It isn’t what you think. Being an awesome programmer, or being awesome at anything has a lot less to do with any given topic: programming, boxing, writing. It has a lot to do with being a healthy human. So, the simple answer to the question of “How to be an awesome programmer” is simply, “be healthy.”
But what does healthy look like?
I really couldn’t tell you what got me started, but I’ve been reading an experimenting with Brain Hacks, Diet, Exercise, and Social Skills for over a year now. Turns out, they are all related.
Now, most of my audience has less than 5 years of experience. I can say that because most of the programming population has less than 5 years of experience, so I’m going on the assumption that the people who read this blog, are a small representation of the global population. Many symptoms I will reference are going to be things you may not suffer with … yet. If you fall in that group, think of this post as a letter from your older self. I was young once too. I remember, I thought I was immune to some of these issues and if I wasn’t, there wasn’t much I could do.
But we’ve learned SO much in the last 20 years. Much of what we’ve thought was “normal” really isn’t. We are just proverbial frogs in a pan of water being heated to death.
This past week I was talking to a guy who is graduating from College and looking for a job. He asked me what most people ask at that point in their career. “Everyone wants experience, but how do you get experience if no one will give it to you?”
What is interesting is that for all the advances in the 30 years since I started my career, that question is still the main question every graduate asks.
Now, before I get started, I want to make sure we are clear. These tips may or may not work for you. They are what I would do, and in large part are what I did 30 years ago, just updated to be appropriate to the current technology. How well they work for you are going to depend on a lot of different factors, not least of which is how much effort you apply. They are also very much based on my culture here in the USA. If you are looking for a job in another country that is dissimilar culturally, you may want to ignore this advice completely. But, I’ll also say this. If what you are currently doing isn’t working, what do you have to lose?
There are two twin evils that I see in the programming community. The first is the programmer who knows what he knows and has no desire to learn more. I call these, “coasters”. And then there are the programmers who are so curious that they try to learn every new thing that comes along, with no focus. The interesting thing is, both of these types of people end up at the same place. Out of work. The cure for both is the same. Being Awesome.
To say there are secrets to being a confident programmer may seem a bit over the top. But, you would be surprised at what makes a programmer seem confident, how you can be more confident, why confidence is no real indicator of truth, and why you need to arm yourself against confidence.
Over the past week, I’ve listened to and read several articles that have started me thinking more about the Psychology of Programming.
Not that I haven’t been thinking about this for a while. I’ve been quite intrigued by human behavior for a while now. But more recently, there was this podcast over on dotNetRocks about “Punishment Driven Development”. And this comment:
The happiest people in my experience are those that have options. They have transferable skills, see their employment as a personal choice, have self confidence that they are providing value to the company and are in a position professionally and personally where they could change job if they needed. The feeling of being trapped in a position from which you can’t escape (either a dissatisfying job, bad manager or whatever) will lead to negativity.
Which I almost agree with, except I think it is the negativity that leads to feeling trapped.