18 August 2021

Why You Should Learn a Second Programming Language

For some software engineers, their language is their religion and for others, there’s a fierce need to explore. 

It’s becoming increasingly common for software engineers to become polyglots and build their understanding of more than one language.  Part of the reason for this is the fierce need to explore. However, the other part is that it’s a potentially lucrative move for the engineers themselves and the companies that employ them. After all, it’s cheaper and faster to retrain someone than it is to hire into the business!  

Beyond a potential pay rise and better opportunities in a candidate-driven market, what are the best reasons to learn a new development language and the easiest ways to do it? 

To become an all-rounder 

Not confining yourself to a single language means you can contribute significantly to other projects and increase your repertoire and experience. Having a wider understanding of how the machine works, if you will, adds to your skillset, increases employability, and means you’re not locked into one aspect of software engineering.  

To stay across the trends  

We all know that technology is changing rapidly and keeping on top of it can feel almost impossible. Diving into a new language can be a great way to keep on the pulse of tech and industry trends. It’s easy to get caught up in the need to know every aspect of every language, but even a broad understanding will help you know where you sit in the industry.  

To Evolve and Grow 

Software engineering is a creative pursuit within the boundaries and rules of a language. Learning another language (or two more) allows you to evolve and express your creativity and talent across different parts of the technology stack. 

The knowledge of another programming language adds to your skillset and allows you to grow and evolve, eliminating the feeling of being stuck or unchallenged in your current role. 

To Explore  

Learning a new language is a great way to test your skills, push your boundaries and explore the full spectrum of what it means to be a software engineer. Keep yourself excited about your work, learning a new programming language could be the best way to rejuvenate your passion for your work, whilst advancing your career.  

To Land That Promotion  

And, of course, one of the most obvious and important points. If you’re career driven, then understanding and being able to use more than one language can make you more appealing to prospective employers or increase your chances of being promoted.  
 
Moving out of your discipline and understanding how other areas of the business works is not a bad thing. How can one make this change though? 

Tips to Make Language Switching Easy 

Adding a new language to your skillset doesn’t have to be impossible and there’s a number of ways to make it easier – including support from your team, your manager and your business. This support can take a lot of different forms. For example, take a percentage of your time, which was dedicated to L&D each week, and utilise an inhouse mentor.  

 If you’re looking to go beyond that support, here’s what we recommend:  

Join a Community  

Clubs help with peer programming and learning new insights, building communication and give you the benefit of a like-minded community full of people doing what you’re doing. Communities can be game-changing and help with accountability to push you to do better and practice more. Every programming language has a community of experts and beginners.  

Explore Resources 

There are dedicated websites, portals and blogs for every programming language across free and paid learning. Take the time to understand what works best for you - whether it’s reading blogs and troubleshooting bugs or following a code-along. Be sure to give yourself variety and a well-rounded learning experience.  

Find a Mentor 

Find someone who’s two steps ahead of you and can assist in your learning. They will review your code, give feedback, encourage you and set you up for success. You can also learn about popular courses, training material, frameworks, and development tools from your mentor. 

Practice... A lot.  

We all know this one and it’s no less true for a secondary language. In order to learn anything new, our minds need practice. Practice known problems in the new language. Write code and simple programs and then scale up with more sophisticated problem statements. 

Start a Project

Once you know enough about the language, go all-in on it. Launch your own full-blown project and build it from scratch. You will realize that you’re learning a lot more than you did with standalone small projects. 

Starting to learn a secondary programming language is a journey. There are dozens of reasons to do it – not all of them listed here – and just as many ways to make it successful. As the technology market across the UK continues to be as hot as it’s ever been, learning another programming language and investing in your own learning and development can give your career longevity. It will also give you a competitive edge in your current role and when you’re back out on the job market.