I've had some students ask me what it means to “think like a programmer”. Totally valid question, particularly because it's quite a nebulous definition. I actually thought deeply about this, and wanted to find real life examples of what it looks like.

So, I created a list of traits I generally see in people who think programmatically.

Mind you, I don't hit all of these! 😂But it was a question I found I really needed to address in my upcoming course, Newbie Coder Problem Solving School.

Personally, I've recognized certain programmatic thinking traits in myself, some stronger than others. Maybe this is why people who see the world this way—especially neuroatypical/neurodiverse folks—often find programming so attractive! 🙃

Traits of programmatic thinkers

So, here's a list of traits/thinking you might see associated with someone who “thinks like a programmer”. (and I'd love to hear any more you come up with!)

  1. Curious about how things work.
  2. Wants to fix things that don't work.
  3. Automatically thinks of situations in which something *wouldn't* work (what we would consider edge/corner cases)
  4. Envisions themselves creating things to accomplish various tasks.
  5. Sees problems as a challenge and opportunity for growth, not an obstacle.
  6. Tends to see many options where those who don't think programmatically see few or none.
  7. Sees complex things and wants to break or whittle them down into smaller, simpler bits.
  8. Can quickly spot redundancy.
  9. Has great appreciation for:
    1. Effectiveness: making things work well
    2. Efficiency: making them work quickly
    3. Automation: building processes
  10. Able to come up with solutions on their own—and may be addicted to the rush that comes with it! 🙃
  11. Sees (and hears) patterns in the world.
  12. Willing to start small with the goal of building upward as their skills and knowledge grows
  13. Tends to try lots of different ways to solve a problem on their own before asking for help.
  14. You might have some rogue tendencies (haha I know I do!!) if you see a better option than what's being given to you.

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