How to Use AI to Become a Better Software Developer
Relax. The robots aren’t coming for your job.
Despite significant advancements in artificial intelligence, AI is a long way from replacing software developer jobs (or most jobs, for that matter). In fact, software developers have much to gain from leveraging AI-based tools like ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot, which are a wealth of valuable information.
Software developers have much to gain from leveraging AI-based tools like ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot, which are a wealth of valuable information.
I asked ChatGPT to describe itself to me like I’m five years old. It responded, “It’s like having a really clever friend who can help you with all kinds of questions.” That’s AI in action. Imagine the potential with a more complicated prompt, such as creating flashcards from an article or debugging code.
Like any new tool, there’s a learning curve. But the truth is that AI can help you become a better learner and a better coder in no time. Plus, you may not lose your job to AI itself, but if you don’t figure out how to master the technology, you could eventually lose your job to someone who has.
Using ChatGPT to Become a Better Learner
At Launch Academy, we believe the secret to becoming a good software developer is “learning how to learn.” Software engineering is a dynamic field, and the learning never stops. AI tools are just the latest example of new developments in the field, and they can be valuable tools to support your learning journey.
Fast and effective learning
ChatGPT can create a tailored learning plan for a coding concept, summarize and highlight key phrases in assigned readings, and translate lesson content into flashcards.
Plug in an article from our coding bootcamp curriculum and ask ChatGPT to summarize it for you. Copy and paste the code you wrote for an assignment and tell ChatGPT to act as your team lead and critique it. Go a step further by specifying that you want ChatGPT to fix formatting errors in your code or identify unnecessary algorithms.
One of the strengths of our coding bootcamp is the interactions between the instructors and students. However, ChatGPT makes it easy to check your code for errors before turning to a mentor for help. That way, you can focus on big-picture problems with your instructor and leave the identification of typos and missing brackets to AI.
Extra practice problems
Instead of spending half an hour Googling different versions of “infinite loop debugging test problems,” try using ChatGPT for some ultra-personalized practice. Plug in the curriculum from a learning module you’re struggling with and ask ChatGPT to generate a coding challenge or two.
It’s easy to customize these challenges to your own learning journey, and you can be as specific as you want. ChatGPT will provide an endless source of supplementary material you can use to support your understanding of coding challenges common in software developer jobs.
How to write effective AI prompts
Part of the AI learning process is understanding how to talk to the model. It’s crucial to understand how to phrase a request for the optimal answer. As a rule of thumb, the more specific you are, the better.
Follow these steps to get the best results from ChatGPT as a learning resource.
- Define the AI’s role. Ask ChatGPT to act as your code tutor to give it context about the type of assistance or expertise you expect.
- Create a framework. Specify what coding languages you’re learning so ChatGPT only presents relevant information.
- Set a specific goal. With AI technology, the smaller the scope of your request, the better results you’ll receive. Instead of asking how to build a website, tell ChatGPT you want to learn to create accessible web pages.
- State your request. Use specific language to ask for what you’d like ChatGPT to generate. A good universal example is, “Give me a good learning path and a set of resources to become more skilled in this area.”
Using ChatGPT to Become a Better Coder
If you’re already working in a software developer job, AI-based tools can make your job much easier.
ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot do everything from generating code to debugging existing code; they can even provide corrected versions based on your feedback. Use ChatGPT to generate test suites and find errors before running the code, not after.
For a final polish, optimize the performance of your code by asking ChatGPT to identify inefficient algorithms or unnecessary computations.
TL;DR: Say goodbye to scrolling through 200 lines of code for one wayward bracket.
Defeat coder’s block
One of the best ways to use ChatGPT in your daily job is to generate ideas. Treat it like automated brainstorming to save time and energy. It’s great for getting new ideas flowing when you’re feeling stuck.
For example, you can give the AI a coding problem you’ve been struggling with and ask it to propose three different solutions. The answers it gives could spark a new idea, remind you of a useful algorithm, or send you off on a different path entirely. Boom! Problem solved.
The drawbacks of coding with AI
AI tools can be significant time-savers. But don’t forget that AI is not a replacement for software engineers. It can and will make mistakes. AI-generated code typically doesn't perform as it should, so treat it like a rough draft that will need to be tweaked. Always run your code through an editor before submitting it.
When using ChatGPT as an employee, keep in mind that it’s a learning system. It will remember and use any code you plug into it. Be careful not to violate your employment agreement by plugging in proprietary code. When in doubt, ask your manager about company policies regarding the use of AI.
AI Is Yours for the Taking
At the end of the day, an AI tool is just that: a tool. ChatGPT will never match the creativity and capability of a software developer, but it will enhance your performance.
So leave the boring, repetitive tasks to AI. The world needs your original ideas.
Launch Academy’s coding bootcamp will get you career-ready in just 18 weeks. Get our syllabus to find out how.