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Is There Really Such Thing As A GOOD Programmer?

It's tempting to compare yourself to other devs or take assessments to see how you measure up, but it's impossible to know if you're a good programmer!

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It’s tempting to compare yourself to other developers or take skill assessments to see how you measure up, but honestly it’s impossible to truly know if you’re a good programmer!

In this episode I share what I’ve learned over my 25 year career as a programmer, software architect, and consultant that I hope reduces any anxiety you may have around your self worth.

Why do we even care if we’re good programmer?

Well first of all, the people who depend on us to do a good job as a developer need to know we’re competent and can get the job done. Basically our coworkers have expectations, and we want to meet them.

The second main reason I see people caring how good they are, and is the bigger focus of this episode, is comparing themselves to others! With social media (especially LinkedIn) and other influential people showing off their accomplishments, we often wonder how we measure up. But that’s a dangerous game.

How do we try to assess how good of programmers we are?


The first way is skill assessments like tests, bootcamp outcomes, certifications etc. And while these can help, I don’t put much stock in them. They usually have a very focused and narrow view.


The second way is looking at what we’ve accomplished in our career as programmers. Have we produced good output for the company? Have we been able to get features out in a reasonable time?


The third way is getting feedback! While performance reviews can help, asking another developer, manager, or another trusted professional for explicit feedback is a great way to find out.

Why I don’t believe we can really know…

No standard definition

The first is that we don’t have a standard definition of what makes a good programmer. There are so many skills we need! Coding, testing, DevOps, wiki topics, scrum, kanban, data science – it’s crazy. And that’s only the technical and process stuff. There are also all of our personality traits like openness, coachability, motivation and such.

We have a warped self-assessment

The second reason why we can’t really know how good we are is based on the Dunning-Kruger effect. I left a link below where you can read more about it. But it explains what I experienced in my career. That I went through a progression of growing confidence until I realized my own incompetence, then had to build it all over again.

We go through these cycles of high and low confidence uniquely for every skill we use as a programmer! So be kind to yourself. It’s practically impossible to know how good you are, because we’re all different, and we’re all growing different skills at different times!

Skip to Points in The Video


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On YouTube and all major podcast networks, Jayme shares teamwork and leadership strategies, guidelines for healthy company culture, and stories about real projects so you can have a sustainable career in the software industry.

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Jayme Edwards

A family man and veteran of nearly 40 software projects, Jayme experienced many wins and losses over his career as an architect and consultant.

Now he's coaching software developers, managers, and business owners to overcome challenges in the IT industry - so they keep growing.