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So you know how to code. Is that enough?

Jeff Krenek


You've probably spent considerable time mastering a programming language. You may even be an expert in something like JavaScript, CSS, Python or perhaps C/C++. You've written so many lines of code you cannot remember all the projects. And you know you can probably solve just about any problem using your favorite language. That's awesome!

But what happens when that language becomes less relevant and is replaced by something else? Technology changes faster than almost anything else (well, maybe not as fast as that green light you never seem to catch in traffic). As a developer, you are constantly challenged to learn the latest programming language or tool that will give you that extra edge to stand out from the rest of the pack. And, despite your best efforts, that's not always going to happen. But you can do plenty of other things to stay ahead in this fast-paced environment.

To be a successful developer, you need more than the ability to code. Here are some characteristics I've seen experienced developers display:

An enthusiasm for continuous learning. Yes, this is an age old adage, and you've heard it many times. But it equates to more than just formal and informal training. It's about inviting others to critique your work, and making them feel comfortable with giving you feedback by demonstrating how you listen and act on that feedback. It's about trying something new that's outside your comfort zone, such as doing a presentation or conducting customer research. It also means finding other interests and bringing those conversations and thoughts into your development work. These are just some of the many non-traditional ways to keep learning.

Adaptability to changing situations. Every day the tech industry is flooded with new announcements that portend change -- change that could affect your job, what you do, and what makes you happy. Embracing that change and finding a path forward is key to being successful. You might need to learn a new skill, or you are placed with a new set of team mates, or your favorite project goes away. These things are out of your control. Professional developers will focus on what they can control, adapt as necessary, and find a path forward.

A desire to contribute in a meaningful way. Yes, you wrote your code, made your deadline and can claim success. But, is the code bug free? Is it efficient and performant code? How will the customer or others react to consuming your code? Skilled developers look beyond meeting just the milestone to ensure that what they are doing contributes to a successful outcome for the customer. They also look to see that what they are doing helps lift the contributions of their teammates as well as the broader organization.

These are just a few common traits I've seen in developers who I thought were successful. They were not always the experts in the latest languages or tools, but they were inherently an important part of the team.

Do you know any successful developers? What characteristics do they display? Share your thoughts and stories with me on Slack at hpedev.slack.com or connect with me on Twitter @KrenekJeff.