You’re not a programmer, you’re a problem solver

If you work in web development or anything involving programming, you are not a programmer or a coder.

I know this sounds counter intuitive. After all, are you not programming a website or coding an app?

Okay, so technically you are those things as well. But the trick, especially if you’re just starting out in development and programming, isn’t to think of yourself as just those things.

In the spring semester of my sophomore year at the University of Texas at Austin, I took my first computer science course. It was Elements of Programming, a basic level course that was required in order to start the Elements of Computing certificate.

But it wasn’t your basic, entry-level course. Sure, it taught the basics and by this point I already knew a lot about PHP and JavaScript and programming, or so I thought. But Professor Mitra, in addition to teaching the basics, also gave us new ways of looking at things.

And one of the sayings he had in class that stuck with me is this: we are not coders, we are problem solvers.

And it’s stuck with me ever since.

Code is nothing but a bunch of problems

When you get down to it, programming really isn’t much different than basic problem solving.

Every program, whether it’s a website, an app or something else, is basically just a bunch of different problems that are connected. And you have to tackle each of the problems one by one.

And that actually makes things easier, particularly on the mental side of things. Instead of viewing that massive website you have to do as one, big thing to tackle, break it out into different problems that you have to find solutions for.

You’re trying to solve the problem of getting a certain subset of posts or getting a certain criteria of data from the database. Or you’re trying to figure out how to push a notification to an app.

All of those are problems and all of them have solutions for you to find.

A change in mentality can help

And that change in mentality can really help.

Again, looking a massive web project can seem like a very daunting task. There’s so much to do, and if you’re by yourself it can be difficult to figure out where to begin.

But thinking of the whole website as a problem, and then breaking it into smaller problems and finding solutions to those problems suddenly makes it so much easier. You can work on smaller items, build up confidence and start solving problems. And by doing so, you’ll eventually solve the big problem, the website, in no time.

And also, thinking of yourself as a problem solver might help you get over whatever hump you need to get better. Sometimes using coder or developer or programmer to describe yourself gets a little boring and dull. But saying your problem solver can mean just about anything, and it can give you a much brighter outlook on what you do.

So attack your code like it’s a problem

So, if you’re getting stuck with your programming, or maybe you’re a beginning programmer like I was just a couple of years ago, try this approach. Try thinking of yourself as a problem solver and not a coder.

Thinking about how your program is solving a problem and that you’re trying to find a solution to that problem. And break bigger problems into smaller more manageable problems. I think you’ll find yourself working and feeling much better.