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6 characteristics that can make you an outstanding developer

Anyone can become a developer – even against all odds.

But what makes someone an outstanding developer? To us, it's not your technical knowledge (your technical skills will need constant refreshing, anyway).

Rather, what can set you up for long-term success as a developer are the characteristics that can help you enjoy your work, as well as excel into higher positions over time.

If you're considering or actively pursuing a career in development, skim this piece and see if any of the six characteristics we highlight resonate with you:

You certainly don't need to have all of these traits to succeed as a developer – you can still succeed without a few, and learn others over time. But those you do have could really help you find fulfillment in a coding career for years to come.

6 characteristics that can make you an outstanding developer

6 traits infographic

1. You're a builder

It's fascinating to learn how things work. But there's a difference between learning the theory of how things work, and putting those concepts into practice.

Builders aren't satisfied with learning theory or abstract concepts alone. They have an itch to get hands-on and build tangible end-products.

If you get satisfaction from building something and seeing it in motion, imagine how good it feels to know the software you worked on is running on peoples' devices around the world. While it does involve sitting at a computer, coding is a hands-on building process, wherein each program has its own design and purpose.

Your creations as a developer affect how people interact with technology on a daily basis. That's the kind of concrete impact that can keep coding deeply satisfying for builders, time and time again.

2. You're a team player

In case you imagined programming is great for those who'd rather keep their head down at a computer than interact with others – this is an outdated myth. In fact, software development is a team sport. This is undeniably true if you're working on a coding project with other developers, whether within a company or an open-source community.

Team players don't just work for their individual gain. They love to share their successes and insights with their colleagues too.

When it comes to writing code, there are many collaborative activities that teams implement to help ensure maintainable, quality code. These practices include:

  • Peer code reviews, wherein you'll have the opportunity to exchange feedback before making changes to a software's code
  • Pair programming, wherein developers look at the same screen and exchange thoughts as they write new lines of code

There are plenty of opportunities to collaborate in a developer role. If you love teamwork, your instinct for collaboration and communication will help make these activities more intuitive, impactful, and enjoyable. Not only that – investing in your team members' growth will also boost your team's productivity, and help you prove leadership skills for your future growth.

3. You're a creative problem-solver

If you're a creative problem-solver, you have a knack for crafting intuitive or overlooked solutions to pressing problems. In the software industry, this means you can bring valuable perspective to your team, as well as branch off to spearhead your own innovative solutions.

Your vision for creative solutions can help you or your team implement practical approaches to problems big and small.

As a developer, being a creative problem-solver could serve you in many ways, but just a few are:

  • As an entrepreneur: Whatever creative solutions you're dreaming up, you can implement into a software solution to help people around the globe. Your technology can tackle a life-saving problem, or an everyday problem that affects many people. In any case, your innovative ideas can skyrocket with the many abilities of technology today.
  • As a team member: If you're working on modifying or adding functionality to an existing piece of software with your team, you may be able to identify more practical approaches to problems that had been overlooked in the initial planning phase. In these cases, don't be shy to chime in! It's always best to implement the most simple, scalable solutions possible – especially ones that can fulfill several purposes at once.

4. You're empathetic

In a broad sense, being empathetic means you can put yourself in another person's shoes. This ability to switch perspective is incredibly useful in the development world.

Your understanding of others will help you make decisions that better support the needs of your colleagues, as well as the needs of your software's user.

Overall, empathy will help you anticipate the needs of your colleagues, which in turn, will enable you to support the overall productivity of your team. For instance, let's consider what might seem to be an indirect way of supporting your colleagues: the common practice of writing code comments. Code comments are like annotations that accompany the code you write and provide developers who are reading it with helpful context about why you made the decisions you made. The better your comments are at anticipating the reader's thoughts, the more quickly the comments will help them become oriented with the software's code. This is helpful for onboarding new employees, and will also help your team members hit the ground running when it's time to fix bugs or modify code.

Empathy can also help you better anticipate the needs of the person using your software, which will help you make informed decisions about the software's design. You may also see this as being customer-oriented or customer-obsessed. In the end, your knack for targeting the real needs of your user will help you make intuitive software that sticks with your user.

And lastly, empathy is an important leadership skill that will get you further in your career.

5. You're determined (and maybe a bit competitive)

Wherever you are on your coding journey, you're likely to encounter challenges. Software may fail, or you may fail. The challenges you face will be unique to your particular journey. If you can stay determined and keep your goals in sight, despite failure, it'll help you stay resilient throughout your career.

"Failing that Google interview hurt me… it was that failure that was the booster that I needed." - Adora Nwodo (Check out her story on Educative Sessions: My Journey into the Cloud)

As with any competitive field, your determination will help you keep momentum, as well as serve as an example for others. To date, we at Educative have spoken with many successful developers who had a pivotal failing point on their coding journey. Their determination (and in some cases, other sources of support) helped them persevere.

6. You love learning new things

If you love learning, you'll never exhaust your learning opportunities in a coding career.

The tech industry changes fast, and there will always be new technologies to add to your toolkit. Outstanding developers are always ready to stretch their technical skillset to keep up with the industry and compete in the job market. Development is a pursuit of lifelong learning. If you have a growth mindset and are a dedicated learner, it'll only serve you well in the future.

The best developers love learning -- not just about new technologies, but about themselves too.

If your love for learning also exists on a personal level, you'll be able to gain soft skills and leadership traits that will help you advance in the long run. This takes a level of humility, and means that you can take feedback well and appreciate the challenge of improving yourself. You can never assume you know everything you need to know in the field of development. Even senior developers make mistakes, and can learn from junior developers.

The learning really never stops in development, so if you're a student at heart, you'll never feel stagnant in a coding career.

Wrapping up and next steps

While it's important to master your technical skills, who you are at your core will play a role in your long-term success as a developer.

If any of the characteristics in this piece resonated with you, that's great! They'll surely help you on your coding journey. However, we've only covered six of hundreds of good qualities to have.

In the end, the only thing that will make you an outstanding developer is you, and how you choose to shape your unique coding journey. In any case, we're excited to see what you do.

If you're ready to start learning the coding fundamentals you'll need to become a developer, we've created some resources to help you master the foundations:

You don't need any prior knowledge, or anything installed on your desktop to get started. We'll just start from the ground up, and you can start writing code as soon as you're ready.

Happy learning!

Continue learning about coding on Educative

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