Starting Out in Tech: How to think like a programmer

Get your mind right before you begin your journey into coding.
WorkingNation’s Jaimie Stevens.

There is a common misconception that you have to be born thinking like a coder, that how you process and put out information is ingrained in you and cannot necessarily be deterred. However, coding is merely an introduction to a new way of thinking that can be processed by anyone. It’s all about how you approach it that determines how you can adapt to it. We all need to speak the language of technology in one way or another in this day and age, so try not to overthink it.

Here are a couple of mentalities that you can adapt to sync your mind with the way a programmer thinks:

Keep going until the job is done. Break your problem into smaller steps if necessary. Once you’ve started writing something, it’s much easier to keep going. Keep calm and don’t give up. Anything you’ve written is better than just something you’ve merely constructed perfectly in your head. Ultimately, you have to be methodical and try many attempts to get what you want.

Learn to love it, not fight it. Look at each problem differently. Reframe your thinking. Approach it with a sense of humor if you can!

Keep an ultimate goal. Don’t forget why you are doing something. You will always have a ton to accomplish, and a limited set of tools, the key is figuring out how to make things happen and accomplish where you want to go. A common trap for developers is to spend too much time focusing on how they code – how clean or efficient or fast, but the real challenge is to make something most useful. The code is the means, not the result. Always define the problem, first.

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Keep it organized. Good programmers can organize their thoughts and develop strategies to approach particular types of problems.

Pay attention to detail. You must have a thorough, logical approach to be a programmer, and it takes patience to find all the details that you need.

Don’t forget you have a community to support you – reach out! It’s important to know that beginners should not be afraid to ask a question – programmers use their resources and aren’t afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of resources online out there for you – start by Googling your question and then move to StackOverflow, which has a million threads that can help you.

Always be willing to practice. It all comes down to being willing to practice. The more you practice, the more you get used to finding and fixing mistakes, which helps simplify it for you in the future.

Know that coding isn’t just about computers – it’s about people. Learn about conflict resolution and user experience because people are why your code exists in the first place.

Coding isn’t about how smart you are. It’s about your mindset.

Don’t stop – there is always more to learn. There is always room for improvement, so be willing to make your work better. The tech world changes fast, and it can be overwhelming just keeping up with the latest tools, languages and frameworks.

Thinking like a developer isn’t anything special, it’s just critical thinking, and you can improve yours with practice. Programmers just need to be problem solvers, and if things don’t work out the first time, it just means they have to try again!

Join the Conversation: How have you approached your ability to learn coding skills? Share your experience on our Facebook page.

Coming Next Week: Jaimie introduces the novice coder to her rules for having success in coding classes.