3 Tips for Becoming a Better Programmer

Apple recently announced the release of Swift, a new programming language intended to make programming easier and more efficient than Objective C, the current language used for programming OS X and iOS devices. Some people wondered whether novice programmers should still bother learning Objective C (the consensus is pretty much a ‘yes’). At the same time, Apple’s announcement was a reminder that since technology is constantly changing, a savvy programmer never stops learning. Here are three habits you should adopt to help yourself become a more efficient, knowledgeable and well-rounded programmer.

1. Stay Informed

Read the headlines or articles from places that cover the area of technology you’re interested in – this could be a formal news outlet, someone’s blog, or a subreddit. Some general places to start are TechCrunch, CIO.com, PCWorld, The Next Web and of course, iGirl Tech News. For news about new programming languages, you can check out the Codecademy and Code School blogs. For news specifically related to women in technology, check out the Anita Borg Institute and also the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT). If you’re someone who knows about prominent companies, trends, and new developments, you’ll have a better sense of your field as a whole; you’ll know how those changes might affect you, and you’ll also be among the first to know about cool up-and-coming opportunities. I like to use Feedly to keep track of all my news – both its mobile and web versions are pretty great.

2. Don’t Just Memorize – Pay Attention to Patterns and Concepts

If you look through the job descriptions for programmers, software or web developers, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll need to know more than one programming language, but that it would also be hard to learn all of them. What to do? Many (but not all) programming languages share similar characteristics but use different words and syntax. Build a solid foundation in one language like C++, Java or Ruby, and pay attention to patterns and concepts like object-oriented programming and how logic statements work. Once you start learning another language, you won’t be starting from scratch if you look for transferable skills and concepts. You will also be better equipped to pick up new languages and platforms as they emerge.

3. Watch Out for Imposter Syndrome

This one applies especially to women and other minority groups in tech, and becomes more prevalent in high-achievers. If you have Imposter Syndrome, that means you tend to feel undeserving of your successes, and you feel like you owe much more of your accomplishments to luck or other people rather than yourself. More than just feeling like you don’t belong, you might worry that one day the people around you will realize you’re an ‘imposter’ or a ‘fake’. Don’t fall for this!

[tweet “You worry . . . you’re an ‘imposter’ . . . Don’t fall for this!”]

We all owe part of our circumstances to luck, and other people can certainly influence our lives, but that doesn’t mean that you are unworthy of the work you do. Give others credit where it is due, but don’t hold yourself back: take ownership of your own achievements.

Photo by: Ben W

Alexandrea Beh
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