This article is the first in a new series coming to The Software Guild blog in 2019; articles from our expert instructors. Keep your eye on this space to get the latest in what’s happening in code education, straight from our instructors. This month, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Alan Galloway kicks us off.
Do you want to be a faster, better programmer? What essential skills will improve your throughput and quality? Will boosting your typing speed to over 200 WPM make you a code wizard? Let’s discuss key measures of programming performance and ways you can enhance your abilities.
While some feel that the ability to crank out lines of code as quickly as possible is a defining factor in what makes a good developer, there are six other areas and activities that can improve your skill as a programmer.
1. Design For Success
The goal in software development is to address the requirements provided and deliver a useful product that meets those needs. The first area to focus on improving is design. Do you understand the requirements? Do you know how to solve the problems presented? Can you show how to fulfill the needs without writing code yet?
Working to explain your understanding of the requirements, identifying the gaps in the request and presenting the proposed solution to the stakeholders should be the first steps you take with a programming task. When you are working as part of a larger team, some of these tasks may have been performed by others. Make sure you understand their results and how they translate to software.
2. Tools for Efficiency
How can you be an efficient developer? Know your tool set. Don’t spend your time recreating common tools. There are times that you might need to eke out every bit of efficiency by writing tailored code. Typically, however, the libraries that are part of your environment will provide the components you need. Most importantly to your performance, those components can help you avoid writing code from scratch to solve problems. This means you’ll need to research and continually add to your toolbox of development components.
This will also lead to fewer lines of code written, as you are leveraging the work of the architects, designers and implementation crew of your chosen environment. To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, stand on the shoulders of giants.
3. Collaborate to Reach Your Goals
The final area to focus on if you want to improve your code development is collaboration. Even if you are working on a solo project, this is an aspect you should not overlook. Collaboration can be key on your development team, your stakeholder team and your technical network. Know when to ask for help. Develop your skills by offering help. Make sure that your requests demonstrate the actions you have taken so far, target the issue or obstacle you are experiencing and give room for someone to work with you and direct you to something that is currently outside your perspective.
When you are on the giving end, try to craft your assistance to give room for growth and foster collaboration in the future. Each time you get or give assistance, you are widening your foundation as a developer. This is going to grow you and your entire community.
4. Practice Coding Warmups
Coding exercises have a lot in common with physical exercise. To perform either at a high capacity, you need to warm up your muscles or your mind. While coding warmups add a step to your work routine, they can help you loosen up enough to produce quality work once you jump into a task.
How can you warm up before a strenuous programming session? An article on DEV.to suggests engaging in a tutorial or playing a coding game that relates to your current project. Beyond getting you into a coding frame of mind, these warmups offer refreshing ways to enhance the knowledge you need to complete daunting tasks.
5. Strengthen Your Knowledge of Design Patterns
Originality is important, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel with every line of code you write. This makes design patterns effective tools for overcoming common problems. These replicable solutions provide quick fixes to challenges that stumped developers in the past. By using them, you can avoid the headache of solving recurring problems from scratch, reserving mental energy for new challenges.
Note that design patterns are templates, not plug-and-play lines of code. There are dozens to learn, commonly divided into three categories: creational, structural and behavioral. Mastering them all takes practice, but doing so can boost your efficiency and enhance your comprehension of coding concepts.
6. Contribute to Open Source Projects
Open source projects offer immediate opportunities to develop skills and experience you need for a career in code. These projects rely on people with various skill sets, which gives you a chance to show off your strengths and learn new techniques. You will also collaborate with a variety of programmers, helping you refine your teamwork skills and build your career network.
You can contribute to open source projects even if your code skills are rough around the edges, according to Open Source Guides. For instance, novice programmers can support non-coding functions, such as creating documentation, drafting copy or refining aesthetics. Once you feel comfortable enough to code on an open source project, you’ll get to demonstrate your skills in a public venue while contributing to projects for your work portfolio
Improve Your Performance to Ensure Your Future
Churning out lines of code with extreme speed is not a bad skill to acquire. That alone does not define your programming performance.
By improving your design skills, streamlining your development efficiency and fostering collaboration in your team and network, you will continue to improve your programming performance!