By Julian Ferguson | Aug 14 2020
The 10 Most Important Things Truly Gifted Software Developers Possess
We have had the good fortune to work with some truly gifted software developers over the years. What is interesting is that the truly gifted developers are genuinely a breed apart. This led us to consider what it was about them that made them different from the rest of the field. None of the items in the picture above are the things we have in mind although it is possible that truly gifted developers may use some of them.
For the sake of clarity it is necessary to put the 10 key attributes in some sort of hierarchy but it is worth keeping in mind that the importance of these various attributes change depending on the situation, the factors involved and even the culture of the organisation you are working in.
1 - The ability to translate and articulate business need into technical requirement
In the majority of companies the senior executives responsible for determining the business strategy, the underlying operational requirement and desired business outcomes are business people. Whilst senior executives look to or even expect technology solutions to provide them with competitive advantage, they often have a rudimentary understanding of the technical complexity involved, the dependencies or the resources required to deliver them. Therefore having someone who can translate business requirements into technical requirements and vice versa is so important. Even when this is clearly understood the danger is that the “business Imperative” drowns out the voices of those tasked with delivering the technology-based solutions.
2 - The ability to develop in a flexible way that adds value
One of the challenges that software developers face is being able to work in a way that provides additive business benefit in the face of changing business requirements and priorities. Gifted software developers work in a transparent way that adds incremental business value, so that decision makers can prioritise the technical capabilities they need within the budget available. This alleviates the likelihood of cost overruns and a mismatch between operational requirement and technical solution.
3 - People management skills
Whilst there may be a project owner with overall responsibility, there are usually many stakeholders who will seek the software developer’s involvement at some level. This can result in endless meetings leaving too little time and space to carry out the work. Engaging stakeholders and project owners so that they are involved at the right level whilst leaving enough time to get the actual work done is one of the most important skills that gifted developers possess. They do this by setting up clear but tightly managed lines of communication. One line is for general updates to stakeholders in the form of an update email or call typically weekly or monthly. The other is a more interactive and flexible channel utilising Slack, Teams (or whatever chat channels the company has) so that issues can be raised and the right people marshalled to tackle them swiftly.
4 - Keeping cool under pressure
There are times in almost every software development project when software developers are put under significant pressure to deliver something or meet a deadline. Without a cool head and nerves of steel, matters can quickly descend into a blame game. Morale, direction and productivity become bogged down in a blizzard of change requests and arguments about budgets and resources. This situation serves no one and merely adds to the pressure.
5 - Knowing who to ask or where to look for answers
Not even truly gifted developers have all the answers all the time. The difference is that when they don’t know the answer they have someone they can talk to in their own personal network who does or they can find the answers online.
6 - Life-long learning approach
Gifted software developers are inherently inquisitive and love finding new, better and more elegant technology solutions. They take pride in the quality of the work, not just in the outcome achieved, even if they are the only ones who notice!
7 - They genuinely love what they do
As in all endeavours you will only truly excel if you genuinely love what you do. Then the activity ceases to be a chore and becomes a lifetime preoccupation.
8 - They are happy to share their skills with others
This comes from being confident in their skills, so they don’t feel threatened by the abilities of others. Therefore they are happy to share knowledge and expertise with others. Good senior managers notice this, and the rest of the team like and respect them for it.
9 - A sense of humour
This may sound like an odd one but nobody wants to work with a miserable git even if they are technically brilliant. Gifted developers appear to exude a sense of fun, defusing stressful situations within the team by showing any problems can be fixed whilst still maintaining grace and good humour.
10 - Personal integrity
Last but certainly not least, the truly gifted software developers I have met always tell it to you like it is. Honest, polite, clearly articulated. It may not always be what you want to hear but it saves the day more often than it sinks the project.