Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to a class at the Erie Institute of Technology, giving them advice on what to expect in the wild world of programming. I was able to speak pretty openly and frankly with each of the students, directly addressing their questions. We talked about some great stuff, and here are some bullet points that we went over:

  • You are always learning, always trying new things when you work in technology. Even if you don't go into programming you're constantly reinventing yourself and the skills you need to use on a daily basis. Not just new technologies, libraries, or programming languages. There will be new methodologies to improve the way you currently work, new ways of approach and new ways of thinking that can be radical and interesting. You need to have a love for learning these things, and you will need to be able to adapt to change easily. Technology is not for people who are averse to change and new ideas.
  • Even if you don't go into programming for a job, learning how to code is a very valuable tool, It shows you a way of structuring your thoughts and ideas, and forces you to think things through before actually starting to work. These tools can be applied to just about anything, any job that you would be looking for in the future. Programming helps you clarify your own ideas, and in doing so allows you to be more thorough in your work. Object Oriented programming is especially important in creating a solid working model.
  • A few of the students I spoke with were planning on working entirely in design, especially designing web pages. They wanted to know if they needed to learn programming, and if so how much? I responded that programming, especially for websites, is a valuable tool even for a web designer. I can't think of any designer I've met that doesn't know PHP, JavaScript, and JQuery. They are essentials tools in their trade, and not knowing these would be a serious disadvantage.
  • Debugging code, while a complex pain, is also a very important skill. Learning to troubleshoot and think your way through a problem and coming up with credible solutions is always something you can use no matter what work you plan on doing in the future. One student asked if there were any secrets to fixing a bug in your code. My response was to trust your instincts. I've found that 90% of the time, my first inclination as to what was causing a bug was always correct. After awhile, it starts to become second nature and the bugs that seem complicated and hard to figure out now become the easiest to solve.
  • Another question asked was about apps for mobile phones and tablets, and if knowing how to program for them will be important when looking for work. Apps are very hot right now, and a lot of people will probably be using apps on their cellphones and tablets for quite awhile. While apps don't seem to me to be going anywhere any time soon, it's important to consider that learning only how to program for one environment would be limiting to your skill set. The technology was always changing, so I recommend learning more than just one programming language and one programming environment. The tools for making apps on tablets and phones are bound to change and keep on changing, and being flexible and open to learning new things is more important than just learning how to program for phones and tablets.

Whether it's for web development, web design, or software applications, a career in programming is a challenging and rewarding experience, but one where the realities should be careful considered to ensure it is a good fit for you and the kind of work you want to do. If you have any further questions about choosing a career in programming, please leave your questions below. And if you're looking for a career as a Drupal developer, check out our careers page and apply today! We're looking for talented programmers to join our team.

 

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