Today’s media frequently portrays coders and computer programmers as antisocial nerds who the rest of the people in the office have to put up with, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Technical know-how is an important piece of the puzzle, but that's just what it is—one piece.
The most successful programmers are those who can combine their hard skills and soft skills seamlessly in the workplace. Hard skills are more specific and quantifiable, like knowledge of programming languages. Soft skills are more subjective and include traits like creativity and time management.
For those who want to learn to code, it’s important to remember that soft skills are just as necessary to develop as hard skills, especially since they are harder to teach. Soft skills also help with networking and job retention; hiring and training a new employee takes a lot of time and money, which most companies would prefer to spend elsewhere. If you’re a high school student interested in a career in coding, be sure to concentrate on the below hard and soft skills if you want to stand out among your peers.
- Programming languages: A programming language is basically what you input into the computer to get it to perform the desired task. There are several different languages out there, but anyone interested in coding should ensure they are proficient in at least one before entering the job market. The language that you choose to learn will depend on what you hope to accomplish with your career, though many languages can be used in a single field. For example, both Python and Java are used in data science.
- Databases: Databases allow developers to store all kinds of data in a space that is separate from their main code. This is especially true for large projects where lots of versions need to be referred back to. Databases typically contain three important aspects: physical storage (like a cloud service or a physical hard drive), a driver or a library that allows you to interface with your data, and code that can get the data for you. There are several types of databases that you need to know about because they all have different abilities depending on the project that you’re working on. If you’re a more hands-on learner, you might be interested in a tutorial that demonstrates how to develop your database.
- Source control/Version control: This aspect of coding relates to how you keep track of the changes made to your code. This is important because you always want to make sure that the correct version of the source code is being utilized. As you’ll see below, teamwork is one of the skills that every programmer should have. This is partly because you’ll often be working on code with many other professionals and everyone needs to be able to do this without deleting other people’s work. To practice this very necessary skill, there are online tutorials you can access. You can also reference lists of version control “best practices” to guide you in your work.
- Testing: Once you’ve developed your code, you want to be able to make sure it works in a variety of scenarios. Not testing your code can result in bugs or glitches that are often costly to fix and take a lot of time that could be spent doing new projects. Even if your company hires outside testers (there’s a good chance they do), it’s always a good idea to perform some basic testing. If something is wrong, you can let the tester know that you’re aware of the problem and already working on a solution.
- Time management: There are a few tools of the trade that coders use to ensure they are using their time in a meaningful way. Many coding professionals recommend The Pomodoro Technique as a way to successfully manage your time while working on assignments. This technique involves dividing your schedule into 25-minute segments with five-minute breaks in between. Working this way eliminates the need to multitask and helps reduce the risk of burnout. There are also tools available to help reuse existing code, which saves time and allows you to work on more innovative projects.
- Accountability: Mistakes inevitably happen in any workplace, and of course they can cause delays and inconvenience to your clients. Mistakes are also a wonderful learning opportunity with the right attitude. Admitting when you’ve made a mistake can be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s one of the hallmarks of a great developer. It shows that you’re mature, reliable and that you’re willing to put the project at hand ahead of your ego.
- Creative problem solving: Many people are under the impression that the ability to problem solve depends on a combination of hard skills and work experience, but it also takes a good deal of creativity and communication. Problem-solving is rarely done by just one person; it requires a group of people working together to identify the problem and take concrete steps to fix it. One of the ways you can encourage this in your own workplace is to steer clear of discouraging your teammates’ ideas and setting the example of being willing to learn from your mistakes. If you want to improve your creative thinking, there are plenty of books and articles you can read that can help.
- Teamwork: Working in programming, web development, or software development means you’ll always be a part of a larger team. If you prefer to work alone or sometimes struggle to get along with others, building on these skills will be critical for a successful coding career. You can start by pushing yourself to participate in more social activities in your current place of employment. If there are team happy hours or weekend picnics, take the time to go to a few. Getting to know your teammates is important because you’ll learn more about everyone’s skills, preferences, and weaknesses. This information can go a long way when it comes to delegating tasks and working through conflicts for a large project.
Learn Coding in NextGen’s Summer Classes
If you’re a high schooler and learning to code appeals to you, you can look into NextGen Bootcamp’s coding classes for high school students. NextGen offers in-person coding courses in Manhattan and live online coding classes that can be attended remotely from anywhere. Take a look at NextGen’s catalog of coding classes for high school students to see a complete list.