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4 tips to level up your programming career

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

Australia’s programming industry is facing rapid growth, teeming with employment opportunity for those with a passion to code.

Job Outlook statistics show that the field is set to grow from 121,300 workers in 2018, to 146,800 by 2023 – creating about 80,000 job openings in between. 

Today’s increasingly digitised economy shows no better time to enter the programming field, with those already in it experiencing the benefits of uphill career progression.

As they build on experience, programmers find opportunities to climb the ladder; starting from junior roles to lead developers or architects.

If you’re looking for ways to advance your career, here are four tips to give your programming role the boost it deserves.

How do I level up my programming career?

  1. Define your career goals.
  2. Learn from the best.
  3. Pursue continuous improvement.
  4. Write lots of code.

1. Define your career goals.

programmer at work

Your first step is deciding where you hope to be in the coming years. Establish your “end-game” – the role (or roles) you hope to attain as you advance in your programming career. Consider what excites you in this industry: is it creating new mobile apps? Designing websites? Game development? Do you hope to progress to the manager’s chair, or perhaps start a venture of your own one day?

Whatever your goals may be, start identifying them – then research on the main skills you’ll need to successfully achieve them. If you’re currently employed, it can help to share these goals with your manager; those who care about your career development may just have some opportunities in store. Ensure they’re aware of your accomplishments and build a positive reputation they acknowledge. This will help when they represent you for promotions or rewards.

Throughout it all, don’t lose sight of your ambitions. Complete the tasks set out for you, but keep an eye out for other opportunities for growth. 

However, it’s important to not set your expectations too high. In his article for Medium, programmer Leonard Kim shared how visions of (career) grandeur would have easily set him back as he encountered the initial failures of his career. 

Instead, it’s best to take baby steps – overcoming one challenge at a time, and ensuring that there’s consistent progress, even if it isn’t “yard by yard”.  

If you’re after a new role, it’s also crucial to brush up on your interviewing skills. This keeps you and your communication sharp as you work your way towards the ideal programming job. 

2. Learn from the best.

Secondly, surround yourself with other industry professionals. Listening to others and learning from their programming journey helps you polish your coding techniques and make wiser career decisions. 

Take advantage of collaborative opportunities, whether it’s joining a “hackathon” or simply contributing to online communities. The internet hosts plenty of social media groups and open-source projects that allow you to share your knowledge and skill. 

Take time to examine the code of senior developers or more advanced programmers; if they’re willing, you’ll benefit from picking their brain and asking valuable questions on how to improve. Compare their work to your own, taking note of any technical patterns or techniques you may be able to implement in your own code. 

However, treat these programs as lessons, rather than “literature”. Don’t just blindly accept their methods; rather, analyse their approach and identify how you could improve on their methods. This helps refine your critical thinking skills and leaves you a better programmer for it; compared to those who simply copy and paste others’ code.

3. Pursue continuous improvement.

women programmers at work

Going hand-in-hand with the previous tip, pursuing constant improvement and finding new ways to better your code is vital to advancing your programming career. 

As common sense as it is, it can be tempting to settle for safe, tried-and-true solutions – rather than venturing into new trends and practices. Once great strides are made, it’s also easy to consider yourself an “expert”; though for those with great programming ambitions, it’s best to leave your ego at the door

Focus on continuously practicing your craft, investing time to learn new programming languages and principles. Look into those you’ve never encountered before, whether mainstream or lesser-known; a full list can be found on Wikipedia with a description for each. Google examples, understand how these patterns are implemented, and take the time to truly understand them. 

Broadening your knowledge on the latest programming trends sharpens your competitive edge, keeping your skills valuable for potential employers. 

You can also take a page out of Java World’s tutorials, and adopt the practice of “writing code three times”. Their principle is simple; each program undergoes three versions of code:
  1. A “draft” version that simply proves a solution is possible 
  2. A second version that actually works
  3. And a third and final version that works correctly. 
If it helps, a specialised course can help you further your skills with direct help from industry professionals (and leaves you with a nationally-recognised qualification to boot!).

Plenty are now available online, offering the flexibility of studying while tending to work or other personal commitments. Upskilled, for example, offers multiple courses for budding programmers, each delivered completely through an online platform. 

4. Write lots of code.

And finally, all technical knowledge is rendered useless when not put into practice. 

To get better at your craft as a programmer, your best bet is to code – and to do lots of it. Don’t just rely on course assignments or projects at work; start bringing your own ideas to fruition

Pursuing your own programming ventures adds more to your portfolio and resume, boosting your marketability for future roles. It also shows prospective employers that you’re a self-starter – someone with a strong will to learn and a true passion for the field. 

Don’t be afraid to get ambitious, as the more unique your ideas are, the more likely you’ll end up with substantial projects that truly showcase your programming skills and creativity. It may even be worth documenting the process and sharing what you’ve learned online; whether it’s through blog posts or engaging with active communities on Reddit, StackOverflow or Quora. This allows you to make a name for yourself and let others learn from your expertise

Having personal programming projects also enhance your problem-solving skills, forcing you to figure things out on your own. It provides the opportunity for failure – a vital ingredient for improvement and success.

Code your way to a successful career!

As with any career path, progression starts with the right skillsets and eagerness to learn. With the abundance of technical practice and knowledge in the programming field, advancement can be a challenge; though a growth mindset and the right expertise can surely help you up the ladder. 

Upskilled offers aspiring programmers with a ICT40518 - Certificate IV in Programming – a course that explores the essentials of common programming languages, application development, technical documentation, and more. Through vendor-specific and vendor-neutral materials, students will have the opportunity to be well-equipped in pursuing professional coding and developer roles in the growing world of IT. 

Best of all, it’s 100% online – helping you study according to your personal schedule. 

Advance your programming career today – and enquire on a course today.
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