What every great programmer should know

 So, you’re a good programmer then?  But are you a great one?  Let’s have a look at some veterans of the coding game’s views of the top five things they wish they’d known when they started out, and give suggestions that will take you from a good to a great programmer.

Know the stack

You don’t necessarily have to know everything about systems admin or network admin to know programming, but a basic understanding of operating systems is definitely going to be a plus.  Getting to know how the entire stack of code works, like having a basic knowledge of configuration, application usage, systems, and networking will deepen your understanding as a programmer for those times when a nasty bug hits.

Make the debugger your friend

Become one with your mozzie net!  Veteran coder, Dave Varon, a bioinformatics developer at Novartis, says “learn to use your debugger!  Take that extra day or two to configure it. When you don’t see the expected result, just debug it: set breakpoints, step through your code, and esp. 3rd party code. It will save you days of frustration, and even better, you will learn things about coding you can only learn by reading someone else’s code.”

Stay ahead of the game

We’ve emphasized the need to stay up to date with the latest technology and applications especially in this ever-changing industry but we’ll say it again, ‘stay ahead of your game’.  Veteran coders say that a good basic knowledge of coding and computer systems will stand you in good stead but it’s the new knowledge of the latest trends that will make you a great and more relevant coder today.

Don’t overcomplicate your code

Trying to ‘Beautiful Mind’ the heck out of your code so that absolutely no-one else knows what’s going on, will not make you more appealing.  In fact, it might make you harder to work with.  Ben Miller of Sinclair Digital Ventures says “find the simplest way to solve problems and make your code resilient and maintenance free and people will give you more and more to do.”

Ask for help

Even great programmers need help sometimes.  Varon confirms that “if you can’t figure it out yourself by re-intuiting the API or debugging, ask for help. Just because you think you’ve written a masterpiece doesn’t mean it isn’t crap or can’t be better.”  It doesn’t show weakness to ask your team mates for help, so take those earphones out and just ask.


Are you a great programmer (and we’ll even consider you if you’re a good one) and in search of a great company or job?  Drop us your CV today and let us match you up.


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