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Effective pair programming

Embracing quality practices in your engineering culture

March 28, 2024 - 832 words - 5 mins Found a typo? Edit me
software team-work


What is pair programming? Let’s first establish what pair programming is: Two people working together on the same problem at the same time. It is not about one person showing off their skills in front of another, nor one person afraid of making mistakes due to an impostor syndrome.

Each person will have a role:

The pair could –and should– switch roles occasionally; eg: every X commits pushed, every 10 mins, … up to them.

Pair programming should not be considered a practice only for “seniors” to juniors, but regardless of the team members’ experience level.

It is about the collaboration flow, the quality communication, the absence of feeling judged, and the idea of welcoming vulnerability with your peers, knowing they will support and help you.

It is about constantly challenging each other, seeking the most pragmatic solution while keeping it simple. Always looking for quick feedback when speaking to each other, but also on the solution you agreed to implement and its direction.

It is about the short, quick, and immediate feedback loop while talking to your partner, who reviews your code on the fly. You can guide as a navigator or help the driver validate their ideas in a broader picture.

It is about the constant sharing of knowledge atmosphere by default, reducing bus-factors and silo-knowledge areas to the maximum. Increasing the focus by having two minds working on the same task simultaneously.

It is about team cohesion and sharpening the feeling that we belong. When we understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we will realize how much we can help each other grow.


How can you practice pair programming?

Pair programming can be done in different ways:

It is up to the team –and the task in context– to decide when and how to apply pairing to get the best out of it.

This does not mean you must constantly work “no matter what” in pair. This is not about creating rules; on the contrary, it is about embracing this practice to the point you feel confident to choose when and how to use it to get the best out of it.

Pair programming might become one of the best tools in your team toolbox for daily interactions. Not because you read it somewhere but because of the benefits you and your team will find.

Common Patterns

Different strategies for effective pairing


Anti-patterns while pairing


Want more? Check this out: Learning Through KATAS


Thanks to my friend Manu, who helped me with this post. We even share a workshop on this topic.