Many rock star programmers work for themselves

Practice alone doesn't make perfect

Become a rock star: That's what makes really good developers!

According to HackerRank, the best programmers in the world are from China. But you don't have to travel that far to find really good colleagues. They are everywhere: the rock stars who stand out from the crowd. How do you align your career as a developer with a rock star career right from the start?

The best programmers come from China, closely followed by Russian developers. At least that's what a study by the code challenge platform HackerRank says. Poland took third place in the ranking list there, while Switzerland took fourth place. Germany is in 14th place of the best programmers in the (HackerRank) world, for the USA it is only 28th place. In other rankings, too, China and Russia are at the top when it comes to programming as a competitive discipline. But what makes it so good?

Do the best programmers think mathematically?

Chinese programmers on HackerRank were particularly good at solving mathematical problems, with tasks in the field of functional programming and data structures. Shimi Zhang, a HackerRank user from China with a particularly high score in the individual ranking, was asked by the portal about the reasons for this. He explained that programming challenges in China have a particularly high priority in the training of developers and for the status of programmers. So it could be because of the competitive spirit that the Chinese do so well.

In addition, a study by the Pew Research Center shows that Chinese schools attach great importance to mathematics and science education, which can explain the good performance in the category of mathematical challenges. Those who train their mathematical thinking skills early are of course particularly good at it. In contrast to China, the USA is only in the middle of the Pew survey on the educational level of 15-year-old students and did not make it to one of the top five places in any of the Challenge categories in the HackerRank statistics.

Creativity for the rock star career!

Does that mean that the rock stars in programming must have particularly good mathematical knowledge and an excellent school education? No. The study by the Pew Research Center also shows that the math skills of Russian and US students do not differ significantly from each other. In this respect, the difference in the ranking on HackerRank cannot be attributed to it alone, after all, Russia took second place. Apart from that, HackerRank only shows problem-solving skills. That alone doesn't make a rock star; especially not when it comes to solving problems from self-selected categories on your own.

So it is not yet possible to deduce from this what constitutes a rock star in the IT scene. A front-end developer rarely has to solve complex mathematical problems, so this ability is less important. A good scientific education can help to train the logical thinking skills and thus help with many problems in development; however, other skills are often required as well. For example, creativity is necessary in every discipline to be able to solve problems really well and not a skill that can be trained in just one way. Rather, creative thinking can be trained through a wide range of interests.

Many ways lead to the goal

Whether the path to get there is a degree or an apprenticeship, a coding bootcamp is attended or one is self-taught, is also a question of personal taste and not necessarily decisive for the later career. Not every graduate of a renowned university becomes a rock star straight away, even if such a degree often makes it easier to start a career. Other career paths can also lead to success. The classic qualifications are not important to every employer!

Bootcamps promise to get people without prior knowledge of programming fit for their first job within three months and do not rely on in-depth knowledge, but on another skill that is important for a developer career. It goes without saying that there is no deeper understanding of the mathematical side of programming in such a short time. The study by the Bootcamp evaluation portal Course Report shows, however, that the success rate of such coding crash courses in the USA is not that bad. After completing the bootcamp, 73 percent of the participants surveyed worked full-time as a developer. The central skill that helps graduates succeed is that they learn in bootcamp to acquire new skills quickly. This is a talent that bootcamp graduates have in common with the rock stars of the scene: If you want to belong to the elite, you have to stay on the ball and acquire new knowledge. Otherwise you will be left behind!

Soft skills as a career booster

Rock stars also need good soft skills. Only those who can communicate well with their team, share their knowledge and work together with colleagues can become part of the real elite. Rock stars can solve any problem themselves at some point, but they don't brag about it - they help their colleagues solve problems without appearing arrogant; they are role models and yet can stay in the background. This attitude can be cultivated right from the start: Anyone who has just arrived at work and believes they can already do everything will not get very far. A humble attitude helps to take the right path, even if you can of course trust your own knowledge.

Rock stars also make up their perspective. They practice seeing the business side of the project as well. Beginners can practice this by setting up their own projects and sending them out into the world themselves: Where do you get users from; how can solutions be implemented with a good cost-benefit ratio? These and other questions must be answered if your own project is to be a success.

This holistic perspective on your own project can then be taken into everyday working life. While the average programmer considers their job done after developing and testing the code, rock stars follow the code through the entire life cycle of the application. There's a lot of that already in the DevOps mentality; the classic silo perspective of development and operation is eliminated. Anyone who shows an active interest in this approach and views the product as a project of their own will stand out from the crowd.

Be visible: Put your own talents in the right light

If you want to become a really good developer, you should also ask yourself where your passions lie. Nobody can only do what they love in their day-to-day work; however, the rock stars among the developers are passionate about their area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise. An early specialization can help to quickly stand out from the crowd of developers and make yourself indispensable within the team. You can rely on the skills that are particularly important in the current job. Or you follow your own passion, even if it is only of minor importance for the current project, and think about how you can use this specialization in a particularly profitable way.

That could of course go hand in hand with a job change. In order to attract attention in the application process, even beginners can show with a good portfolio page that they have what it takes and thus stand out from the crowd. In addition, it pays to rely on good contacts if you want to climb the career ladder. Local meet-ups or online exchanges, your own blog or the next conference: New contacts with colleagues can be made in many places.

It's all in the mix

To become a rock star among programmers, it takes more than the math skills and competitive thinking that made Chinese developers successful on HackerRank. Rather, it is about developing a professional profile that combines technical skills with soft skills and the right contacts. Young professionals can lay the foundation for this and then build on it to become one of the big names in the scene at some point.

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