Risk) offer the same benefits.
3. You have the gift of musicality
The debate regarding the correlation between math and music is still going on, but there is a good amount of anecdotal evidence that those who are good in music are also quite good at math. So, if you have innate musical talent, then perhaps you are a good fit for a programming career.
4. You always win arguments
This doesn’t mean you should always get into a shouting match, of course. What it means is that if you have a logical mind and you approach all arguments in such a structured manner that the opposing party is left without any real way of disproving your points, then perhaps you do have the kind of systematic thinking that a career programmer needs.
5. You have a natural love for creating things
If you are a DIY type of person who loves making things with your hands, and you happen to derive the same satisfaction from creating something in the virtual world, then software development just might be the career for you. The beauty of creating things in the digital world is that your imagination is the only limit to what you can achieve.
6. You are people-oriented
Those who do not work within the tech industry tend to think of IT teams as being cooped up in their cubicles all day, hidden away from the rest of the world. On the contrary, programming work actually requires constant interaction with people across the industry. In order for you to be an effective programmer, therefore, you need to have excellent communication and social skills.
7. You love learning about computer science
If you are to build a lifetime career out of coding and software development, then you need to have a genuine interest in the theories behind computer science and software engineering. You have to be naturally curious about what those who have gone before you discovered. And you need to be truly passionate about building on the foundations that they have laid.
8. You’re a team player
As mentioned earlier, programming requires a lot interaction between several people; it is a highly collaborative endeavor. You don’t just write codes; you need to constantly review and refine those codes, and you need help from others on your team for this purpose. Therefore, you need to enjoy working with other people on a single project if you ever hope to successfully build a career in programming. You need to be able to provide and accept constructive criticism, among other things.
9. You are self-motivated
The best programmers are those who are motivated solely by the process of writing code, developing software, and creating programs. They take satisfaction in their ability to find solutions to problems or creating something new. They desire no other reward than the completion of the project itself. Simply put, they do what they do simply because they love doing it, not because they’re paid huge sums for it.
10. You have a natural love for technology
If you have no interest at all in what possibilities technology has to offer to the world at large, then how can you ever hope to enjoy a career in coding and software development? Whatever type of company you work in, and whatever projects you work on, a genuine interest in harnessing the potential of technology will increase your chances of success.
Other than learning what attributes you need to become a successful career programmer, it may also help to be mindful of the things that indicate that you are not cut out for a programming career.
1. A lack of experimental creativity
The process may rely largely on logic and analysis, but programming is essentially a creative endeavor. When you are preparing to create a new program, it’s as if you are faced with a blank canvas. You then take up your paintbrushes—frameworks, languages, etc.—to create something that originated in the realm of your imagination. There may be rules in writing code, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own style when writing code. If you are a stickler for rules and do not have a creative bone in your body, then you’re probably not cut out for a programming career.
2. The inability to remain in one place for long
The very nature of programming work requires you to sit in front of your computer for extended periods. Even if you work at a standing desk, you will still need to remain in one place for several hours each day. If you easily get restless when made to remain in one spot for long, then you aren’t likely to enjoy programming.
3. The desire for “normal” work hours
When you work as a programmer, you either work for a company or as a freelancer. Either way, you will likely have to work long hours or unusual shifts. Software development relies heavily on meeting deadlines, which means that programmers work for as many hours as it takes to complete a project on time; they do not keep traditional 9-to-5 work hours. Being a freelancer may give you more leeway in terms of work schedule, but it may still entail long hours, especially as the deadline draws near. If you thrive in a structured setting and prefer regular work hours, then programming definitely isn’t the career you want to build.
4. The desire to get rich quick
Yes, there are programmers who get rich really quick, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. If your sole reason for getting into programming is to get rich real quick, then you may be better off seeking a different career. To truly ensure success (and wealth) in the tech industry, you’ll have to work hard and be dedicated to your career. If you don’t have a real love for the work, that can be almost impossible to do.
5. An aversion to logic, analysis, and problem-solving
Although we mentioned earlier that programming is essentially a creative endeavor, the process itself involves more fixing than creating. And most of the problems you’ll need to fix involve logic-based issues. The fixing process, therefore, involves a lot of analysis and logic-based solutions. If you have no patience for lengthy analytical processes and find no satisfaction in fixing whatever is broken, then you’ll have to choose another career path.
The good news is that there are a lot of programming-related fields where you can build a career and use your programming skills to your advantage. You could, for example, build a career as any of the following:
- Project Manager
- Program Manager
- System Administrator
- Build Engineer
- Technical Writer
- Program Analyst
Most of these roles are currently occupied by people without any real knowledge of programming. This is where you’ll have an edge because your programming background means you actually understand what’s going on and can competently explain the intricacies of the process to all stakeholders. And you don’t have to remain seated, writing code all day!