How to be a Programmer: A Short, Comprehensive, and Personal Summary

Few days’ back I stumble up on this very good essay titled: “How to be a Programmer: A Short, Comprehensive, and Personal Summary” by Robert L Read. The essay is must read for all those whoever are part of the “Software Programmer” tribe. It’s a comprehensive essay detailing various facets of professional life of Software engineer.

The essay deals with range of topics starting from basic debugging skills to managing projects, conceiving good design and to the extent of how to manage the people, team dynamics and personal aspects like “When to go home” etc.

The author has been very concise and focused while explaining all these topics. The best part of the article is that it’s very generic and the suggestion/recommendation holds for a person working as any role in software development with any sort of technology.

Another good part of the essay is the manner in which it is structured. All the skills required in order to be a successful programmer are grouped into three sections namely: “Beginner”, “Intermediate” and “Advanced”. The “Beginner” section talks about things like debugging, performance tuning, fundamental concepts like memory and i/o management, testing, experimenting, team skills, working with poor code, source code control etc. All are damn interesting and must read.

“Intermediate” section covers some of the soft skills, which are of paramount importance. Things like Personal skills, how to stay motivated, how to grow professionally, how to deal with non-engineer etc. and technical things like managing development time, evaluating and managing third party software, when to apply fancy computer science. Finally the “Advanced” section talks about how to make technology judgment, using embedded languages, dealing with schedule pressure, growing a system, dealing with organization chaos etc.

So all and all very interesting read.

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