4 Things I Wish I Knew as a Young Software Developer

Dan Pickett

By Dan Pickett

 

Thanks to movies and television shows, most people have a preconceived notion about what being a software developer entails—and it’s not always accurate. 

When I started learning to code, I had no idea what skills I would need for my career. Had I understood what coding was really about back then, I could have avoided several mistakes.

It’s impossible to know everything about software development when you’re beginning your career. Still, there are some lessons novices can learn to set themselves up for success in their first software developer jobs.

 

It’s impossible to know everything about software development when you’re beginning your career. Still, there are some lessons novices can learn to set themselves up for success in their first software developer jobs.

 

4 Things to Remember When Learning to Code

Coding is about so much more than simply inputting information into a computer. Here are four nuggets of wisdom I wish I had when I began my career in programming:

1. Theory and practice are of equal value

As a student, much of my education focused on computer science theory. While in school, I was fortunate to also have a software engineering job that allowed me to practice what I learned

In class, it was frustrating to learn theory that I felt I’d never use in a practical setting, like sorting a directed graph or inserting a node into a link list. But as an educator and professional software developer, I understand that theory is crucial to teaching young coders how to think logically about computer programming. 

Getting the chance to practice coding actual applications might feel more important than learning abstract lessons on theory, but coding students need both to succeed in their careers.

2. Soft skills are essential

To be a successful software developer, you need to know how to program and solve problems with code. But you can’t succeed without soft skills to complement your programming abilities. 

Effective programmers have excellent time management, communication, and project management skills. They should also understand each aspect of their codebases and be able to carry out tests accordingly. 

Without these soft skills, a programmer will struggle to solve problems effectively.

3. It’s not like the movies

Before I learned to code, I pictured professional software engineers furiously typing line after line of code late into the night. 

Now, I recognize that working as a software engineer involves more deep thinking than frantic typing. Coding is ultimately about solving problems, which requires concentration and strategic thought.

4. There aren’t any shortcuts

It’s possible to code around problems, but they’ll only worsen with time. We refer to taking shortcuts as going into “technical debt” for this reason. 

The more technical debt a programmer accumulates, the more challenges they create for themselves in the future. In the end, taking shortcuts wastes more time. Forgoing automated testing or skipping the writing of user stories may save time upfront but at the expense of efficiency down the road. 

One of the best ways to get ahead of the curve as a novice software developer is to enroll in a coding bootcamp that offers hands-on experience and access to helpful mentors. Check out Launch Academy’s syllabus to learn more!