Four Things That Make Great Developers Great

What is the difference between mediocre developers and great developers?

1. A great developer is empathetic.

Believe it or not, the greatest thing about great programmers (in my opinion) has nothing to do with programming. Whereas a mediocre developer tends to say "That’s stupid, why don’t you just do X?" a great developer says "That might do the job, but I believe there may be better options - tell me what made you choose this route?"

I have worked with developers who pride themselves on being blunt and on “telling it like it is”. These devs drive their coworkers away and have a negative impact on company culture. I use empathy to connect with my coworkers, ask for help, offer advice, and hold conversations towards a common goal. A mediocre developer has little or no empathy and holds arguments with no goal other than “being right” or having “their way”.

2. A great developer learns the language first

A mediocre developer’s skills are relevant today, while a great developer prefers technologies and skillsets which will be relevant in ten years. (See Google Trends jQuery vs. Javascript). This doesn’t mean that a great developer does not use jQuery, only that he or she is careful not to place all their eggs in a small basket. A great developer will use Silex where necessary while still developing his PHP skills and thus not be dismayed at the news of Silex being discontinued.

3. A great developer is adaptable.

This one sums up a lot of great development traits. A great developer adapts well because he is self-taught, always learning, always willing to stretch and grow, and because he is humble enough to admit that what he did or used in the past did not work perfectly and can be improved in the future.

Further, a great programmer is adaptable because they understand the concepts behind the code and can transfer those concepts and knowledge from one technology to another. I fully believe a great developer can be productive in any code base because at one level or another, every single program ever written boils down to putting pixels on a screen or bits on a storage drive.

4. A great developer is humble

Remember that all developers make mistakes! Great devs willingly admit that their mistakes, and never make the same mistake twice. Great devs ask for advice - and pay attention when it is given. Great devs enjoy the code review as a process to help improve.

More About Great Developers

November 4, 2018

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