Want to step up from good to great? Learn these 7 habits of great software developers

We see a huge demand for software developers and an even bigger one for great software developers.  Phil Johnson, Editor of IT World, wondered just what set the good devs apart from great ones and interviewed a number of experienced software developers as well as ask some Hacker News users, to find out what it takes to up your coding game.  He narrowed it down to a set of habits, seven to be exact, that made great developers better to work with, and ultimately more successful.

Here’s how to go from good to great as a software developer:

Habit 1 – Be Humble

The most common attribute named by those Johnson interviewed was humility.  Being humble in this sense means being willing to make mistakes, admit when you’ve made them, and ask for help to fix them.

Johnson quoted former Google Engineer, Zhen Wang, in his article, in which Wang explained that great developers played critical roles in the company’s infrastructure but never played the “intellectual high horse” card.  “Humbleness alone won’t turn a good developer great, but I believe the lack of it is usually a sign of mediocrity.” added Wang.

Habit 2 – Listen

Johnson quotes Colin Mitchell, a developer at Bandzoogle, as saying that the second most important habit of a great developer is that he is able to simply listen to others. “Listen to your clients, your users, listen to other team members and people who work on your product.  The further I get in my career, the more I think that empathy is an essential skill in programming.” said Mitchell.

Habit 3 –  Step Outside your Comfort Zone

A great developer will choose to push his or her boundaries, as the discomfort will allow them to learn more.  Johnson quoted a user on a Hacker News as saying “…choose projects, jobs that are close to your limit, those that will make you struggle and learn more.”  Great developers don’t play within their comfort or skill zones only.

Habit 4 – Always be learning

This one is a no-brainer, especially in the dev world.  You’ve got to keep improving your skills, and the habit that sets great developers apart is that they wanted to keep on learning, not just because they had to but because they wanted to.  Johnson quoted a user on Hacker News in his article as saying “don’t just study programming languages and frameworks, study design, study the business side of things, study your tools.”

Habit 5 – Be flexible

A great developer will not believe that it’s his way or the high way, a great developer welcomes multiple solutions to a problem and accepts that his solution may not be the best.  Johnson says there is no one size fits all approach to developing, and a great developer understands that there is a need for flexibility and change depending on the situations faced.

Habit 6 – Write things down

Johnson comments that all great developers keep a ‘bug journal’.  They write down all the bugs they run into and how they fixed it.  This allows them to go back to their journals and reference work done already, and it also helps them to teach and mentor new developers with this information as well.

Habit 7 – Work with better developers

Hanging around other smart, great developers and programmers is what all great developers practiced.  It seems kind of basic really, but if you want to become a better software developer, hang around with better software developers.  Johnson quotes a Hacker News user in his article who said, “the quantity and quality of your learning is directly proportional to the number of smart programmers you’ve got around you.”

Practicing these simple, yet highly effective daily habits, will take you from good to great.


Whether you’re good or great – if you’re looking for something new to challenge you and perhaps take you to a new level of learning, send your CV to e-Merge now. We’ll find you something that takes you to the next level.

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