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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

Top Programmer Success Secrets: This is Why Top 1% of Programmers Are the Most Successful

Top programmer demonstrating success strategies at work

In my 18-year career as a software engineer, I am always impressed by highly talented and capable programmers.

They make providing innovative solutions to complex problems look simple. They always seem to be under control and capable of handling any issue, no matter how challenging.

They deservingly achieve the best career growth among all their peers.

They are the top 1% of the programmers in the software industry.

Have you ever wondered — what’s the secrets behind the success of these top 1% of programmers?

What sets them apart from their peers?

Is it a natural-born talent for coding or some sort of algorithmic sorcery?

The truth is much simpler — their triumphs stem from specific strategies and mindsets that empower them to excel.

And here’s the best part — these highly effective approaches can be adopted by every programmer irrespective of their skill level, allowing them to flourish in their software careers.

By grasping and embracing these powerful strategies, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and fulfilling software career.

Get ready to transform your software engineering career as I unveil the secrets behind the success of the top 1% of programmers.

They have high emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence.
Robert K. Cooper. Ph.D.

The top 1% of programmers possess high emotional intelligence (EQ). This valuable trait enables them to manage emotions, foster collaborative relationships, and achieve outstanding career growth.

It’s important to remember that EQ isn’t tied to how good you are at coding.

An average developer can master emotional intelligence and build a remarkable software career.

When a programmer with low EQ encounters a complex issue at work, they get frustrated. Instead of addressing the problem constructively, they become defensive or resort to arrogance, trying to hide their shortcomings.

Their inability to handle challenging situations pushes their team members away. Most people would prefer to work with someone who knows how to manage their emotions, even if they might have lesser programming skills.

75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems; unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.”
 — The Center for Creative Leadership

The top 1% of programmers understand that emotional intelligence is crucial for success. High EQ helps them deal with situations effectively and build better rapport with their colleagues.

What you can do

  • An excellent way of cultivating emotional intelligence is by observing how people with high EQ behave in hard-to-manage situations. Once you imbibe these characteristics, you can better handle your actions and, thus, your career growth.

  • Become self-aware by reflecting on your emotions and how they impact your behavior. Identify who, what, and how your buttons get pushed. Knowing your pressure points can help you have better control over your emotions.

They possess business acumen

In the simplest definition, business acumen is the skill of understanding how a company works and makes money and using that knowledge to make intelligent decisions that help the company grow and succeed.

The top 1% of programmers don’t just excel at coding; they also possess strong business acumen. They have a deep functional understanding of their product, its real-world usage, and how it helps their company.

By understanding the ‘why’ of each program they write and ‘how it impacts the end user’, these programmers deliver more effective solutions and accelerate their career growth.

These smart programmers take the time to learn the ins and outs of their company’s industry and how their software solutions impact the bottom line. By grasping the big picture, they have the ability to anticipate client needs better and craft more efficient, user-friendly products.

Most programmers pay a lot of attention to their coding skills — which in itself is not bad. But, they fail to value the potential of business acumen. Hence, no matter how technically beautiful their code might be, it ends up being useless if it does not deliver what the business wants.

What you can do

  • Start small — familiarize yourself with the core tables, data, relationships, and their usage in your company. This foundation will give you a better understanding of the system and its functional entities.

  • Gain insight into the business objectives behind each piece of code you write. Knowing the desired outcomes and user benefits will help you develop more relevant and practical solutions.

  • Work with colleagues from other departments to better understand the company’s operations and objectives. This cross-functional collaboration will broaden your perspective and foster innovative problem-solving.

  • Here is an excellent resource for software engineers on business acumen.

They embrace a problem-solving attitude

Top programmers solving problem together

The top 1% of programmers differentiate themselves by maintaining a problem-solving attitude. They focus on finding solutions rather than fretting about the challenges.

This positive mindset enhances their performance and fosters a collaborative environment where team members feel safe to share their difficulties.

Consider a scenario where a development team encounters an unexpected roadblock during a critical project. While some team members might complain or place blame, those with a problem-solving attitude proactively search for viable solutions and adapt to new circumstances.

This approach ultimately leads to greater success and a stronger team dynamic.

The top 1% of programmers understand that harping on a problem will not miraculously make it vanish. If anything, it will waste precious time and lead to further frustration.

Instead, solution focus approach is a win-win equation as it solves the issue and enhances the programmer’s reputation as a problem-solver.

What you can do

  • Embrace challenges by recognizing that obstacles are part of the development process.

  • Treat problems as opportunities to learn and grow. Every problem you solve is going to build your confidence.

  • Work with your team, brainstorm solutions, and be open to different ideas. Your team members can bring diverse perspectives, leading to faster and more efficient solutions.

They are comfortable sharing spotlight

Top programmers celebrating the successful a colleague

The top 1% of programmers recognize the value of collaboration and teamwork. They do not seek individual recognition at the expense of their colleagues.

Many software engineers feel the need to take full credit for their accomplishments, even for a team effort. In the short term, these tactics may propel their careers forward.

However, over time, such programmers get isolated because of their toxic behavior as others become reluctant to work with them.

Claiming all the credit for a project’s success might be tempting. But, this approach is short-sighted and detrimental to long-term career growth.

In contrast, the top 1% of developers understand that true success is a collective effort. They are comfortable sharing the spotlight. They never fail to acknowledge the contributions of their colleagues, irrespective of their impact.

This attitude demonstrates their leadership qualities and fosters a trusting working environment. No surprise such programmers get faster growth in their careers.

What you can do

  • Irrespective of the size of the contribution, make a conscious effort to recognize and appreciate others’ work both publicly and privately.

  • Provide opportunities for the team to contribute their ideas and expertise, creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

They thrive on collaboration

“Collaboration is not just technical. It’s the cultural willingness to share and win as a team using the right technologies and the assumption that everyone can add value.”
Wayne Kurtzman, IDC Collaboration and Social Media Research Director.

The top 1% of programmers understand that collaboration is an excellent tool to get visibility in the organizational setup. They know they don’t need to be an expert coder to collaborate. Their positive attitude and cooperative nature help them grow faster than their peers.

The idea of collaboration is to make your presence felt by adding value across your organization.

Excellent programmers do not behave like a pair of hands that can write fantastic code. Though they are good at programming, they also want to represent themselves as a software engineer who can contribute to the organization through multiple channels.

This attitude helps build the necessary trust and rapport that propels their career to new heights.

What you can do

  • Perception matters a lot when it comes to career advancement. If people don’t see you, then they won’t know you. Hence, increase your visibility through collaboration. You don’t have to be an expert programmer to do it.

  • Find out various initiatives in your organization and participate in them. It can be a mentor circle, event coordination, or a CSR program. Such events are a great place to show your collaboration skills and build your network.

  • Proactively jump into resolving issues with others. Provide functional or technical expertise in resolving a problem for others. When you help others, they feel comfortable collaborating with you in the future.

Take Away: Top Programmer Success Secrets

Some programmers are good at programming, some are good at functional, yet others grow by excelling at both.

For the top 1% of programmers, a combination of all these provides the right mix.

By having high emotional intelligence, possessing business acumen, focusing on the solution, not shying away from sharing the credit, and meaningfully collaborating, such programmers grow to the top of the ranks.

To succeed, the key is to discover the right balance between technical expertise and all the abovementioned skills.

So, what are you waiting for?

It’s time to unlock your full potential and join the ranks of the programming elite.

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Book cover featuring tips and strategies for excelling in the software engineering profession


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