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Old 01-08-2013, 05:12 PM
 
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If so, how'd you get in the business?
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:08 PM
 
1,697 posts, read 4,104,622 times
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That's what my husband does for a living. He started programming as a hobby when he was very young. He took some computer science classes at a community college and decided he liked it enough to pursue it as a degree and a career. He enrolled in a Computer Science program at an online college and before he even finished his degree, he got a job as an entry level programmer at a local small business that did custom web programming. He actually brought one of his college assignments on a thumb drive to his interview and it seemed to impress the interviewer - he was offered the job on the spot. While working there he continued toward his degree and once he had some experience on paper he moved on to corporate programming jobs. He got his Computer Science degree and landed a lead developer role and has been working as a senior programmer ever since. Along the way he made sure to learn other aspects of information technology such as networking, systems, and security from colleagues in other departments. That experience proved valuable as a lot of jobs now require more than one skill set. He also makes sure to stay up to date in his own specialties by following trends online and experimenting with the latest open source technologies. He earned a couple Java certifications to enhance his marketability and says that certifications can be even more valuable for someone just starting out who maybe doesn't yet have their degree or a ton of experience.

He's a proponent of building up real world experience over academic education. While many software development jobs require a B.S. in Computer Science, for the most part it is impossible to learn the skills employers are looking for in a classroom. He recommends learning some basic skills via books and / or tutorials and then trying some small projects on a freelance basis. You can do this for friends and family if they have a need for programming services, or you can try finding freelance jobs on https://www.elance.com/ The important thing is, if you take this approach don't take on projects that are too far outside of your comfort zone as you'll just be frustrated and end up with angry clients. A portfolio of solid freelance projects can land you an entry level job and from there you can enroll at a community or online college to get started on a formal education.
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:11 PM
 
Location: Wandering.
3,549 posts, read 6,236,976 times
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I did it as a serious hobby (with an eye towards getting competent enough to do it professionally) while working as a system specialist for a company (installation, training, support, and customization of our software and hardware).

At one point the the vendor who's software we sold got into financial trouble, and the owner of our company bought them out (to protect our client base).

I got access to all of the code to the products that we sold and started cleaning up the problem areas and adding new features (on my own time on nights and weekends). Within a few months the owner decided we could sell what I was writing and created a job for me.
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:30 PM
 
Location: Mableton, GA USA (NW Atlanta suburb, 4 miles OTP)
11,333 posts, read 24,340,876 times
Reputation: 3960
Quote:
Originally Posted by bayfun View Post
If so, how'd you get in the business?
I played with BASIC/Fortran on timesharing systems and BASIC Apple ][ micros in high school, decided that the whole concept of creating useful programs and games out of nothing but logical instructions was really cool, went to college to get my BSCS, and discovered right away that I really *did* love programming.

My first job was a year or so out of college. I wanted to do something interesting (not finance stuff, writing reports, etc.), and Unisys was looking for people who (1) had a four-year degree and (2) knew Fortran. Not only did I meet those requirements, but Mankato State used the same mainframes in coursework that the client was using. So I aced the interview and got the job working at an airline in flight ops.

Now, just over 25 years later, I'm still playing programmer for a living in the airline industry, though not for an actual airline anymore. And they pay me to play. It's not all fun, obviously, and my definition of "fun" can make some people scratch their heads, but even when I'm troubleshooting something I didn't write there's a certain element of accomplishment when I figure out what's been going on.

I love what I do.

I agree with k9coach's husband's preference for experience over credentials. I've met too many ivory tower types over the years who have a bunch of semi-sound theory behind their belts but who really don't know how it applies in the real world. Not everything is a valid target for the latest fad, and sometimes old school approaches actually do work. I had the privilege of working with a few programmers with literally 40 years of experience in the field and in some cases on the very same platform we were working on (usually some UNIVAC/Sperry 1100 derivative), and while a few of them were not as good, it's hard for any reasonably intelligent person to work on something for that long and not develop a certain amount of insight.
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:08 PM
 
15 posts, read 32,018 times
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A common occurrence I'm seeing is an interest in programming before college, this comes as no surprise. Luckily, I had a programming bug long before I went to college, and I've been toying with it to various extents ever since.

Thanks for the info.
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:24 PM
 
Location: Wicker Park, Chicago
4,790 posts, read 14,106,450 times
Reputation: 1957
I wanted to switch to a Windows Programming career back in 1999. But there was too much undcoumented stuff on how to Program a Windows Program. I bought nearly every good Windows MFC book out there and that was not enough. Serialization was not even documented well, and I had to get this working on a simple program by trial and error. If a job involving MFC programming was highly undocumented and involved insider knowledge or hacking, then I wouldn't be able to do the job.

I saw the power of making a lot of money if you were a HOTSHOT windows programmer, because that's the type of programmer that can make a big money making program. But then your program can also be pirated.

Later on I discovered Microsoft had secret internal documentation on how to program Windows programs. This was leaked through a torrent.

I gave up on Windows Programming with MFC and COM because making a good program like Mathcad, Solidworks, or a video game is just too tough.
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Old 01-13-2013, 11:08 AM
 
Location: Berkeley Neighborhood, Denver, CO USA
16,907 posts, read 26,297,053 times
Reputation: 30631
Default Took one course and was hooked

Quote:
Originally Posted by bayfun View Post
If so, how'd you get in the business?
I took a course in FORTRAN in 1965 at Northeastern University. It was the summer between my junior and senior year in high school. It was great fun as all the students were in the top 2% of their high school class. We pushed each other and ran over the professors.
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Old 01-13-2013, 01:25 PM
 
Location: League City
3,819 posts, read 7,666,613 times
Reputation: 5300
I took a convoluted route, but i found something i truly enjoy. I finished a biology degree, but didn't like my prospects out of college mostly due to my lack of planning. I loved biology, by the way ever, since i was a child. Luckily my parents took me back, and i enrolled at the local university for engineering. Along the way i took some cs classes for fun and found that i was better able to handle cs. Not to mention i enjoyed it, whereas engineering was a struggle for me. Along the way i read a book called "Artificial life" by steven levy, which marries aspects of biology and cs together. I was sold on cs. Luckily i finished right before the dot com bust when jobs were plentiful. Also while my 2nd college was small and overshadowed by big state schools , we had some very prominent alumni at the Houston division of a very large Nasa contractor. So i was lucky enough to land a software job before i even graduated. I was there for a decade and now am a programmer at a college.

And yes i dabbled in basic programming on old atari computers when i was a kid. I was a fanatic on old school video games and always wanted to know how they worked. Now i do.
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:09 PM
 
Location: Wicker Park, Chicago
4,790 posts, read 14,106,450 times
Reputation: 1957
Programming is still a side interest for me to do if I have spare time. Like I would like to know data structures, C#, and C++ better. But now I mostly involve myself with web technologies because it's easier to make money through a website than to program a complex Windows program
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Old 01-14-2013, 09:28 AM
 
21,339 posts, read 63,842,289 times
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I was lazy. Where I worked required regular filling out of inventory forms (twice a day) and doing the basic calculations to verify sales. I figured out how to make my C=64 do that for me. Then I figured out how to make it do payroll and other things. We used a proprietary computer ticketing system with outrageously expensive repair/replacement costs, so I learned how to repair that, hacked the access codes, learned how to massage the teleprocessing codes and so on. By the time the company I worked for was sold, I had almost completely automated the entire reporting part of my job. My office computer called all around Florida and Puerto Rico overnight, gathered information from about 30 theatres, formatted it, called my computer at home and gave it the formatted info for review with my coffee at breakfast, forwarded calls to my office to my home and then to my car phone as I drove in. By then I was bored, so instead of hiring on to the new company I decided to write my own complete ticketing program from scratch while selling janitorial supplies.

Key factors were - I had an intimate knowledge of my target industry, I had an independent income flow, I wrote ALL the code myself and had no expenses to others, and after development I had a company that promoted the product in return for a percentage of the sales price. Like King Gillette, much of my income is not from the razor (program) but from the razor blades (special tickets). My business has outlasted the company I would have otherwise worked for, the promoter who initially sold the program, the company whose computers I had hacked and repaired, and a few competitors. I've been my own boss for years.
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