What Non-Programming Skills Do Programmers Need?

As programmers or aspiring programmers, we often focus on the technical skills we need to build software. We work on improving our programming skills, picking up new frameworks, or reading technical books to improve our knowledge of computer science.

However, those technical skills will only get us so far. As with most careers, we need to expand our learning and also focus on professional skills. And actually, these skills will make the technical side easier, as we’ll have more clarity on what we need to do to solve problems.

In this post, we’ll go over what non-programming skills programmers need to use in our jobs.

1. Communication

First and foremost, we need to be able to communicate with our fellow programmers, analysts, product managers, and customers. Without clear communication skills, requirements get lost or misunderstood. Technical skills will only get us so far. We need to expand our learning and focus on professional skills. And actually, these skills will make the technical side easier, as we'll have more clarity on what we need to do to solve problems.As a result of poor communication, programmers might build the wrong solution to the problem. Or their solution might make things difficult or clunky for the user because the programmer didn’t understand the problem correctly.

A lot can go wrong with communication. And since communication is the most important skill that we’ll cover, let’s break it down further.
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Do Programmers Need a Degree?

In today’s job market, many of you look for ways to improve your employability and earnings potential. And you may have noticed articles pointing out the apparent shortage of programmers, along with information on the amazing salaries and benefits they receive. Combining all these things, you may be one of the many people who are now trying to break into programming.

And for those of you who are trying to break in, one of the most popular questions revolves around degree requirements. Mainly, you want to know if degrees are required. And you want to know if the degree has to be in a specific field of study.

Today we’ll answer your questions and give you some things to think about. Because as you’re about to see, the answer to whether programmers need a degree isn’t always simple.

Some Say No, You Don’t Need a Degree

First, many programmers don’t have a degree. Others do have a degree, but not in computer science (CS) or software engineering. For example, my degree is in business administration. Also, I’ve worked with developers that have degrees in music, physics, graphic design, math, education, and even dietetics!

But are these just an example of survivorship bias? Maybe.

Do you mere mortals still have a chance at a lucrative programming career? Definitely.

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Lessons From a Veteran: When You’re Not Sure If This Career Is For You

This post is part of a series interviewing veteran developers, asking them questions about their journey to tech mastery and sharing the advice they have for those getting started.

Sylvia FronczakToday, we’re talking to Sylvia Fronczak. Sylvia is a software developer that has worked in various industries with various software methodologies. She’s currently focused on design practices that the whole team can own, understand, and evolve over time.

Wondering if a career in programming is right for you? Read Sylvia’s advice below.

Basic Logistics: Stack? How long have you been doing it?

Most of my career has involved Java in some shape or form. Coming in a distant second place is JavaScript, and it’s distant mostly due to the fact that I’ve spent more of my career developing back-end web services or batch jobs than apps that include a front-end. In the case of Java, I’ve been writing Java for over 20 years, since version 1.2. The language has changed so much over the past few decades as it works to follow the needs of programmers. And although many other languages have become very popular, Java still has a strong share of the market.

Early in your career, don't put too much emphasis on learning multiple languages and frameworks. Instead, work on getting depth in just a couple languages. And then learn those well.

Although I’ve done mostly Java for my entire career, there’s a ton of value in learning other languages, frameworks, and tools. In fact, I spent time working with many other languages, like C++, C#, Kotlin, Groovy, and Scala. For front-end work, when just considering JavaScript frameworks, I’ve used jQuery, Vue.js, Angular, and React. And then if you add in all the different databases, integration tools, and messaging systems, you can see that there are a lot of different tools to solve software problems.

Through my experience, I realized that one of the most important skills you’ll develop over your career in programming involves being able to pick up new languages and frameworks easily.

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