Programming can be a lucrative and rewarding skill to develop, no matter what your goals are. You may be interested in launching a startup tech company, building your own app or tech product and nurturing its long-term development. You may be interested in joining a team that’s already formed, lending your programming skills to their collaborative efforts. Or you may be interested in using your programming skills in a more personal capacity; for example, you may use your programming skills to automate various aspects of your life or build out a pet project.
No matter what, if you’re learning programming for the first time or if you’re not used to the world of programming, there are some significant obstacles you may face.
Jumping Into Projects That Are Already Started
First, you may have difficulty jumping into projects that other people have already started—especially if they’ve had years of work behind them. If you’re starting a project of your own, you’ll get to call all the shots. You’ll have an idea of how to outline the project, how to think of it abstractly, which programming language to use, and how to code the product’s core features.
If you’re jumping into someone else’s work, you’ll face several different layers of challenges. For starters, you’ll have to learn everything there is to know about the project from scratch; you’ll need to learn what the purpose is, what the key features are, and what’s been done already. You’ll also need to see the product through the eyes of another person and get a feel for what they were thinking when they coded it.
Additionally, software products are often developed with dependencies on other apps, APIs, and libraries. Practicing active dependency management is the only way to resolve issues associated with these dependencies, include performance problems, security, and license compliance. However, if you’re not familiar with these dependencies from the outset, you’ll be playing catch-up to learn how to resolve them.
The best way to resolve this obstacle is to be as patient and proactive as possible. Talk to the people who coded this project initially and get a sense for what they were thinking throughout their journey.
Dealing With Compatibility Issues
It can also be extremely difficult to deal with compatibility issues and code a project so it works on many different platforms simultaneously. For example, if you want to launch a mobile app on both Android and iOS, you may need to comply with two very different sets of standards for the app. You may encounter a persistent bug that exists in only one version of your app, which means you’ll have to restructure the code and possibly make different updates in the future.
One potential solution here is to focus exclusively on one platform to start. Depending on your goals, this may limit your potential audience, but it will help you deliver a more polished product to your users—and save you lots of headaches along the way.
Debugging is a natural part of the programming workflow, but it can be a hard one to get used to if you’re a new programmer. There’s no such thing as a product that has no bugs; almost every piece of software launches with bugs, no matter how much proactive testing you did. If you want to improve the product and keep it secure, you’ll need to find and fix those bugs—and both stages of that process can be confusing.
The key to success is being able to replicate the issue. If you can replicate the circumstances that caused the bug to occur, you can get a good idea of the steps necessary to fix that bug. If you’re unable to replicate the issue, it may not be a “real” issue in the first place. You’ll have to work with the person or people who reported it to find out more.
Keeping Up With New Tech Changes
In the programming world, things tend to change quickly. While there are some old programming languages that seem to stick around forever and some time-tested methodologies that have been around for decades, we also need to consider the constant inbound flow of new programming languages, new best practices, and new techniques.
Keeping up with the latest updates, the latest technologies, and the latest trends can all be excruciating for someone who’s still trying to master the fundamentals. However, it’s much easier if you’re an active part of a community. Jump into programming forums—especially those that revolve around open source software or specific languages—and get updates about the latest news. It’s also a good idea to dedicate a little time each week (even if it’s only an hour) to learn new things.
Providing Accurate Expectations
As a programmer, you’ll be frequently tasked with setting proactive expectations about your work. You’ll have to give time estimates, effort estimates, and projected views on the future of each project to your clients, your coworkers, and your employees (eventually). Doing this with minimal experience is borderline impossible. The best way to get better is through experience, but in the meantime, rely on the wisdom of people more experienced than you.
Communicating With the Team
The only way to effectively code a large project together with a team is through communication. You have to actively and clearly communicate with your colleagues to set goals, identify problems, and of course, resolve those problems.
There are many aspects of communication worth improving. For starters, you can aim to be more proactive; you can set expectations and lay out the potential problems early in the process, so there’s no ambiguity or room for misinterpretation. You can also work to use the right platforms for all your messages; there are many communication mediums worth using, but they all have various strengths and weaknesses to accommodate. Additionally, it pays to cater to your audience; not everyone communicates the same way, so how can you draft messages in a way that appeals to your specific listener/reader?
Staying Focused and Productive
New programmers often struggle to remain productive throughout the day. If you’re working on something challenging, you can’t simply churn out an endless stream of code. And if you’re not focused, you may end up making substantially more errors—which then increase your workload when debugging.
Every person is unique in terms of what helps them achieve peak productivity, so you’ll have to experiment and focus on solutions that are uniquely suited to your work style. However, what’s most important is that you have some kind of focus/productivity strategy in place. How can you improve your set of tools, your work environment, and even your own mentality to boost your effectiveness and output?
Maintaining a Work-Life Balance
When you’re working on an important client project, or when you’re trying to launch the app that will drive your startup to success, everything else takes a backseat—including your personal life and even your health, if you’re not careful. For new programmers who are passionate about their work, work-life balance can become a massive problem.
If you don’t take care of yourself, your personal responsibilities, and your relationships, even the most talented programmer will suffer the consequences. No matter how busy you get or how focused you become on the project at hand, it’s important to dedicate time to yourself and your personal life; take plenty of breaks, take days off, and make time for things that are important to you.
As you become more experienced as a programmer, these problems are going to fade in importance. Some of them will never go away completely—for example, you’ll always have a bit of difficulty jumping into a project that someone else started—but in time, you’ll develop management and coping strategies that help you push through.