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Code of life: Debugging your way to success

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By Vaishnavi S, Data Engineer, Intuit

Balancing health and work priorities can be simplified by recognising the parallels between
programming skills and life principles. The space of fitness and coding may seem worlds apart, but they share many fundamental principles. The process of getting fit and maintaining a healthy body, and the process of writing clean and effective code are surprisingly similar in many ways, and I’ve found that practices such as setting goals, breaking them down into smaller, achievable steps, habits of perseverance, and consistency mirror key coding principles.

Here are 4 coding elements you are probably already using some or all of them consciously or unconsciously in everyday life:
1. Identifying and defining the end goal
One of the most striking similarities between fitness and coding is the importance of identifying the end goal or customer problem. In fitness, this might mean setting a specific strength, or endurance goal, while in coding it might mean setting out to build a feature or complete a project that answers a specific problem. Either way, the process is much the same and this principle, reminiscent of problem-solving techniques, is universally relevant. First, you set your goal, then you break it down into smaller, more achievable steps that allow you to progress towards your goal incrementally and build momentum over time. The key lies in maintaining clarity of thought and a steadfast focus on the ultimate objective.

2. Experimenting and being okay with failure
To truly enjoy a variety of experiences in life, one must be open to experimentation and be
okay with failure, all in the quest to learn and grow, all while having a healthy balance of being structured and consistent. One way to achieve this is going broad to narrow – where we go broad by using your creativity to explore a variety of potential solutions and then narrow down by focusing on bold solutions most likely to delight our customers.

It is important to have a fail fast, learn-fast mentality to be able to go through this process and emerge successful. In the field of software engineering, this approach is different from traditional problem solving, where people tend to fall in love with either the first solution or their solution. Instead, we focus on the customer and their specific problem and then work harmoniously towards that goal. This not only helps us develop a customer-first mindset but also enables us to cultivate a growth mindset and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Similarly in fitness, this dynamic approach eventually provides us with the best possible
customised routine that is most suited and effective. The principle of continual refinement,
integral to debugging in programming, underscores the importance of learning from mistakes and evolving for future endeavors, be it in coding or conquering hiking trails.

3. Applying algorithmic thinking

Perseverance and consistency are vital elements of both fitness and coding. In fitness, it’s no secret that getting fit and staying fit requires consistent effort over time. Similarly, in coding, writing clean, efficient code requires a consistent approach to problem-solving, debugging, and code maintenance. The best way to achieve this is by applying algorithmic thinking — a cornerstone in programming that involves logical, step-by-step problem-solving and is also a strategic approach that transforms fitness from a sporadic event into a permanent fixture.

Algorithmic thinking involves breaking down complex problems into smaller, simpler sub-problems that can be systematically resolved. Applied to fitness, this might look like breaking down a complex goal like losing weight or building muscle into a series of manageable steps, such as setting a calorie goal, tracking progress, and increasing exercise intensity over time.

4. Embracing collaboration in programming and life
In the realm of programming, encountering glitches and bugs is inevitable, disrupting progress and demanding innovative solutions. Similarly, in life’s journey, when challenges arise, seeking support is invaluable. Just as programmers learn from other’s mistakes to enhance their code efficiency, reaching out to those who have navigated similar paths in life can provide fresh perspectives and solutions.

Much like how the camaraderie of a group, cheering on ascent proves vital in motivating and maintaining the spirits during moments of fatigue on a hike, I have, in my experience, learnt having a supportive network while programming can yield much better results, enable more creative and disruptive solutions for customers!

In essence, both coding and hiking have imparted a valuable lesson in humility. The correlation between the two lies in their shared ability to enhance my skills and approach to various aspects of life. Whether it’s optimising for the best outcome, finding the most efficient route, meal prepping, socialising, or project planning at work, the mindset of continuous improvement instilled by coding and hiking has become an integral part of my approach to any endeavor. These experiences underscore the importance of humility in the face of constant learning and optimisation for the best possible outcomes.

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