Software Development Meme


So today I was tagged by Sarah Dutkiewicz (AKA the Coding Geekette) to answer some questions about how I got into software development. These questions were originally posed by Michael Eaton here. I’ve got a short, but adventurous history regarding software. Here’s my answers:

How old were you when you started programming?
As someone who spent more time on the athletic fields than on the keyboard in high school, I was still a power DOS user when Windows came around. I took the “Computers” class in high school, but it was really more about how to use a mouse than how to make a computer “DO” anything. My first real programming experience would have been writing Pascal and C++ in college. I pursued a Psychology degree, but secretly was taking Computer Science classes behind the scenes. Not sure why I never changed my major. I also really started dabbling in web development because the web had really taken off while I was in college (’95-’98). HTML, Javascript, all the basics. This would turn out to be the foundation of my career.

How did you get started in programming?
Like I mentioned, I have a Psychology degree. I got out of school and tried to use it. Pulling down a salary just over the poverty line, I got frustrated by the always-on-call nature of the job very quickly. Scanning the classified ads in Cleveland, I found a place looking for a “webmaster.” I applied, and for a decent raise over what I was making, I was now working for a company in Strongsville creating a new web site for them from scratch. I got this job solely on the merits of having built some small websites in college. No formal degrees. No real qualifications.

What was your first language?
This is a tricky question. My first languages were probably C++ and Pascal, because I used them in college. But my first language I used professionally was VB6.

What was the first real program you wrote?
The job I found in Strongsville would have to qualify as my first program. It was a website using Classic ASP, VB6, HTML, CSS, Javascript, and SQL Server 7.0. I was robust, too. A full set of administration tools let the company’s management update the information on the fly for nearly every part of the site. It was so robust, in fact, that my boss eventually realized that I had nothing left to offer, and let me go. Man, was I pissed.

What languages have you used since you started programming?
Hmm…VB6, VBScript, Java, C#, VB.NET, Javascript, CSS, HTML, C++

What was your first professional programming gig?
Oops, I think I answered this above.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?Absolutely. This industry is constantly changing, growing, and shaping the way almost every other industry works anymore. The fact that a piece of software (Amazon.com) can compete against a behemoth like Wal-Mart is absolutely amazing to me, and it’s happening in nearly every vertical. It’s a privilege to be a part of this revolution.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?To agree with Mike Eaton, personal skills go a long way. Those of you that know me know that I am incredibly outgoing, love to meet new people, and could talk for hours on just about anything. The ability to communicate with others (read: business leaders) will be the single most important thing you can work on as a developer. Your ability to think and communicate effectively to your management will go MUCH farther than your ability to apply polymorphism principles to your application. Trust me. The other little tidbit I’ll offer is that your career will have EVERYTHING to do with WHO you know, not WHAT you know. Make friends. Go to user groups. Get on Plaxo/Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook. The physical relationships you create are a far better investment in your future than any 3 day training class.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had … programming?
After I left that first programming job, I found there wasn’t much for me in Cleveland in the software development space (at least web development). So I tried my luck in Columbus. There, I found a job at an advertising agency called Resource. We were working on the very first e-commerce website for Burton Snowboards. The whole team (about 9 of us) came in early on Monday morning (5:00 AM) to get started on the final push for this site (it was due that Friday for testing and review.) The next time we LEFT THE OFFICE was Wednesday, for dinner. We worked all day and all night, took naps under our desks, and stopped to play a little Foosball once in a while. Working 60 hours straight is not any fun, but the team I was with, and the project we were working on made it worthwhile. Burton even thanked us for our efforts by giving each of us our own snowboard, boots, and bindings! (The snowboard is hanging on the wall in my sportsbar/basement.)

I’m hoping this little list will spread organically, but I’m going to call out a few people to answer these questions as well:

Josh Holmes

Brian Prince

Jennifer Marsman

Jeff Hunsaker

Tim Wingfield

Todd Kaufman

I encourage everyone to take a crack at this list of questions. It lets you get to know your fellow developers a little better, which strengthens that relationship, which you may need to call on the next time you’re looking for a job. Everything’s got a purpose…so get to it! And comment a link your post here so I know about it!

7 thoughts on “Software Development Meme

  1. BTW, Jeff can you link to the post that started this just so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle? ;-)http://michaeleatonconsulting.com/blog/archive/2008/06/04/how-did-you-get-started-in-software-development.aspx

  2. No mention of VegasExperts? Or InsideCorner 🙂

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