As one of the established practices of Extreme Programming, pair programming is by no means a new exercise, but it’s one that is both underrated and under-utilized. As a programming newbie currently working my way through an immersive coding bootcamp, I was surprised to discover that pair or group work was a feasible practice in the world of software engineering. While my pre-existing knowledge was admittedly limited, society’s perception of programmers often portrays a very independent, solitary role.
Roughly one week into “code school”, I discovered that perception is not accurate — or at least it doesn’t have to be. It seemed strange, or at least awkward, to work through coding challenges in a group or pair setting, but with some encouragement from our coaches, I jumped right in and have become a true believer. If you have yet to reap the benefits of this practice, continue reading to discover some of the advantages I’ve experienced firsthand.
My exposure to pair programming has taken place purely in an educational setting, but I believe many of the benefits outlined below also translate to a professional environment.
- Two brains are better than one. You know what they say — teamwork makes the dream work. This is true in many aspects of life, including programming. When something as simple as a misspelled variable or a missing comma can derail your entire app, having a second pair of eyes on your side can help catch mistakes like these as they happen, saving you, or your company, valuable time. Pair programming can also accelerate your debugging and problem-solving processes as you inevitably encounter issues along the way, practically ensuring a higher quality end product.
- Free your mind. When you’re not worried about typing correctly, you’re able to focus on the logic behind your actual code. In the “driver” role, your brain is allowed to concentrate less on the tedious details and tap into your creative, problem-solving mode. Frequently switching roles basically forces you to give your brain a break, helps prevent burnout, and keeps the team working efficiently.
- The student becomes the teacher. We all retain information differently and may grasp certain concepts that our peers don’t (and vice versa). Everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. This gives you the opportunity to teach your peers what you know and also lets you learn from your partner(s). The process of explaining concepts to others deepens your own understanding, further solidifying your pre-existing knowledge. Helping others often helps yourself, too.
- Gain valuable exposure to practices used in the “real world.” While pair programming has yet to become widely accepted in the professional setting, demonstrating that you code well with others is still a valuable quality in a team member.
- Turn tedious study sessions into a much more entertaining experience. Humans are social creatures — adding an interactive aspect to an activity that’s often more solitary can make it seem more like fun and less like work. Once you start building camaraderie and new relationships, you gain a valuable support system and actively foster a more collaborative community.
TL;DR: Pair programming is a valuable tool for all parties involved. Try it out!