Fullstack | Grace Hopper: Five things I learned about pair programming

I’ve always been pretty comfortable working with small groups, and I love talking with people, so I was surprised when one of my biggest struggles at the Grace Hopper Program in our first days was pair programming. It’s a fantastic experience, but it takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to work with someone you’ve never met before!

If you’re pair programming for the first time, or if you’re just feeling a little out of sorts and looking to smooth the process, here are some guidelines I find helpful (and keep repeating to myself, over and over, in my moments of despair):

  1. Don’t interrupt your partner. Good communication in pair programming is one of the most important building blocks for a successful session, so try to be a good listener. Be careful to let your partner finish their thought and be respectful of their ideas.
  2. Respect the roles. If you’re driving, listen. If you’re navigating, speak up. One of the most difficult situations I’ve run into is when someone is both driving and navigating. It’s a big bummer; someone always ends up feeling left out or like they can’t contribute in a positive way. I’ve done it to others and I’ve had others do it to me. We’re all guilty of this occasionally, so it’s just something to be mindful of.
  3. Switch roles frequently and take regular breaks. Find a way to break your project up into 15- or 20-minute segments. Switch roles often, and take micro-breaks when you switch. Getting up from the computer, stretching and walking around can help clear your mind and keep you focused.
  4. Balance strategies. Some programmers are the type to dive in right away, while others are a little more methodical and like to read all of the documentation carefully. Respect your partner’s approach and don’t be afraid to try a new style. That being said, if you feel rushed, stuck, or uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask to switch gears.
  5. Go easy on yourself. Sometimes you’ll really catch onto concept and contribute a lot, and sometimes you won’t. Sometimes your partner will be taking the lead, and sometimes you will — it’s o.k.! Don’t be too hard on yourself; everyone grasps concepts differently at different times. That’s why you learn so much faster when you’re working with someone else.

Cat tax:

Charlie, this is why we can’t have nice things…

Loves code, cats and coffee. 🤓☕️ Web engineer at The New York Times. Previously at Quartz and Mic. Career changer. List maker. Overthinker.

Loves code, cats and coffee. 🤓☕️ Web engineer at The New York Times. Previously at Quartz and Mic. Career changer. List maker. Overthinker.