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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

7 Signs of a Top-Notch Software Engineer

Software engineering is a field that’s full of opportunities and challenges. Every year, more people join the profession, eager to make a career for themselves.

Most software engineers try to be good at programming. But being technically skilled isn’t enough to have a successful career.

Only a handful of software engineers really excel and reach their career goals. These engineers stand out because they act wisely and maturely in their daily work.

Acquiring the traits that lead to success as an experienced developer is not difficult. Once you are aware of the traits, you can practice them to continuously boost your career.

Are you ready to find out what makes these engineers so special? Let’s explore the seven key signs of a top-notch software engineer.

1. They Are Quick on Their Feet

Good programmers know that time is money. If they have a problem, they don’t wait too long to fix it. They know when to ask for help and who to contact for the best advice.

At the same time, these developers understand the value of flexibility. They embrace change and adapt fast. They do not get hung up on one solution or programming language. Being agile helps experienced developers remain at the top of their game.

It’s amazing how effortlessly these top-notch developers handle complex problems. Their ability to navigate and resolve burning issues with ease is awe-inspiring.

Working on a project requires developers to interact with interlocks and business POCs. These stakeholders have varying perspectives on the requirements and issues at hand.

An experienced developer knows how to communicate effectively based on their audience. They don’t depend on technical jargon to sound smart. Instead, they collaborate to find mutually agreed solutions to make quality products.

What can you do?

  • Learn to use your time well.

  • Be open to listening and understanding others’ perspectives.

  • Practice breaking down complex problems into something smaller that you can solve easily.

  • Observe others who are good at managing stakeholders. Learn how they approach problems and gain agreement in tricky situations.

2. They Stay Curious

Being curious is a big plus in the software engineering profession. Unlike school, where teachers guide you, here you’re on your own from day one. And in this fast-paced tech world, there’s always something new around the corner that could be the next big thing.

Top-notch developers understand that to stay ahead, they need to keep learning all the time. That’s why they’re always eager to learn. They don’t wait for someone else to learn a new programming language or tool and then teach them.

At the same time, experienced developers don’t accept things at their face value.

They spend time understanding the requirements thoroughly. If you assign them a defect, they don’t patch the reported issue. They deep dive and fix the root cause to ensure the defect does not resurface.

What can you do?

  • Keep asking questions until you understand the topic. Don’t feel embarrassed if it appears as if you are the only one who needs extra explanation.

  • Don’t put superficial patches on assigned defects. Dig in and see if you can find the root cause to fix it. With time, this practice will wire your brain to troubleshoot issues faster.

3. They Are Grounded in Humility

Top-notch developers know that having a big ego won’t help them get ahead. That’s why they don’t let pride stand in their way. They’re always open to the idea that there’s more to learn.

Software engineer with humility

This humble attitude, along with their curiosity, helps them achieve faster growth.

Experienced developers also recognize the power of teamwork. No matter how smart they are, they know they cannot do everything alone. They understand everyone on the team is vital to the project’s success.

When they don’t know something, these humble developers are quick to admit it. If they mess up, they think about what went wrong and learn from it so it doesn’t happen again. They also avoid pointless arguments, making them easy to work within a team.

What can you do?

  • Recognize that every team member is important for the project to succeed.

  • Take time to think about your actions and learn from your mistakes.

  • Avoid letting your ego get in the way of your growth.

  • Respect everyone irrespective of the impact of their contribution to the team.

4. They Are Data Driven

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone talks a lot, but nobody has any data to back up what they’re saying? This happens a lot in software projects. People often make decisions based on feelings, not facts.

Data is like a guiding light that helps you see the truth. How you get that data is important for making sure it’s accurate. Hence, when someone presents alternate facts, experienced developers don’t hesitate to reevaluate their decisions.

Being humble helps them admit they might not be right all the time.

Another key trait of top-notch developers is that they avoid arguments during decision-making. They share the facts, help explain them, and let people make up their own minds.

They also don’t twist the facts to make themselves look good. They know that doing this can cause problems later on. So, they stick to the truth, even if it’s not what people, especially the leaders, want to hear.

What can you do?

  • Analyze and give importance to alternate facts irrespective of their source.

  • Spend time to do your research. Don’t just piggyback on others’ findings.

  • Don’t let your pride hinder your logical thinking.

5. They Value Integrity

Top-notch developers know that being honest is important. They don’t blame others if something goes wrong. Instead, they work together with their team to fix it.

As their career grows, they take on more responsibility apart from coding. They interact with interlocks, leaders, business POCs, and even customers. They are always respectful and honest in all their discussions, no matter who they speak to.

Being honest also means being trustworthy. These developers don’t try to hide their mistakes to impress their leaders. If they can’t do something or finish a task on time, they inform their manager as soon as possible.

Most of the time, leaders want to know the real story, not just the good parts. This helps them plan better for the future. Developers with integrity understand that being truthful and sincere is the best policy for their career growth.

Just like humility, integrity is a must-have trait for top-notch developers. You can’t have one without the other. Their honest and modest nature makes them sought-after developers everyone wants to work with.

What can you do?

  • If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Be honest about it and explain what happened. Let your team learn from it, and give time to your leader to handle the situation.

  • Always be cordial and respectful to people irrespective of their designation.

6. They Know When to Speak

Top-notch developers are often quiet in meetings. But please don’t mistake it for their ignorance. They speak up at the right time and usually get straight to the point.

A top-notch software engineer

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone keeps talking and doesn’t know when to stop? It is irritating and a waste of everyone’s time.

Experienced developers know when to move on to the next topic. They don’t try to force their ideas on others by hurling hyperbolic.

If they don’t know much about a topic, they listen and learn. They don’t talk for the sake of showing off their presence. If they don’t know the answer to a question, they accept their ignorance without feeling bad.

Experienced developers recognize the power of diverse ideas. Hence, they help let everyone have a turn to speak in meetings. They know that even quiet people can have valuable ideas to contribute.

These developers are great listeners, not only during meetings but also in one-on-one conversations. By actively listening, they ensure that they fully understand their counterpart before sharing their own.

What can you do?

  • Listen carefully to others and ask questions if you need clarification.

  • Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak, especially people who are usually quiet.

  • Accept when you don’t know something instead of trying to hide your ignorance.

7. They Believe in Helping Each Other

Collaboration is key to success in software engineering. You can’t win the game by playing solo. To thrive, you need to work as a team, help each other, share credits, and have each other’s back when things go south.

Top-notch developers recognize this power of reciprocity.

I’ve found that when I help others, I often learn something new. For example, if someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to, I’ll ask others who might know. This way, I learned something I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Experienced developers know that helping others is a shortcut to success. When they help, they also learn and grow. They get better at their jobs faster than if they kept all their knowledge to themselves.

What can you do?

  • Always be ready to help your teammates.

  • Don’t worry if some people take your help but don’t reciprocate. There will always be someone else who will help you when you need it.

Conclusion: Signs of a Top-Notch Software Engineer

These traits are just a starting point. As you spend more time in the profession, you’ll pick up even more habits to help you succeed.

If you’re missing some of these traits, don’t worry. The first step to getting better is knowing what you need to improve.

So, what traits have helped you in your career? Feel free to share your thoughts below.


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