If you grew up around computers and have a knack for all things IT, you may have what it takes to become a programmer. It takes a lot of work to compete in the modern job market, so already having the right skills gives you an advantage.
Here’s everything you need to know about being a computer programmer. It should help you work out whether you’re meant for this career or not.
What Is a Computer Programmer?
A programmer deals with computers and their coding, working independently or under contract. They use different programming languages to create software or adjust their performance, whether it’s to do with functionality or appearance.
Responsibilities vary from job to job, but the typical tasks of a programmer involve:
- Fixing problems
- Updating and testing code
- Optimizing systems to suit the client’s needs
- Helping people with IT issues
That said, there are dozens of ways to earn money from coding and programming today. For example, you can design your own apps and open-source tools or pass on your skills with YouTube tutorials.
While pure talent can take you far, the more credentials you have, the better your career prospects. Considering how many industries have turned digital, programmers have opportunities everywhere, from fintech companies to online magazines.
What Skills Does a Computer Programmer Need?
How to become a programmer comes down to both hard and soft skills. To begin with, you need to know your way around a computer and as many programming languages as possible. These include:
You should also be good at fast problem-solving. If you like maths or puzzles, programming will give you plenty of chances to exercise that brain of yours. Attention to detail and multi-tasking go hand in hand with this too.
In terms of other soft skills, communication is a must. Unlike machines, people usually need simple words to understand what their computer is doing. When working with others, you need to be able to explain your work clearly and effectively, especially in reports.
Finally, how well you apply all these skills and turn them into profit depends on how organized you are. Without a realistic structure to your routines, it’s easy to lose track of tasks and waste both your and your employer's time.
These are the key qualities of a successful computer programmer, worth expanding with additional skills. To give you a better idea of your prospects, the base salary for a senior software programmer in Mexico is between $97,000 and $732,000 per year—according to Payscale.
For now, let’s look at nine basic hints that you’re perfect for the programming life.
1. You Feel Comfortable Around Computers
Being computer literate isn’t just about knowing everything about computers. It also means you’re able to find your way around a new operating system or software and edit its code without too much trouble.
This kind of flexibility is invaluable for programmers.
2. You Know Lots of Handy Coding
Knowing several programming languages is great, but being able to whip up the most useful coding for each occasion is far more important. That’s the point of programmer jobs: good, quick, and easy solutions.
If you have this skill, even with one computer language like Python, you’re already a programmer.
3. You’re Good at Solving Computer Problems
To use the right coding, you need to know the problem. To recognize the problem and its solution, you need IT know-how alongside troubleshooting skills.
This is where a passion for puzzles can be an asset, making your bug-fixing efforts more fun than frustrating—a good attitude for a programmer’s workplace.
4. You’re Fast at Spotting Important Details
Get to know standard programming patterns well enough, and abnormalities should pop out. Working with pages and pages of code is even easier with such an eye for detail.
See if your experience and instinct tick this box. Otherwise, do what you can to develop good attention to detail. It’ll make you more effective and valuable to employers.
5. You Like Learning More About IT
A hunger for knowledge is common in programmers. If you like exploring a computer’s capabilities, taking apart and updating its coding, and just learning all you can about IT, you have a programmer’s heart and curiosity. And that is critical when tackling mounds of tasks as a professional.
6. You’re Good at Explaining the Ins and Outs of Computers
When it comes to working as a professional programmer, good communication skills are essential and can distinguish you from the competition.
If you can have casual conversations about programming with people who know nothing about it, and they can understand you, you have a powerful advantage.
As a programmer, you’ll be able to talk and write about your work in a way that benefits your employers, colleagues, or trainees. So, you'll provide value in more ways than just fixing their computers.
7. You Can Work on Different Tasks at the Same Time
Fixing a bug can take several steps. Employers may ask for a bunch of tasks, some urgent for the company’s performance. For example, you could end up doing anything from troubleshooting people’s accounts and tweaking multimedia software to fine-tuning firewalls and countering cyber threats. So, an ability to manage multiple projects at once is a major plus.
You must be able to keep yourself motivated and on-schedule while jumping from job to job. For extra support, using Asana to track any project can be a life-saver.
8. You Can Manage Your Tasks and Time Effectively
Breaking down the previous point in more detail, you must have a good sense of what’s important and what isn’t. How much time do you have per day to work? Which tasks demand your immediate attention? Is there something small you can tweak at the same time?
If you already think and work this way, you’re ready to deal with most programming environments. It’s also a great stepping stone to build experience and prepare yourself for more challenging roles.
9. You Can Think Outside the Box
Sometimes, the solution to a programming problem isn’t the obvious or traditional one. IT literacy, curiosity, and creativity produce another essential skill: the ability to come up with new ideas to fix things.
Being well-versed in this kind of lateral thinking will make your resume shine. If you aren’t, start working on your ideas or explore online communities like Stack Overflow for unusual programming tricks you can add to your arsenal.
Learn to Code Like a Professional Programmer
There are many ways to learn coding: alone and with training, paid and free. You don't need to love math to create a career in programming, but becoming a computer programmer everyone wants is a matter of dedication and hard work. If you tick even some of the boxes above, you’re on the right track.
For more real-life experience and to build a stronger resume, keep putting your skills to the test with jobs, courses, and challenges. These won’t just enhance your speed and abilities; they'll also boost your confidence as a programmer.