Most people think of programmers as the guys guzzling mountain dew in a dark room where pizza slides under the door at around 6PM and a feature is built by 2AM. Although this is can be the case (we’ve all been there), I have found that most of the people that I look up to are not at all like this. More often than not people who have influenced me over the years are people that show a genuine passion for software but also have massive creative energy and a social team mentality to boot. This is a paradox that defies stereotypes. It turns out that creativity is an essential ingredient if you want to make a good software developer.

Starting out a career in technology is a steep mountain and the only way to get anywhere is to start grinding and never stop. It is an endless cycle of solving problems from the most mundane logic games to epic enterprise systems. At some point along the way we start to see patterns and recognize that it is possible to improve this cycle with a little planning and some creative thinking.

Even today, 15 years in, I am still constantly looking to solve that next problem, my brain always straining to fit the puzzle pieces together in a way that will make the picture work. But what is my brain doing deep in the subconscious?

I’ve had this thought many times and while I have no real explanation, I have a good feeling that some creativity is at work. What else can explain it? I have experiences. I have facts. The only thing my brain has to do is fit those together in a way that solves the puzzle. In many ways this much more a creative exercise that an analytical exercise. Maybe analytical thinking is irrevocably tied to creativity in ways that we cannot yet understand.

The true challenge as a software developer is to find creative solutions to daily problems. Learning APIs, patterns and systems is easy compared to applying those constructs to solve a real world problem. Creative thinking is what separates that average coder and the brilliant thinkers that bring us innovations that change our lives.