1. Is it enough to know only one programming language?
That’s tricky, because it greatly depends on the goals you set for yourself. We tend to hear from other programmers all the time that you don’t need a college degree – you can learn everything yourself on YouTube and take online courses. Just spend a few months doing courses and tutorials and voila – you’re a self-made programmer!
On the other hand, if you really want to be a programmer or a software engineer, college will not prepare you for this role properly, neither will it teach you how to make the best first impression at work. At university you will learn how to think like an engineer and eventually you will become an engineer with, hopefully, enough knowledge in multiple fields – not only different programming languages, but also statistics, compilers design, AI, digital signal processing and tons of different stuff that you might never even use in the future. However, this kind of knowledge can also make you an invaluable asset in the project.
So if you don’t mind doing the same thing, similiar kinds of projects in repetitive scenarios: one programming language is fine. But if you totally feel like exploring new things and approaches, learning new programming languages and frameworks (of course – learning by doing!) will definitely make you a better programmer and a way better engineer.
2. Is pair programming difficult?
Yes and no. It is definitely more exhausting than programming alone. You need to pay attention all the time and, depending on the knowledge gap between people you pair with at work, sometimes think for the two of you. Also, you should synchronize breaks, lunch time etc. Obviously it is not a problem – just an inconvenience if you’re a lone wolf.
For some people, especially introverts, it may be hard to leave their comfort zone and get comfortable spending the whole day working with just one person. To be honest, I have never seen this kind of problem lasting longer than one day.
However, there is no better way to learn something new than working with a person who has experience in a particular field. The value of this way of transferring knowledge overcomes all disadvantages thay you may encounter working in pairs. Even the partner who is less experienced can have a valuable input thanks to which working in pairs rarely means getting stuck – two heads are better than one, even in googling. 😉
Don’t believe people who say that working in pairs means dividing the team’s velocity in half. Effectively, when properly executed, pair programming may go as fast as doing it by yourself. As a result, code quality is better and it contains less bugs in general. At some point, there is even no need for code review if both partners are experienced enough.
3. What can you learn from working on site with the client?
Humility. Working closely with the client makes you more aware of the caveats of their field of work, competencies, what they actually want and need. Not everything can be easily described in an email and it is definitively easier to directly speak with the person of interest and get all the answers.
Meeting people you work with on a daily basis and learning the specifics of their work is also extremely important and heavily affects the future work. In general, it is also easier to skip the chain of command and force the necessary change, but it has to be done with caution.
Additionally, it’s a great time when you meet new interesting people you can learn from and obviously go out with and see the city, grab a beer or just talk. Working on-site often means working abroad so automatically you get to experience a new country and its culture.