How To Be Taken More Seriously as a Programmer

Do you find that, as a programmer, you’re not taken very seriously? Do you find that people think you just write code and nothing else? Well, you can change that. I’ll show you how you can be taken more seriously as a programmer.

Programmers Are Often Not Taken Seriously

In many workplaces, programmers are not taken very seriously. We’re not seen as people who have great ideas, who understand strategy and customer needs.

People in the workplace think that our job is just to write code and make websites and systems work.

It could be that it’s a pretty new industry. Sure, programming has been around for a while, but only really since the 1990s has it made it into the mainstream as a career choice. Courses are being offered at university and almost every company has some kind of IT department or software development work being done.

It could also be because many programmers are young. The 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey showed that the average developer is 28 years old, and that 39% of respondents are between 25 and 34. Young people in the workplace generally have a harder time being taken seriously.

I know I have in the past. People think that just because you’re young, you don’t know what you’re doing. And as a programmer, it can be worse:

  • People think all you know how to do is code
  • People think that you’re not serious about your job and just want to have fun
  • People think you don’t understand how business works and what the company strategy is
  • People think all you do is complain

Whether this is true or not, you should try to be taken more seriously at work. It’s good for your career to be understood and respected.

You can do this and still be a programmer though. It just takes a few adjustments.

Appearance Is The Most Important

Your appearance, in my opinion, is the single biggest factor in determining what people think of you. It seems superficial and judgemental, but the fact remains that people form an opinion of you based on how you look.

This includes:

  • Your choice of clothes and how they fit
  • Your personal grooming (hair, make-up (if any), facial hair (if any))
  • Your deodorant/cologne, or lack of it

Many workplaces allow and even encourage staff to be more casual at work. You might have seen pictures or read stories about Facebook, Google, or other companies that have casual offices where people wear t-shirts and jeans to work. One of my favourite new shows, Silicon Valley, also depicts this in many of the companies.

This has spread to regular companies where developers can be more relaxed with how they dress and how they appear.

I think you should change this.

My suggestion is that you should consider how your appearance makes you perceived by others, and whether that is what you want.

What do you wear to work on a normal day? What do you wear on “casual fridays”, if your company has one? What does your hair look like? Do you have facial hair? Do you wear make-up?

The style of clothing says a lot about your professionalism. If you normally wear t-shirts and baggy jeans, this says to other people, “Hey, I’m just a casual guy, not looking to go above and beyond for my job or put in extra effort.”

I’ve seen a few people in my time who wear baggy jeans and hoodies, and the impression they give is not a good one.

I would suggest stepping it up a level. Consider a polo shirt or a collared shirt. Get some jeans that fit well and don’t have rips in them. Fix your hair if it’s messy, and trim or shave your facial hair.

It’s not everything, but it’s a good start to being taken more seriously as a software developer.

Watch What You Say At Work

You spend a lot of time at work, and as a result, you probably get a long well with your colleageus. Or, at the very least, get to know them a little better.

Because of the amount of time spent there, you’ll probably find yourself talking about all kinds of topics.

To be taken more seriously, you need to consider what you talk about at work and how it might be impacting your reputation or image.

Have you ever met someone at work who talks about how drunk they got on the weekend? Sure, it may have sounded like fun, but did it seem like they were serious about their work? Would you take them more or less seriously if they told you their drunken stories?

The point I’d like to make here is that in order to be taken more seriously at work, you should watch what you say. Remember that you’re in a workplace and that your stories and the things you say reflect your character and attitude towards work and life in general.

Less Complaining, More Ideas

This is related to the point above about watching what you say, but it’s more specific.

Over time, you’ll find there are a lot of people who like to complain at work. This is especially true as a software developer, as we all know the kinds of challenges faced by developers. Some common complaints I hear are:

  • Badly designed programs
  • Unrealistic short deadlines
  • Moving business requirements
  • Hard to deal with coworkers or boss

One way to improve how your seen at work is to complain less. Complaints are focused on what is wrong with the world and what is wrong with a situation. They highlight problems – but without any solutions.

A better way to discuss these is to have ideas. Solutions. Ways of fixing these problems.

If you notice something that is not ideal, think of a way that it could be done better. Think of an idea that might improve it. Ask yourself, “what if?”

Coming up with solutions or ideas, instead of problems and complaints, is a big way to be taken more seriously as a developer.

You can discuss these with your coworkers, and even better, take them to your manager. If you have a problem, as well as a way to improve it or reduce the problem, your manager would be glad to hear it.

It shows you’re taking your job seriously and have thought of ways to improve it.

You Can Do It Without Being Boring

So, you might think that this advice sounds good, but it’s a bit boring. You might not want to go to work every day in a suit and not have any fun.

Of course, that’s not what I’m saying.

You can still do all of these things and not be boring.

You can make more of an effort with your appearance, cut down on the unprofessional things you say, start thinking of ways to solve problems, and still have time for your lunchtime foosball session or afternoon video game break.

You can balance them both. This article is just trying to suggest some ways you can be taken more seriously, and stop people thinking that you’re just a programmer and that all you’re good for is writing code.