Worlds no 0 programmer

Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Never worlds no 0 programmer a computer you can’t throw out of a window” – Steve Wozniak.

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Here then, in no particular order, are twelve positive things that you can do, at any point in your career, to improve your programming skills. Consciously try to improve yourself and the quality of code you write. Think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you can do it better. Look back at what you’ve done on previous projects, and how you might do it differently now, or where you could still improve on it.

Read for self-improvement, not just for the latest project. Read about improving your trade, not just about the latest technology. You can learn a lot by reading their code, watching their practices and listening to their opinions and stories. Also, you should always listen to what others have to say, regardless of whether they’re junior, intermediate, senior or guru-level developers. Decide to be a ‘Jack-of-all-Trades’ – also known as a Polymath, Polyglot, Generalist, Renaissance Man or Multi-specialist. This will allow you to avoid becoming ‘pigeon-holed’ into one specialty, which can stagnate your programming skills, as well as hurt your future employment prospects if your ‘specialty’ suddenly becomes yesterday’s technology. Read and attempt to understand code written by others.

Plus, write documentation for code written by other people. Writing code is significantly easier than reading someone else’s code and figuring out what it does. You can see how they do something – maybe they do it in a better way than you. And sometimes this can be one of the best ways to learn how not to do something. There is nothing like getting in and coding, especially under pressure – work on a real project, with real fickle customers, with real, ever-changing requirements and with real engineering problems.

Take a part-time job tutoring computer science students at a local university or college. This will force you to understand something at a completely different level,  since you have to explain it to someone else. As Douglas Adams wrote, “the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. One year gives you enough time to get past the basics – it pushes you towards understanding what’s beneficial in that language, and to be able to program in a style native to that language.

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