In recent tests to assess the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds from across the world, the UK ranked 26th for maths and 20th for science, down overall from 28th and 16th respectively in 2009.
For a view of young people’s potential in computer programming careers, however, such tests don’t necessarily tell the full story. Employers look for other personal attributes and skills, beyond academic credentials, when assessing candidates’ suitability, for instancecreativity, a collaborative approach and an entrepreneurial spirit are as important as aptitude and experience.
So to help present the skills needed for computer programming in a different light, here are 10 signs coding could be right for you; signs that aren’t always accounted for in academic tests.
1. You’re a problem-solving pro
Lots of people will simply tolerate problems without looking for a proactive way to solve them, particularly if tolerating the problem is easier. If you don’t take this approach, but actually enjoy the challenge of solving problems of all kinds, then that’s a great sign that you could be suited to software development. If, in your desire to solve problems, you also take into account realistic constraints – such as timeframes and budgets – then this could be a real asset in your search for a career.
2. You have a passion for strategy games
Yes, it can be true that gaming is good for you, particularly where strategy games are concerned. These help hone your ability to make decisions based on a number of relevant factors, taking into account both short and long-term consequences. As well as computer games, those who enjoy offline games like chess, bridge or risk, could also have an underlying aptitude for programming. At Net-a-porter, for example, we even have a weekly games club.
3. You have a musical mind
While the evidence for the correlation between music and maths is still in debate, it seems commonplace for those with musical talent to have mathematical abilities too. In our team, there are numerous coders who either compose music, sing, or play an instrument. In fact, roughly half the singers in our company choir are from the IT department.
4. You have a talent for winning arguments
No, we’re not talking about full-blown shouting matches. But if your logical approach to arguing your points in a structured way means that you frequently win over your opponents, this could be a sign that you have the systematic thinking needed for software development.
5. You love making things
You can get the same sense of satisfaction from making something in the virtual world as you can in the physical world. Indeed, in the digital world, you aren’t constrained by practicalities like materials and space, so imagination is your only limit. Having a natural curiosity for how things work, and how to make them work better, is a good indication of a nascent software developer.
6. You’re a people person
Contrary to the stereotype of the IT teams hidden away from the rest of the company, working as a developer can actually involve a great deal of interaction with others across the business. This means that an enjoyment of communicating and an ability to explain things in a way that is easily understood by others, are both really important.
7. You’d like to know more about the theory of computer science
While you may not have digested the full history of computer science, an interest in the theory behind software engineering is an important aspect of a coder’s skillset. You don’t want to spend your time re-inventing the wheel, so being interested in what others have discovered, and being prepared to build on those foundations, will fast-track your potential achievements.
8. You’re a team player
Coding itself is a very collaborative process; continuously reviewing and redefining code with others helps you to shake out bugs, makes your work more likely to meet users’ needs and is one of the best ways to learn. Developers therefore need to enjoy working together and should be prepared to study, critique and improve one another’s work.
9. You are intrinsically motivated
Putting some amateur psychology to use, it seems to be true that the best developers are intrinsically motivated. This means they take their reward and motivation from the process of finding a solution to a problem, or creating something innovative in itself. In other words, developers often do what they do for the love of doing it, rather than just being paid to do it.
10. You love technology
This is fairly obvious, but it is worth re-iterating that if you want to work in software engineering, you need to have an appreciation for the amazing possibilities that technology brings to the world. Being interested in how you can harness the potential of technology, for whichever company you want to work in, will definitely stand you in good stead, and is a sure sign you are on the right career track for success in coding.