Working with numbers, data, as well as organizations is vital for computer programmers, who write code for software and apps. In addition to technical skills like those, programmers need to exhibit soft skills – such as strong communication skills – to succeed.
Here are some common skills that employers look for when hiring a computer programmer, a career that ranks among the Top 10 Best Technology Jobs by U.S. News and World Report:
1. Proficiency in a programming language
Because one of the primary roles of a computer programmer is writing code for software applications and apps, a programmer must be adept in computer coding. Coding is the process of developing a set of instructions that allows a computer to perform a certain task and is written in programming languages such as C++, Python, Java and many others. Computer programmers also use these programming languages when testing and debugging software to ensure their security and integrity.
2. Systems analysis
System analysis is the process of determining how a system works and collecting and interpreting these facts. A computer programmer analyzes these changes based on condition, operations and environment to see if there are different outcomes. Once they have carefully evaluated the system and performed necessary tasks, the computer programmer can effectively identify where improvements and enhancements can be made.
This process really allows you to know a system inside and out, whether it is a new system about to be launched, an updated system or even a system that you are monitoring and troubleshooting. By being aware of system analysis, you will be able to successfully manage, improve and run an organization's system.[CH1]
3. Software engineering
Software engineering, also known as software development, is the process of analyzing needs and then designing and testing software or applications to fulfill those needs. All of this is done through computer programming and coding.
Software engineers typically focus more on the overall purpose and functionality of a software program or application as well as how users will interact with it, whereas computer programmers concentrate on writing the code that makes the app or program operate as intended. Software engineering is more complex than computer programming, but it’s a good idea for programmers to have a basic understanding of what it is – which is why it’s included in Herzing’s computer programming curriculum.
While you don’t need to be a mathematical wizard to be a successful computer programmer, having a basic knowledge of math is helpful because many programming tasks depend on strong mathematical analysis. Programmers often use standard arithmetic for many programming functions. There may be formulas or specific steps that they must code to “solve” an issue or create a program. Math becomes even more important if you decide to pursue more advanced programming.
While many of these hard skills will benefit you, they are not the end-all-be-all for computer programmers. Many soft skills will benefit you and complement these hard skills.
While creating, testing and troubleshooting software requires technical knowledge and skills, computer programmers also need the ability to think critically. They should be able to analyze a program and brainstorm new ways to work with and improve it. Additionally, many programmers are responsible for identifying and resolving glitches, bugs and other errors, which requires them to anticipate problems, evaluate issues and determine potential solutions. The most successful computer programmers can grasp the big picture of how the program is running, while also understanding the minute details of how the program works, its coding language and more.
Problem-solving skills also allow you to effectively respond to day-to-day challenges, such as managing the workload of you/your team, collaborating with difficult personalities and working with people in different departments, including some who might have limited computer knowledge.
2. Solid Communication
Like many careers, strong verbal and written communication skills are an important aspect of computer programming. While programmers do spend much of their day coding, they may also have meetings with coworkers, their boss, clients or others where they’re expected to explain what they’re working on or provide a status update on a specific project.
As a computer programmer, you’ll want to be perceived as approachable and knowledgeable so you may need to adjust the way you talk about your projects depending on your audience. For example, you’ll need to be able to articulate complex technical information in a simple and non-technical way so that your clients, coworkers and others who are unfamiliar with programming can understand. However, when talking or working with other IT or programming professionals, you should be able to communicate precisely using appropriate industry terminology.
Writing code and resolving errors takes time and patience. Frequently, a code or program won’t work on the first try, and it can take many attempts and tests to make sure that it is operating smoothly. Try not to get too frustrated as trial and error is part of the process, and you’ll get more efficient with experience. Try to remember that even though this can be frustrating at times, it is an opportunity to learn something new.
While not comprehensive, you can see from the list above that successful computer programmers use a combination of hard and soft skills on the job. Many of these skills are honed through time, education and experience, so don’t be discouraged if you are struggling in some areas!