Here at SPICED Academy, we give our students the skills, knowledge and mindset to become a high-performing software engineer.

But wait, becoming an in-demand software engineer requires more than just a great knack for coding!

It requires a set of professional development skills that most 21st century jobs require. You know what we’re referring to… those elusive sounding skills listed on most job descriptions like “team player” or “creative thinker”. So, we’re starting a five-part blog series called #CareerReady to distill what these skills really mean and share some tangible tips on how to hone these skills.

For our first #CareerReady skill, we’re focused on Critical Thinking

One of the most important elements of any role these days is the ability to think logically, to question, to think of what-if scenarios, to go beyond what’s at face-value. It’s important to remember that this is a slow and steady process that will develop gradually. Fall in love with critical thinking because this skill will serve you well far into your career and life.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critically Thinking is broadly defined as the objective analysis and evaluation of information in order to form a belief, action or judgement.

Why is Critical Thinking so important?

Critical Thinking is important for all careers, but especially for programmers. Unlike a Math or Physics challenge, when you’re coding, most often, there is no one right solution to the problem. Indeed, there are many different ways to solve a challenge using code. This aspect of coding requires that you have the critical thinking ability to understand connections between various ideas, identify and evaluate arguments for one solution over another, break down your problem into smaller chunks, systematically solve them and reflect on what you have built, so that you can improve upon your process for the next time.

Five strategies to level up on your Critical Thinking skills

1. Read, read, read. Browse websites, magazines, books, anything you can lay your hands on to understand what’s going on in the world, gather ideas, context and opinions. A good thing to do is read differing opinions, so that you’re not in own your own bubble. For example, if you’re trying to decide between two competing programs for your Masters degree, be sure to read up on online forums that give pros and cons for both programs.

2. Form your opinion. Pick a topic and form your own opinion on the subject. Do this by reading opposing views on the topic from a variety of sources (even if you may not agree with the opposing view!). For example, if you’re not sure whether animals should be cloned for scientific testing purposes, read various opposing viewpoints, especially from the scientific community.

3.  Brainstorm solutions. Do not settle for a quick solution to a problem you’re working on. Carefully look at the problem and think of all possible solutions, even the so-called crazy ones. A good tip here is to brainstorm with someone very different from you in background or industry. For example, if you’re trying to research a design solution for your web application, be sure to ask someone how they would use your particular web app, in addition to researching designs on the web.

4. Engage inwhat-if” thinking. If we go with solution A instead of solution B, what will be the impact on our customers? On our suppliers? On our employees? What if we took elements of solution A and solution B? What would need to give up? What would we gain instead? For example, when thinking about whether or not to increase customer support hours to meet user issues, first ask whether or not your time might be better invested in addressing why there are user issues.

5. Gather sources of data. Expand your sources of data to include not just your industry. Analyze other industries to see what they’re doing well and how. When thinking of competitors, very often, your competitors aren’t just the ones in your industry. For example, if you’re Netflix, your competitors aren’t just cable television or other streaming services. Since Netflix is in the business of leisure and entertainment, a competitor could also be movie theaters or bars or plays.

The Takeaway

Critical Thinking is a must-have skill in order to succeed in any role in the 21st century. The skill takes time and effort to develop, so make sure you practice the slow and steady way. The best way is to weave in critical thinking into your everyday life, instead of making it a big, fancy project. So when you’re cooking tonight, engage in some what-if thinking and try mixing in a few different ingredients you wouldn’t have thought of!

And finally, we want to hear from you!

Tweet @SPICEDacademy using the hashtag #CareerReady and tell us how you’re teaching yourself #CareerReady skills or how you’re already applying them in your everyday life!

If you’re interested in learning how to code in a great city, explore SPICED Academy in Berlin today!

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