T Nation

Computer Programmers


#1

Hello, any computer programmers here? I'm thinking of a career change and I'm looking into computer programming. Any advice? Experience? What are the most popular computer programming languages out there? Pls any info will help! Thanks!


#2

Yeah Im a programmer. Im not sure what the situation is in Canada but I'd say you'd need a good qualification like a degree in Software Engineering or Computer Science. Experience and some sort of portfolio of your work would be good too. Popular languages are C++, C#, Java, Visual Basic and Delphi. Programming can take years to fully master and too be honest it gets pretty boring at times but the money is usually ok.

What do you work as at the minute?


#3

Right now, I work for a transportation company. I'm a Team Leader of a 5-man help desk. We support an application called SAP, which manages the Company's HR, Payroll, Inventory etc....We mostly do functional support (How do we do this? How do we do that? etc )It's quite fun but I have been there for almost 6 years and I'm kinda bored. I recently applied for a 2nd Level position but I'm lacking on the programming side of things, hence my interest in developing new skills.


#4

Generally speaking, programming is really a very wide area. There is much more to it then just learining a syntax of a particular language. Having a technial degree is a good start, IMO. But, quite surprisngly, people who studied linguistics and such seem to do alright in some aspects of the job.

A lot of it depends on the specific problem domain. In most of the web site/database programming, algorithms are very simple, there are many tutorials and how-tos avaliable online, and you usually end up repeating a few templates over and over again.

On the other hand, in order to, let's say, program microcontrollers, you need some prior knowledge of computer architecture, you need to know what things like registers, buses and ports really are. There you won't get far by just copying a few examples from web.

What I'm trying to say is that programming might be easy to begin with, esp. with visual tools and code generators and such, but mastering it is very hard. Becoming competent in it isn't easier then, say, becoming a civil engineer.

Just my opinion.


#5

I'm a programmer. I don't want to deter you but a lot of programming is becoming outsourced to India and China. Also a lot of programming is going to Russian, Indian and Asian immigrants who have advanced degrees and may work for less than an American or Canadian citizen. IMO it's going the way of manufacturing and 10 years from now there will be much fewer jobs for Canadian and American citizens. Just something to think about before you invest a lot of cash into becoming a programmer.

As far as languages to learn, it really depends on what you want to do. Java is a good language to start off with, C/C++ is good too. Learning HTML and XML is good if you wish to work on the web side of programming and program web based business applications. Learning SQL and how to work with a database like Oracle is essential too. If you want to work primarily on the Microsoft side of things you could go .NET which is somewhat similar to Java. It's important to learn the basic theories of programming, logic, compilers, networking etc...
As a programmer you have to have a lot of tools under your belt so you'll end up learning many languages and technologies.


#6

Yeah, that's my take on it as well, although I'm not an expert. There's just not as much pure programming going on here anymore. It might be more usefull to get an MIS degree, or specialize in one program, like PeopleSoft.


#7

It isn't as lucrative as it used to be. Larger companies are sending programming work overseas, but that's only work that doesn't require a clearance. The defense industry is the biggest sector for programmers, and clearable people are still desired in that market... and will be for the foreseeable future. Also, smaller companies find it disadvantageous to outsource, so they hire domestic programmers as well.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately; programming is not my ideal job. It has lost a lot of its luster over the years. Of course, I'm fundamentally a lazy person, so no job is ideal for me, unless someone wanted to pay me to sit at home, read philosophy, and write.

Anyway, a lot of people think that programming leads to "big bucks." Entry salaries, if you have a degree, are decent (you start squarely in the middle class, at least), but your salary caps pretty quickly if you don't have an advanced degree. It's also easy to get taken advantage of... in a field like law, you know that you're supposed to work 60 hour weeks, and you make a salary that presupposes it. Programmers oftentimes work long hours without any sort of additional compensation.

I'm not sure what I would do if I could do it all over again, but it probably wouldn't be this.


#8

My thoughts exactly nephorm. The hours can really, truly suck. During the dot com boom there were times when I was working close to 100 hour weeks, and working every day of the week. Deadlines are always ridiculous and programmers are usually the ones to suffer. If I could do it all over again, I don't think I would have gone the programming route either. Like in Office Space I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a construction worker or something. At least I'd be working outside.


#9

SAP (and ERP in general) is different than most programming.

I say you should go for it if it actually interests you. You could take a night class to learn some coding and then ask for a small programming task at work. Maybe weasel your way in that way.

I've made very good money in ERP. There aren't many jobs that are future proof. ERP is good because you're learning more about the way your company works, not just the technical coding stuff.

Good luck.