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Programming and stuff in Western PA

Traits of a great software developer

Here’s my two cents on what I think it takes to be a great software developer:

Knowledgeable : If the person doesn’t know what they’re talking about, then it doesn’t matter if they have every other trait on this list. Certifications are nice, but anyone can cram for one or go to one of those nifty sights that list the actual exam questions.

Nothing beats good old fashioned work experience. How the person obtains their knowledge isn’t all that important. I’ve worked with quite a few people who weren’t Comp Sci majors, or weren’t “certified”, or never even graduated from college, who could run circles around other developers who were. In this day and age, so much information is available at your fingertips via the internet that if you take the time, you can learn on your own. Which brings me to my next trait …

Works well independently : With technology changing so often, a good developer has to be able to learn things on their own. A lot of people,however, have trouble with this, and need to “training” from others to learn things. I’m not saying training or learning from others is bad, but if a person needs a lot of hand holding, then they’re going to cost their company more money in regards to time and resources.

Self-Motivated : I think this one speaks for itself, but I have been around a lot of people who need to be kicked and pushed if you want them to get things done. These people usually don’t last too long.

Humility : This is a tough one, and some people may disagree that this is an important trait. I’m sure we’ve all been around a hot-shot developer or two in our time. They’re real nice to have on a team because of their skills, but man can they get annoying. I’ve been with a company that had to “trim some fat”, and surprisingly, they let the best developer go not because he made too much money, but because of his cocky personality. The great developers I’ve been around don’t have much of an ego.

Excellent Communication Skills : This can be a tough one to grasp too. I know for me, it took a couple of years and almost cost me my second job. It wasn’t that I couldn’t talk, but rather, that I didn’t talk. I was shy and tried to stay hidden. The great developers I’ve been around aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions and make sure no questions go unanswered.

Plug and Play : Great developers are able to be plugged into any project and produce the same great results each time. It has little to do with programming languages but more to do with them applying the same work effort to every project.

Can handle criticism : All programmers make mistakes and write bugs (some more than others). However, I have seen some guys get real uptight and defensive when their mistakes are bought up to them. With communication with others being such an important part of a developer’s job, at some point, someone is going to criticize something you do.

Willing to teach others : Younger devs need mentors. It is the responsibility of the more experienced devs to be willing to pass down their knowledge. I’m sure we’ve all worked with a guy or two who wants to keep everything they know “in the vault”.

Accountability : This one’s a tough one too, but the good ones know when to step up and take responsibility for something.

Organized : Not so much the “tidy work area” kind of organized, but more like knowing where everything is, documenting meetings, emails, phone calls.

Enjoys what they do : I think most developers like what they do, but some are just more passionate than others.



February 19, 2008 - Posted by | Technology


  1. *claps* Could`nt have said it better myself. Awesome post

    Comment by MrGoo | March 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. All very true. I would only add to the humility trait by saying that being able to admit you’ve buggered something up is key to making it better next time.

    Comment by CrankyCoder | April 15, 2008 | Reply

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