6 Powerful Traits That Can Make Any Software Developer Successful
Updated: Aug 12
When most people think of a successful software developer, they might imagine someone like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. But the truth is, there are many different types of software developers who have achieved great success in their profession.
In my sixteen years of software career, I have seen successful software developers in every major corporation, startup, and company of varying sizes.
All these software developers have certain common traits that help them succeed professionally. If you also have the ambition to become successful in your software career, you will need to ensure you work on possessing these six powerful traits.
1. Creative Thinking
One of the most important traits of a successful software developer is the ability to think creatively. This means coming up with new ideas and solutions to problems. It also means being able to see things from different perspectives and finding new ways to approach old problems. This trait can help developers adapt quickly to the fast-changing software development world and build a thriving career regardless of market conditions.
As a software developer, you will deal with challenges on a daily basis. For me, that’s one of the most exciting parts of my job as a software engineer. And when I say challenges, I am talking about ambiguous requirements, complex business problems, conflicting priorities, tight deadlines, and difficult interlocks, to name a few.
To be successful, you need to learn how to overcome these challenges without impacting your effectiveness as a programmer. For that, you must be creative in your thinking to find innovative solutions and build something amazing.
One way for software developers to learn creative thinking is to read relevant books and attend creativity workshops, training programs, and seminars. These will help you to develop new skills and techniques that you can use to be more creative in your work.
You must also observe your surroundings and see how other teams in your organization solve various problems. An excellent way to expand your creativity is to brainstorm with your peers. This will allow you to develop new ideas and act as fodder for your creative thinking process.
2. Commitment and Discipline
As a software developer, you must be dedicated to your tasks and see them through to completion. This requires discipline and focus. To be successful in the long run, it’s critical to stick to your commitments and avoid being sidetracked. Doing so builds the necessary trust among your team and leaders.
Many software engineers find it hard to keep their commitments because they always encounter some or other problems. Over-commitment is one of the primary reasons for this. They don’t know how to estimate correctly or prioritize their assignments. While estimating, they fail to consider all the factors that can affect their delivery.
Developers feel good when they commit to a lot of tasks. They think their leaders will appreciate their hard work. Unfortunately, when the estimates are way off, it becomes difficult to keep their commitments. And when developers don’t use the proper prioritization technique, they will constantly scramble at the last moment to complete high-priority tasks. This leads to missed timelines and poor-quality output.
On the other hand, under-commitment is also an issue. When developers continuously pick fewer assignments than they can, they pull their team down. They fail to work up to their potential. It might give them much time to slack, but that shows they are not competent software engineers. Now either their leader has to face the heat of pending delivery, or their team members need to overwork and patch up the gap.
Eventually, their manager and team will catch up to their lazy way of working. Once that happens, they will not trust the developer with high-value critical projects. This, in turn, will slow down the programmer’s career growth. Without any visible work, they will have nothing to show during appraisals.
One way to overcome this challenge is to set realistic goals for yourself and your team. It might seem hard at the beginning of your career. But if you pay attention, with time, you will come to know about your true ability and can commit accordingly. When you consistently meet your commitment and do substantial delivery with good quality, you will get the proper attention you deserve to grow in your career.
3. Taking Ownership of Career Decisions
As software engineers, we are responsible for our careers. We might blame our team members, our managers, or our company policies for not giving us opportunities, but these are excuses we give ourselves for not making the change that can help us grow. When I say change, it can be a change in how you work, change the project, switch the team, or even move to a new company with a better prospect for growth.
I see engineers complaining about their situation all the time. They feel they are dealt with unjustly in the company. They compare themselves with their friends in a different company. They get swayed by generic views from others without doing any fact check.
However, they do not take any concrete action to improve their situation.
There is nothing wrong with continuing in the role or staying in a company for a long time. But if you do so, recognize that you are doing it with your own will. Understand that no one forces software engineers to continue in an environment that is not conducive to their growth.
One of the most effective ways to grow as a software engineer is to take action and own the responsibilities irrespective of the outcome. Taking no action when not growing in the role is a career killer. Simultaneously, not owning up to your career decisions can frustrate you and divert your attention from your responsibilities.
4. Knowing When and How to Help
As a software developer, you are constantly called upon to solve problems. Whether you are debugging code or implementing a new feature, your ability to find creative solutions is essential to your success.
However, being a successful developer isn’t just about having the right skills; it’s also about knowing when and how to help others. When another developer struggles with a problem, offering a helping hand can be the difference between a successful project and a costly delay.
Helping others is a huge career booster. The more you help others, the more people see you as someone with a lot of knowledge. People whom you help spread the word about your capability, among others. This is the most effective and powerful way to build your brand and increase your visibility within your organization.
However, to get the maximum benefit from your helping nature, you need to know when and how to help. When you help others during times of need, you are helping them to meet their commitment. This, in turn, helps your organization to deliver projects on time and with good quality.
But sometimes, when you help too much, other programmers become dependent on you. Instead of trying to solve the problem independently, they reach out to you as soon as they hit a snag. This builds an unhealthy culture. Such developers do not learn from their mistakes as they have never tried finding their own solutions.
The other side effect of helping too much is that you start seeing your work hour increase. The more you help others, the less time you have for yourself. You have to stretch beyond regular office hours to finish your job. The more you try to keep up with helping others and finishing your work with quality, the more you push yourself towards burnout.
Hence, to be successful in your career, you need to learn how to strike the right balance while helping others in the workplace.
5. Being Solution Focused
There are several reasons why being a solution provider is important for software developers’ success. First, it shows that they can think critically and identify problems. Second, it demonstrates that they have the ability to work with others to find solutions. And third, it shows that they are willing to take responsibility for their actions.
By contrast, software engineers who find problems in everything tend to be more concerned with placing blame and avoiding accountability. As a result, they are less likely to be successful in the long run.
If you are a regular reader of my articles, you know how much I value this trait in software engineers. Our job is to provide solutions to others’ problems through our code. If any programmer doesn’t see their job in this manner, they need a mentor who can help them with this perspective. Reach out to me, and we can find value in your work that can keep you motivated in the long run.
Coming back to the topic, I have seen good developers getting entangled in everyday issues. They see problems and start complaining about them. They want their leaders to sort out the issues as soon as possible. When the issue is not resolved to their satisfaction, they feel frustrated.
However, they go blank if you ask them to suggest a few solutions to the problem. Or, they propose solutions with zero consideration for other engineers involved in the situation. Such an attitude does not breed a healthy work environment. It also does not help build a collaborative team.
The best approach to any problem is to imagine a few solutions that work for all. It is totally fine not to have a solution for some issues. But in that case, raise the concern to your manager and trust that they will take care of it. Don’t expect they will magically solve the problem precisely to your satisfaction. Give them time to work on an amicable resolution.
When you become focused on the solution rather than the problem, you also build positivity in your attitude. Leaders and team members prefer working with people who can help solve a problem, not with someone who always cribs about what is not working in their work environment.
So if you want to be a successful software developer, focus on being a solution provider instead of a problem creator. It’s a trait that will serve you well throughout your career.
6. Being a Team Player
Software developers need to work effectively in a team setting to be successful. This means collaborating with other team members, communicating effectively, and providing support when needed. Being a team player is essential for any developer who wants to grow professionally. Without it, even the most talented developer will struggle to find success.
For me, being a team player means you are conscious of others’ ambitions and challenges in the team. You are happy when your peers are successful. A teammate getting the spotlight for their work does not bother you. In fact, you look for opportunities to appreciate others for their work.
Being a team player is an effective path to success for software engineers. Hence, successful developers prefer to share their knowledge with their team members so that they all can perform to their fullest potential. They take time out of their busy schedule to mentor others whenever required. They don’t want success just for themselves; instead, they want it for everyone on the team.
If you want to be successful in your software career, recognize that software development is a team game. Don’t hesitate to provide valuable feedback to make your team better. You should take pride in working with a team where each engineer is capable and contributes to the company’s success. And, to make it happen, You must be ready to put all the effort required from your side.
Final Thoughts: 6 Powerful Traits for Software Developers
You must be wondering — what about proficiency in programming; is not that one of the most necessary skills to become a successful software developer?
Yes, it is. But being a great software engineer is not just about technical skills.
Technical expertise helps you improve at your job, but it is insufficient to help you grow in the long run. Instead, how you work in a team, take responsibility, and collaborate with others are more significant to becoming a successful software developer.
Of course, many other traits can make a developer successful, but the given six powerful traits for software developers, in my opinion, are the most important ones.
Commitment and discipline
Taking ownership of career decisions
Knowing when and how to help
Being solution focused
Being a team player
Subscribe to my free newsletter to get stories delivered directly to your mailbox.