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Thread: Being a Programmer

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    Frenzied Member Inuyasha1782's Avatar
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    Being a Programmer

    I have a few questions. I'm 15 years old right now, Freshman in highschool. I have been programming for about two years now, and have enjoyed every ounce it has offered to me. Although the many times I have spent sitting infront of the screen yelling at a debugging program, it has definently been a great experience. I plan to continue this new found hobby and turn it into my career, but before I make any kind of choice like this I definently need alot of research so that I can be alot more firm on the subject.

    What I am asking is for any current Programmers to share their experience and knowledge on what exactly you should know when planning on being a programmer. I know there are many different types, but in general what do most programmers know? Currently I know both VB6, and .NET, PHP, and am learning C++ at the moment. Also what would be the best route to take as a programmer? Meaning would it be better to freelance or actually work for a company? Over the past two years I have been making alot of random programs, mostly dealing with client to server situations. I just recently made a multi downloader for a specific site so that my friend wouldn't have to worry about going to each link. I just recently looked into freelancing and just setup an account for Guru.com. Iv'e been bidding for about a month now and have yet to get a project, so i'm obviously missing something.

    Anyways, I just need some comments and suggestions from the Guru's, since I definently would love to continue with what I have been doing for the past two years
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    MS SQL Powerposter szlamany's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    For freelancing I believe that having a niche - a particular business for instance - that you are an expert in, gives you much more credibility.

    The languages you know aren't as important as the projects and groups you have worked with...

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    Retired G&G Mod NoteMe's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    I am only 24, so I am still young. But I will (as most of my older friends) start to work for a bigger company first. It teaches you a lot of valuble lessons. And it is also a safer situation. Then later on if you have the guts you can start freelancing, or even bring some of the guys from the big company to start your own.

    As Slazmany said. It is not all about what languages you know. Most jobs require different languages, but when you know a few (a bunch) it takes you no time at all to become a novice in a new one, and then it is only hard work from there to become really good.

    Even if I am young, there is one thing I have learned. A programmer is never finished educated. When you think you are on top of it, and start relaxing, then you will fail...fail misserably...

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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Quote Originally Posted by NoteMe
    Even if I am young, there is one thing I have learned. A programmer is never finished educated. When you think you are on top of it, and start relaxing, then you will fail...fail misserably...
    That's a very good observation, thanks for the tip
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    Super Moderator RobDog888's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    The bottom line is knowledge and experience. I have been in the industry professionally for a long time know and there is nothing like the experience you get when working for a decent sized company. There are things you just can not learn from books and such.

    So always increase you knowledge and after at least a few years of professional paid experience should you even think about freelancing.

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    Retired G&G Mod NoteMe's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    I noticed that when I started to work here at CERN. It is a big difference asking a question at VBF and get an answer, and just walking up my hallway asking someone if they can help with my problem. You tend to learn in a completly different way. You miss this if you start on your own right from the start. Learn from the elderly...

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    Super Moderator RobDog888's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Hey, I'm not that eldery.

    The researching and debugging skills are the basic essentials that you dont learn from books.
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    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Frankly, I think you are off to a great start. I did some programming when I was a bit younger than you, but then drifted off for several years. There just wan't that much you could do on a TRS-80 Level I with 4K RAM and that crappy cassette memory.

    You have tools that allow you to do real things, and are getting into it because it is fun. You can't do better than that. As for where to go next: I agree with most everything that has been said so far, but I have a different perspective.

    I have been a biologist for my whole life. I got back into programming after getting out of grad school, though it was always only a part of my other job as a fish biologist. What I would say is that programming skills are valuable in pretty nearly every industry. I have written dozens of programs, even though my job is not really programming. We also have a few programmers hired here, and are hiring another currently. Interestingly, since I have two degrees in Biology, and have never taken a course in anything computer related (unless you count math), I find myself in an odd position within this agency. The position we are currently hiring will take over something that I have worked on for nine years. I will be the main source of information for this new person, as I know the problem they will be trying to solve better than anybody in the agency. However, I was unable to compete for the job (it's actually a grade lower than me, so I wouldn't have tried anyways) because I lacked the paper qualifications for something I have been doing for a long time.

    One of the interesting qualifications that I would score a big fat 0 in is the use of industry standard documentation. I don't even know what that means! There may be other peripheral busywork items like that which you would be well advised to learn just so you can check off that box. Once you get a job, what you knew won't matter nearly as much as what you can actually DO! That is where motivation comes in.
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    I plan on looking into this "documentation". Not being in a buisness, I have rarely heard the term before. I assume it means documenting your program basically, and commenting it. I may have to find a few decent books on it, learn it now so I can be ready when it's asked of me
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    I think Steve made an excellent point that I'd like to expand on. Languages are just tools for the job. Think of it like building houses. If you were a construction worker, you wouldn't list the power tools you have used instead of listing the houses you have helped build. In the end it's all about the final product, it doesn't matter what you use to make it. If you started by learning a specific language, the more languages you know the more you will start to think in pure programming theory, rather than in terms of a particular language, and that's the point at which you start to become a true programmer, someone who is able to use the right tools to do what they want.

    I was going to make a Soviet Russia joke there about using languages and vice versa. Aren't you glad I didn't?

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    MS SQL Powerposter szlamany's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    My first 7 or so years of professional programming was at a small software house that produced enterprise applications for school districts on mainframe computers. I learned a tremendous amount about doing basic R & D - the research and prototype work that goes before development is so important. The team work in that group was incredible - we really built each other up and created powerful concepts.

    I've been on my own now - have my own software house - for nearly 20 years now. When we started out "conversion-from-Mainframe-to-VB-MS-SQL" 6 years ago we easily spent 6 to 9 months simply creating throw-away prototypes.

    I've done consulting work at large health-insurance companies. The structure and discipline I learned from those organizations was great. Software changes are considered by committee. Coded in small pieces. Peer-review at the end of each week. After completion of the modification some serious documentation is developed around the process. Then the modification leaves the "test environment" and some other "production team" considers it's merits and eventually puts it into production. Very professional and controlled environment.

    I've done consulting work at large commercial companies. The documentation produced at those places was all about how to operate the program - what it does - what it changes. Files it needs to operate against. How to re-start upon failure. How to test where it failed. The best time to get this information is when the program is developed or changed. So they considered that the most important part of a programming task.
    Last edited by szlamany; May 1st, 2006 at 08:59 AM.

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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaggy Hiker
    I did some programming when I was a bit younger than you, but then drifted off for several years. There just wan't that much you could do on a TRS-80 Level I with 4K RAM and that crappy cassette memory.
    Wow. That's almost exactly my experience as well. Well, except for the college part. My high school bought two TRS-80s in 1982.

    There's a lot of good advice here, and if I can add anything to it, it's don't end up like me. My first 11 years of life after high school served as nothing more than an effective warning to others.

    College was never an option simply because I was an arrogant b**tard who didn't need school because I thought I already knew everything. All I wanted to do was smoke pot and chase girls (still do, btw). After watching my friends graduate college and buy expensive houses in the suburbs while I was still plugging along at $7-$8 an hour I was finally kicked in the head by reality for the last time and enrolled in college full-time studying computer science and the rest is history.

    If I had my head on straight (like you seem to) at your age I would have earned that CS degree in 1988 instead of 1999 I would probably be answering more questions here than I ask...

    Remember... don't end up like me!

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    PowerPoster RhinoBull's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    I think working in corp environment for a while is a necessary thing and it's not only about learning business and advancing your technical skills (that's a given) but also about learning some profesional ethics which you cannot get from any book written by any best selling author or while self employed. You must develop your very unique way of dealing with attitudes, arrogancy and some other garbage that are part of our daily routines - users (clients), managers, customers, suppliers, etc, etc, etc... Every day could be an adventure but it's alot of fun more often then never.

    I thought you were older, btw.

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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Quote Originally Posted by Inuyasha1782
    I know there are many different types, but in general what do most programmers know? Currently I know both VB6, and .NET, PHP, and am learning C++ at the moment.
    Get a copy of Wirth's _Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs_. Learn programming, not languages. (After you learn programming, you learn languages, not the other way around.) If you do that, when you start on your way to a CS degree (which you should do), you'll be 2-3 years ahead of the curve.
    I just recently looked into freelancing and just setup an account for Guru.com. Iv'e been bidding for about a month now and have yet to get a project, so i'm obviously missing something.
    You are. Look at the quotes some of the people there are offering. A week's work for $50? In some countries that's a lot more than a week's normal income, so they can live comfortably on it. In California it'll get you through most of the afternoon - if you eat in. The only way you can underbid people like that is if you don't want to make any money. Your choice - what's your time and effort worth? Don't undersell yourself - not now and not 25 years from now.

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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Hello everyone,
    I should have started a similar thread.
    My story is a bit similar to Homer. He was doing something but I wasn't doing anything.
    First brush with computers was at high school in 1994-96. I was interested in PASCAL.
    After that arthritis restricted my mobility. I thought I will get better sooner rather than later and then enroll myself for a degree. No improvement still now in terms of health. Better sense prevailed two years back. I have enrolled myself in a correspondence course.
    I am interested in system programming (may not be the right word - something like device drivers , compilers) , game development. May be I thik too much of my abilities or plain stupid , whatever you may think. I have told so much , why stop myself from this.
    Got into VB because it was easy to write programs and many more job opportunities and it was also part of course work. Dabbled with C too . But that was about 6 years back.
    Telecommuting is the only option for me right now. Unless of course someone is generous enough to come to my home and offer me some work .
    So, the main question is how do I get real time experience?
    Thank you for sparing time to read through the entire thing.

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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Just to add my experiance here,

    I've been programming since I was 12/13 (ish) started with vb5, used vb6, php, c#, vb.net, java amoung others and I find i can pick up the basics of a langugae fairly quickly now (Like note said)

    I'm 18 at the moment, just finishing off college (High school to you usa folk ). I had allways planned on going to university but after the last two years I wanted to be more practiclay based, i've been doing occasional freelance jobs and really enjoyed it.

    I posted my CV on monster and applyed for a few positions (Just to test the water as such) was contacted by a company fairly local to me, they explained they were looking for a comp science grad but would like to invite me to an interview. I did the first interview and was suprised to get a second, which I would be taking some tests on there language (which I had an hour to pick up he basics) I got 1 mark off full marks on the paper and a few weeks later they offered me a job on a salary i'd be expecting to earn after I left university, so I couldnt refuse and have accepted (Start 3rd july). I look forward to maybe doing an open degree course or who knows in a year or two depends on how the job goes I may go back to university.

    Based on the people I have spoken to other than the good time university provides employers are not only looking for a degree they want work experiance as well.

    Just my input.

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    MS SQL Powerposter szlamany's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    @pino

    You might find that now that you are working that the university knowledge will never catch up to the work-experience you are about to start getting.

    That is what happened to me - I even missed 45 days of my senior year of high school traveling around the country meeting with customers to install and enhance software. If it wasn't for the connections that my employers had with the admin folks at my high school I probably never would have got my diploma.

    I never imagined that I would not go on to college - but once I got into the work stream it carried me much faster then I ever thought.

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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Good, I want to go far, and I dont start work until I finish college (High school) so I wont be missing anythign and still get good grades here!

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    I'm about to be a PowerPoster! Hack's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    Speaking of education, I have a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English and minors in History and Philosophy.

    I'm going on 27 years in I.T. either as a developer or network administrator.

    Degrees are nice to have, but as has been pointed out, experience is the real key!

  20. #20
    Super Moderator si_the_geek's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    I did a degree that was much more relevant.. however I have probably only used about 2% of what I learnt there.

    A degree is great to get your foot in the right door, but once you are there the degree soon becomes almost irrelevant... it's only useful for getting the next job, most of which don't care if you have a few years real-world experience.

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    A SQL Server fool GaryMazzone's Avatar
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    Re: Being a Programmer

    I've been doing the for about 15 years now and I didn't have a degree. This has closed some doors to me. One person I was interviewing with (for Oracle DBA position) told me he would rather hire someone with no experience and an English degree then me with 12 year experence as an Oracle DBA with out a degree because the preson with a degree has been taught how to think, while I have not been taught that (how to think methodically I guess). I would say get your degree in anything.
    Sometimes the Programmer
    Sometimes the DBA

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