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Have you ever been told that to make it as a developer, you need to be born that way? Well, as a self-taught developer and technical program manager here at Udacity, I’m telling you that is absolutely untrue. Like any other profession, success is ultimately based on hard work and learning. Here’s how you can get yourself into a developer mindset.


Step 1: First, Realize that Thinking Like a Developer is Not Magic

Thinking critically is a core characteristic that all developers share and, just like any other learned skill, you can improve your critical thinking skills. Anyone can do it with practice.

When you’re starting something new—in this case, a career or set of skills—it’s common to feel the effects of Imposter Syndrome. This is the feeling of inadequacy…that you’re not as good as the people around you. Remember that Imposter Syndrome is real and it happens to the best of us. So don’t let it get to you!

Step 2: Just Start Coding

There is no secret, you just need to start doing it. Put something on the screen even if you end up deleting it later. Break the project into tiny pieces, then solve a small piece. Once you get started writing something, it’s much easier to keep going. Ten lines of poorly written, functional code is better than ten-thousand lines of perfectly architected imaginary code.

Especially when you start, it is okay to ask for help. Everyone needs help, so don’t hesitate to reach out to:

Whatever you do, try not to get too stressed out about the learning process. You have an ultimate goal and you should always keep that in mind. And remember that having fun in the short-term goes a long way, so always try to find some enjoyment in what you you’re learning.

Step 3: Don’t Stop Until You Finish What You Started

Never give up! You will encounter many problems when you’re coding. We all do, so be patient. Developers are tenacious problem solvers, and they don’t stop just because something doesn’t work the first time through.

Programming requires a lot more creativity than you might initially assume. Thinking outside the box is important for finding new ideas to solve current problems.

There are many ways to solve a puzzle, so just because something didn’t work as expected, it doesn’t mean the puzzle is impossible to solve. When things get difficult, take a step back and reevaluate. A fresh perspective usually helps.

Similarly, just because you have a found a solution, don’t stop there. Continue to improve and get better at your craft. Many great developers are ordinary people who had the patience and determination to hone their craft over time.

Derek Chen
Derek Chen
Product Manager at Udacity. Derek is focused on making a dent in the education universe by building amazing products that are credible, scalable and interactive. From his time running a start-up and previous PM experience, he has gained extensive knowledge about the intersection of data, design, and development. In his free time, Derek enjoys playing basketball, listening to music, traveling, and hanging out with friends.