Not everyone is cut out to be a programmer.
While anyone can learn how to write code, that’s not the same as enjoying a long career. It’s entirely possible to be a talented coder and still not be a perfect fit.
If you’re unsure that you’re meant to be a programmer, here are six signs that indicate if you’re a bad fit.
1. You Lack Experimental Creativity
Despite a foundation in logic, programming is very much a creative art. A new program is like a blank canvas. Your paintbrushes are languages, frameworks, and libraries. You need a vision for your creation, and the creativity to bring it to life.
Coding purists will tell you that there’s only one way to write good code, but that’s not true at all. That’s like saying there’s only one way to build a house, write a novel, or bake a cake. There are many ways to code software and you should be willing to experiment.
Without a natural sense of curiosity, you’ll develop tunnel vision and have a hard time imagining new software. At that point, programming becomes mundane work and loses what makes it rewarding in the first place.
2. You Aren’t Independently Driven
You won’t be successful in anything unless you’re incredibly driven. That’s a universal truth, but it’s equally true for programming.
A good programmer is able to motivate themselves. Peel back all other layers and programming is fundamentally repetitive. If you have trouble investing yourself in code you’re going to struggle and burnout. You have to be able to solve problems using your own initiative.
Of course, the solutions to some problems are found through others. Experienced programmers are a treasure trove of knowledge. You have to be driven to seek them out at every opportunity.
3. You Can’t Stand Logic Problems
It’s a common misconception that you have to be a math genius to understand programming. You aren’t at a disadvantage if you never quite got the hang of advanced math. You do, however, need a grasp on solving problems with algorithmic thinking.
Do you have a natural fascination with puzzles? Are you inquisitive and eager to learn why programs work the way they do? If not, you’re going to find yourself frustrated when you run into these obstacles.
Much of the reward in programming comes from solving a puzzle. The more complicated the puzzle is, the more rewarding it is when you solve it. If this doesn’t light your fire, programming will be nothing more than an endless string of frustrations.
4. You Aren’t a Fan of Doing Research
If you’re not comfortable getting down in the weeds for the right answer, then you won’t love a career in programming. It’s not always the smartest coders that are successful. It’s the ones who understand how to break down problems and do research to fix them.How do you overcome these challenges? There’s no master handbook to pop open and get an easy answer. All you have is code documentation, Google, and a desire to ask the right questions.
5. You Prefer Normal Work Hours
Programming jobs give you flexibility. Some jobs work from an office, some allow you to work remotely. You can work for a startup or freelance to build your own career. With great flexibility comes a need for dedication. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of late nights, long coding sessions, and a diminished work-life balance.
Software development comes with strict deadlines. Meeting deadlines doesn’t always get accomplished with traditional 9-to-5 workdays. To get all the work done coding teams often put in extra time to cross the finish line. Even freelancers have to grind through long hours to stay ahead of your competition.
When you finally get off the clock? It can be hard to disconnect from your work. You could be laying down for bed with your brain rattling off syntax. Coding is a labor of love that can turn to hate if you’re not the right fit.
6. You Are Solely Focused on Salary
Maybe you were skimming job sites and marveled at the hourly rates available at tech hot spots. You’re not the first, and won’t be the last, to try your hand at coding to earn your slice of the pie. There’s a long hill to climb to get there. A four-year degree is often required, with master’s degrees becoming increasingly common.
Can you make a lot of money as a programmer? Sure, but it won’t be an easy road. If you’re looking to get rich quick, you might as well play the lottery.
Get With the Programming
You might be reading this list and feel like some of these apply to you. That can be discouraging if you’re considering a career writing code.
Here’s what shouldn’t ever happen: You shouldn’t give up before you’ve given coding an honest effort. The best way to find out if coding is right for you is to jump right in and try. Learn how to script, learn a language, learn from programming books.
Let’s say you’ve decided that coding isn’t for you but you still want to make use of the skills you’ve built up over the years. What are your options? There are a few ways you can put that knowledge to good use.
You could be a writer. The technical experience from programming can make you well-suited for technical writing (manuals, documentation, etc.).
You could be a data analyst. Depending on your field of expertise you could put your knowledge to use as a consultant for security systems, web platforms, game engines, or monetization models. If you have a heart for business but want to remain connected to the software industry, why not manage your own team of developers? There is always a need for leaders who understand the intricate process of programming.