A Programmer Or A Problem Solver?

Normally when we think of programming, we think of problem solving. Similarly, if someone works in the field of computers and say they love problem solving, we immediately assume that they work with some computer code. Programming is almost synonymous with problem solving, in that it involves breaking down complex looking problems into simple mini problems that can be easily taken care of. Where they might differ, in my opinion, is finding the right problems to solve.

The inspiration for this post came from a recent blog post that I read (embarrassed to admit I’m not able to find that post found it!) about the mistakes developers make. One of the mistakes was confusing between the love for problem solving and programming. That was a little “ahaa!” moment for me. It gave me a moment to reflect on my own likes and interests. What is it that excites me? Is it the idea of building the next big thing? Maybe. Is it spending countless hours writing code that does what has been done a million times before, just so that you can fall in love with your code all over again? Yes, that’s sounds about right.

I liked to call myself a problem solver, but I’m not even close to being one. I didn’t feel like there was a distinction. But there definitely is, now that I’ve met some people in my field who are ‘problem solvers’ first. I don’t have Github projects that reflect a problem solver. What you’d rather find are spot on examples of reinventing the wheel (a dozen chat/social network networks), attempts to write the most beautiful code that I can (regardless of whether it works or not), over-engineering to say the least, projects made entirely for trying out new languages, new frameworks, new IDEs, literally. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that the current project I’m working on is a chat backend as well.

You get the pattern. It isn’t hard to understand that I love programming. I love writing code regardless of the problem in hand. I see people building things that are changing the world, the way we live, the way we communicate, the way we travel and I appreciate them all. We need people like that. They are on the frontiers of the information age that programmers like me and many of you are riding on. It is here we start to see the difference between someone who is a programmer first and someone who is a problem solver first. I believe it is a matter of preference, experience, and the level and kind of exposure one has in the budding years in tech.

I had a couple of “tech friends” right from my junior college some 4 years ago, people with whom I could discuss programming and tech in general. Most of my collaborated projects were with these people, and we always worked on something because we enjoyed it, purely out of our “passion” for computers. We spoke about new languages, technological advancements and people in tech in our free time. We never thought any of this would help us get a good job or any project would appear on our CVs. That is one reason why technologies and frameworks are scattered all over my blog, instead of quality projects that people actually use in one particular technology that I could’ve been good at.

So that’s what I’ve learnt recently, and wished to share here. I (or anyone) won’t know which way is the right way to go, or if there is one, and it doesn’t really matter much as long as you enjoy what you’re doing and make a decent sum of money doing it. I admire people who are passionate about programming as well as problem solving, and the world would really be incomplete without either one. Thank you for reading.