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  1. #1
    Regular Coder bobleny's Avatar
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    How do you become a professional programmer?

    Hi, is any one here a computer programmer? I am just about done with high school and I enjoy programming. I've messed with C++ and Java, though I haven't got far, yet. I've been doing PHP for about 5 years now, and I really enjoy it. I want to get more into computer programming, specificly C++. For now, probably application programming. I have some questions though, and I was hoping someone with experience could answer them.

    First and for most, how do you get into it? I unfortunately don't know anyone who knows anyone who programs for a living..... I mean, where do you start? I never see any ads in the paper looking for programmers...

    Second, how much money do you think I could expect starting off? That might sound odd, but I do have bills to pay....

    Third, how much work is there? I mean, is programming an off and on thing, were you have work and then you don't, or are there companies that use programmers to build software for their clients, were work is steady?

    Fourth, what kind of classes do I need to take? I'm sure I will need to go to school before anyone would want to higher me. No one wants to higher people who haven't been trained.



    I would also like to know what you did.
    Where did you go to school; Technical or Collage?
    What was your title; were you a computer engineer?
    What was you degree; did you have your masters (in what)?
    Did you work for a company, or was it a home based thing?
    Was it enough to live, or did you often have to pick up a second job?
    What kind of languages do you know or prefer?

    Some of those question where past tense, but if they are current, please answer them anyways.

    Thanks a lot to any replys!
    Last edited by bobleny; 05-27-2007 at 01:04 AM.

  • #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobleny View Post
    First and for most, how do you get into it? I unfortunately don't know anyone who knows anyone who programs for a living..... I mean, where do you start? I never see any ads in the paper looking for programmers...
    I got into it largely by two things: (1) Building a resume with a few projects on it - mostly volunteer work. This includes my writing a book (an extreme case, but it helped), quite a lot of volunteering with mozilla.org code base (fixing bugs, writing tests, QA, analysis, etc.), and helping out in these forums. (2) Luck. :-) A recruiter called me after seeing samples of my work, to start with a company called Cenzic, which needed some Mozilla-specific work done. After that, well, the ball got rolling.

    Second, how much money do you think I could expect starting off? That might sound odd, but I do have bills to pay....
    It's largely experience-based. Get some experience, and the numbers start to climb to some really bizarre heights.

    Third, how much work is there? I mean, is programming an off and on thing, were you have work and then you don't, or are there companies that use programmers to build software for their clients, were work is steady?
    I think you'll find there's a lot of demand for skilled software engineers - but don't necessarily expect to work 30 years for the same company and retire. I've changed companies three times in the last three years - including just a week ago. As my experience has grown, so has the demand... recently, I had to choose between three different offers, and all of them were quite nice.

    Fourth, what kind of classes do I need to take? I'm sure I will need to go to school before anyone would want to higher me. No one wants to higher people who haven't been trained.
    Heh. This might surprise you, but the salary I earn now (a princely one, in my opinion) I earn without spending a single day in college.

    That said, I don't recommend that route. Find a niche, something you can specialize in - and far more importantly, enjoy doing. Base your degree on that. If you're not happy hacking in a particular language or on a given project, find another. Success in a project would lead to people recognizing you as having some value, and that's when the offers start coming.

    If you're local to the San Francisco Bay Area, I can put you in touch with a couple technical recruiting companies. But like I said, you need items on the resume.

    This may answer your questions in more depth: http://mozillamemory.org/details.php?id=7271&p=1 - it's an interview I did a couple months ago.
    "The first step to confirming there is a bug in someone else's work is confirming there are no bugs in your own."
    June 30, 2001
    author, Verbosio prototype XML Editor
    author, JavaScript Developer's Dictionary
    https://alexvincent.us/blog

  • #3
    Regular Coder bobleny's Avatar
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    Thanks Alex, I appreciate the response!
    That is very interesting.... I just wish I had more time to devote to developing my skills.

    I will have to think about what you said...

  • #4
    Regular Coder brad211987's Avatar
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    I'm just beginning my career as a developer, but maybe this will help you a little as well.

    I'm currently enrolled at Northern Kentucky University, and by the time I'm done I'll have been there for a total of 5 years and have a degree in Computer Science, Computer Information Technology, and a minor in math. I was lucky enough to find a company near by that took me in as a student and I've been there for about 7 months now.

    My best advice would be two things:
    1. Start looking for any jobs in the field as early as you can(I started off doing sales for the company I'm at, but it gave me exposure to a development environment for an IT company). Getting your foot in the door is important so you can build experience.

    2. Get comfortable on the internet, I've done C++ and Java mostly, but as far as school goes, I haven't yet gotten into classes that teach web programming of any sort. I taught myself everything I could about JSP, HTML, javascript, and enterprise java.

    As for money, I'm working at an hourly rate, not a developer's salary at all but I'm still in school and still getting familiar with the technology used at work. It's plenty of money for me to live on, paying for an apartment with cable, internet, utilities etc... as well as a car.

    Hope this helps you out a little bit.

  • #5
    Regular Coder bobleny's Avatar
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    Through my research, "According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salary offers for graduates with a bachelor's degree in computer programming averaged $45,558 a year in 2003."
    Quote by: SHG Resources

    That is the route I'm looking for. A tech school program, where once done, I can hopefully find a company to work with....
    -------------------

    Thanks for the response, Brad. How did you find out about that college, did you live near by or something? I am finding it difficult to look for programs that are offered...

  • #6
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    There is actually becoming more of a demand for programmers these days finally. It depends how you want to go, freelance or go and work for a company. Freelance is definitely going to be harder, I've done a lot of that but it's a contact sport of sorts, knowing people can be key to having plenty of work.

    Your best bet is to find a university that you like that you can study computer science or computer engineering. That way you'll learn more skills and you can probably get internships to help build your resume up before you graduate and get real world experience.

    As for money, it depends on experience much as Alex said. The more languages you know the better (I know around 13 languages these days).
    OracleGuy

  • #7
    Regular Coder brad211987's Avatar
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    Most 4 year universities you find will have some sort of CS program to offer.

    For me, it was a decision based on finances, and the size of the school. I prefer smaller schools as you can get to know the professors more easily, and take many different classes with the same professors that you like.

    I agree very much with oracleguy that knowing many languages will help you out. Once you get the basics down of programming(which you probably have done with 5 years of php) other languages start to come easy until the schools throw curveballs at you like LISP or something equally strange. I would take Alex's advice and "find a niche" and just run with it. For me it turned out to be java and getting into large scale web applications(hoping that I can take ruby in that direction too)

  • #8
    Regular Coder bobleny's Avatar
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    oracleguy, when you say you know 13 languages, do you mean that you've mastered 13 languages, or that you know a few of them but you can do 13 of them?

    I'm also curious to know which ones you know...

  • #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobleny View Post
    oracleguy, when you say you know 13 languages, do you mean that you've mastered 13 languages, or that you know a few of them but you can do 13 of them?

    I'm also curious to know which ones you know...
    I can do around 13 of them fairly well: Visual Basic (Classic and .NET), C#, C++, x86 Assembly, 8051 Assembly, Verilog HDL, PHP, ASP, ColdFusion, CFScript, Javascript, (X)HTML, CSS.

    I can't obviously write all of them regularly so I try and rotate around them as much as possible. I just accepted a new job doing C# development which I'm looking forward to. Lately I've been doing C++ and Verilog for the stuff I've been working on.

    But it isn't like I sat down and decided to learn each one, most of the time I started learning them because of a job or some project I wanted to do.
    OracleGuy

  • #10
    Regular Coder bobleny's Avatar
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    When you do these projects, are they generally solo, or in teams?
    Also, are you generally given ample amount of time, or are the constricted?

  • #11
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    1) How did you get into it?
    I just liked playing around with computers and learnt some QBASIC, later I found more enjoyment mucking about with little scripting languages like the one mirc has, and Quake, and around that time I also got interested in HTML and then PHP. As for getting into a job, I have a freelance PHP job I saw advertised on my university careers network, and am about to accept a graduate developer role job with LogicaCMG.

    2) How much money do you think I could expect starting off?
    It doesn't sound odd; you get a job because you want money, if I was happy enough just coding for nothing I'd continue to sit around the house doing so. I'm starting on £22k, which according to xe.com is about $43.5k (I don't know why everyone's so cagey about pay rates, so I'm being completely open -- that's pre-tax btw), of course that's affected by experience. Experience is king in the world of programming; your salary will pretty much always be strongly based upon your experience, so go and volunteer for some open source projects or help out some local charity.

    3) How much work is there?
    I put my CV up on monster.co.uk and got at least one phone call from a recruiter every day for about three weeks (until I got offered a job and took it down). I'm sure there are similar websites for your country. This is also strongly affected by your experience, the more you have the more you're wanted.

    4) What kind of classes do I need to take?
    You don't need to take any, but it might be useful to take Computer Science, or as I chose; Software Engineering. I decided to go down the engineering route to get a better idea of how to manage and execute projects successfully. That's really your call, Mathematics is a good course for programming too, so long as it's supplemented by your own specifically programmatical learning.

    5) Where did you go to school; Technical or College?
    I went to University, which would be called College in America.

    6)What was your title; were you a computer engineer?
    What was you degree; did you have your masters (in what)?

    BEng Software Engineering, with Honours

    7) Did you work for a company, or was it a home based thing?
    It started off as a home based thing and moved up to experience with companies, don't be afraid to give away your skills at first just to get something useful on your CV.

    8) Was it enough to live, or did you often have to pick up a second job?
    I haven't yet had to work full time programming, that will start in July for me, however I can tell you that in my freelance work I'm about to be paid £3000 (>$7000) for a small project that's really taken me very little time. I did this when I felt like it, around my studies, and hit every deadline easily. That sort of thing takes a little planning though, and the less planning you use the more self control you'll need.

    9)What kind of languages do you know or prefer?
    The core languages I know are PHP, C, C++, C#, Java. I've dabbled in Python, Ruby and Perl, and have a decent amount of experience doing Bash shell scripting (which is useful if you run Linux).

    10) When you do these projects, are they generally solo, or in teams?
    Most jobs will be in teams, especially in larger companies. When freelancing you'll most likely be working on your own, though your code might still need to knit with other people (most likely other freelancers working on separate parts of the project).

    11) Are you generally given ample amount of time, or is this frequently constricted?
    Well that's a hard question to answer, any project of any nature might have lax or strict time limits, if you're working for a company you just have to live with it and most likely put in the overtime to hit deadlines. If you're a freelancer and are offered a job that needs doing ASAP then that's your cue to bargain for more money -- if they need it fast then they'll need to pay for that privilege.

    Hope that helps
    Last edited by Ahri; 05-27-2007 at 02:10 PM. Reason: Additional questions answered

  • #12
    Regular Coder bobleny's Avatar
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    I am 18 years old, and I'm almost done with high school. In fact, my graduation is this Wednesday. Right know I am looking for a job this summer to work up a little cash. During this time, I will try to finish some of my dang projects.

    I have a long list of projects that will help me freelance.
    * My site - a PHP technical marvel to be upheld... Includes all the features in the bellow scripts and the forum is fully integrated. 3/10 complete. This is an on going project designed to test limits of my skills as a designer and developer.

    * Science Site – A project I started for school. Includes a post system, a link management system, login system, and a page management system. All designed for easy use by someone who doesn't know what HTML is.... Yet another PHP technical marvel. Will receive a code overhaul for security purposes...

    * Teachers database – Another project I started for school which is far more complicated than the Science Site! Contains the same features and much more! 3/8 complete.

    * Easy Forums – A fully customizable forum, designed for people who have no idea what HTML is. Yet again, another PHP technical marvel. This is a huge project that wont be finished for quite some time though. :'(


    With these systems, I will be able to create sites that are very powerful and useful, yet easy to manage and update...

    I am a very creative person who has been known to think around the outside of the dodecahedron. I'm also very good at looking at things from a different prospective, allowing me to develop systems and software that truly are EASY. Which is sorta what the first sentence means...

    This Fall I will be going to a community college to take some math and english (Hate english) in preparation for a substation program that First Energy is offering. During this time, I hope to hold down that job and hopefully still freelance.

    Next Fall, I will be starting the substation program and I won't have any time for freelancing. I might not have much time for a job either.

    Once I am done with the program, I will be working with First Energy as a substation worker, for $42,000 a year. I have to sign a 3 year contract with them to take the course. In return, they pay for all of my tuition and gear, except for what I take this Fall.

    Once I have a steady job with First Energy, I will be able to get back to programming, were I may latter make it a full time career.

    I appreciate all of your guys' responses, you have helped me a great deal in making my decisions...


    I would still like you all to answer the above questions in curiosity.

    I also had another question about freelancing, when you freelance, do you ever ask for a certain percent down pay?

    This may sound stupid, but what is a CV? Is that like a resume?
    --www.firemelt.net--
    * No good deed goes unpunished.
    * Cheer up, the worst has yet to come...

  • #13
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    I also had another question about freelancing, when you freelance, do you ever ask for a certain percent down pay?
    always, well at least until you know the client, and even then continue if you can.
    Soooo many projects never get finished for reasons out of your control, often people think that means they don't have to pay you, wrong
    resistance is...

    MVC is the current buzz in web application architectures. It comes from event-driven desktop application design and doesn't fit into web application design very well. But luckily nobody really knows what MVC means, so we can call our presentation layer separation mechanism MVC and move on. (Rasmus Lerdorf)

  • #14
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    Down payment is an option, though to ask for a down payment you'll most likely need experience too; people don't like parting with money when they don't know if you can deliver...

    Sorry, yes a CV is a Resume, for whatever reason over in the UK we use the acronym for the Latin Curriculum Vitae, and over there in the states you use the French instead, weird quirks

  • #15
    Regular Coder bobleny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahri View Post
    Down payment is an option, though to ask for a down payment you'll most likely need experience too; people don't like parting with money when they don't know if you can deliver...
    Agreed, but once I get these projects done, I would hope that would be of some value.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahri View Post
    Sorry, yes a CV is a Resume, for whatever reason over in the UK we use the acronym for the Latin Curriculum Vitae, and over there in the states you use the French instead, weird quirks
    I prefer Latin over French any day....


    More questions! How do you find freelance work? Where do you look? How do you get people to look for you?



    I'm sorry to ask so may questions....
    --www.firemelt.net--
    * No good deed goes unpunished.
    * Cheer up, the worst has yet to come...


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