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Galadriel Alethea Lynn
Galadriel Alethea Lynn

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Do I Really Have to Code 24/7 to Be a Good Programmer?

I got into the idea of becoming a programmer for several reasons. But the reason that actually got me started on doing the work of becoming a programmer was the excitement other people had about being programmers. They also seemed really happy with their lives. I wanted what they had.

Then I started to hear other things. Things like, to be a good programmer you had to sell your life and soul to the time lords. That to be a good programmer you had to program twenty-four hours a day everyday. That to be a good programmer you had to write code that would create more time in which you could then use to write more code. I panicked a little inside. I know me and I know that I don’t and would never feel that way about anything. Do I give up now or do I try and contort myself into someone else’s idea of a good programmer and just hope that I’ll like it once I’ve mutated?

Articles like, How to be TRULY Competitive for Software Jobs, by Raymond Gan started showing up in my sphere. After reading them I would get discouraged. I could see some merits in what they were saying. I could get behind and even get excited to try some of the things they would suggest a good programmer should do. But the general tone of articles like that one would leave me worrying and doubtful of my future potential as a developer. Do I really have to build my own programming language, do I really have to build my own mini-version of Rails, do I really have to build my own mini-React from scratch?! I wasn’t worried that I could never do those things, I worried because I knew I probably would never want to do those things.

Then this week our class went on some tours of businesses where real life programmers are working. And you know what happened? Not a single one of those programmers ever gave us advice that sounded like or felt like Gandalf shouting, “You shall not pass!” as he brought down his staff to block the path of the Balrog Demon in pursuit. No, they said things like, “I love my job”, “I love the people I work with,” “I love the company I work for,” “I love the projects I get to work on,” “I don’t do a lot of coding after work,” “I go home and hang with my friends and family after work,” and “Sometimes I do a little coding on the side but it’s for fun!”

They encouraged us to study and study hard, to do a little coding every day so we didn’t lose the skill, to get connected and ask questions, but to also have a life and to take care of ourselves. I liked every place we visited. I liked the culture they built in their workplaces. I liked the way they never felt like their work was work. I liked the way they treated their profession and each other. I found myself once again wanting what they have.

Top comments (3)

lautarolobo profile image
Lautaro Lobo

Well, if you like building new things with code, then go for it! I have a friend that became a dev just for the money, and well his o'right now, happy and with $... but I don't encourage anybody to do that, do what you like because you like it.

You don't need a bachelor in Computer Science to have a great job as a programmer, neither to code every day. You can (and I think that you should) take breaks.

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇬🇧🇪🇸🇨🇴

Spending all your time programming to become a good programmer is a recipe for failure.

Good programming requires clear thinking, good sleep, investing time in understanding the context around you, people, their motivations, communication skills, empathy with the users and fellow team members, a connection with the real world, identifying the real bottlenecks, learning and mentoring, ...

You will practice none of this by just wasting even more time behind a computer screen in the rabbit hole of following yet another tutorial of yet another hot JavaScript framework in order to build yet another Todo app.

It's not about the amount of time you spend programming, it's about making them count.

Put your laptop to sleep, go for a walk, read, think, write, listen to music, dance

kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited

I've said it before: the breaks between coding are often where my best ideas come from. I cannot count the number of times I have come up with a solution to a puzzling problem while driving or in the shower. Nor the number of times where I stayed late to "get it done" only to rewrite it better the next day after some rest.

Coding 24/7 -- if it works -- works by attrition. A lot more effort is expended than the value you get from it.

Forgot to mention originally. Bloggers have every incentive to hold up a standard which cannot be met. That way readers are enticed to subscribe to find out how to do this impossible thing. Gatekeeping is unfortunately an effective marketing tactic.