With the IT industry constantly fretting over the lack of skilled developers – at least if the business computing sites are any indication – it seems strange that you’d want to discourage people from getting into software development. But it’s true: there are people which… sorry if I can’t put this gently… the software industry is just plain better off without. Programming is equal parts art and science, and it takes a special kind of person for it. Here’s a list to clip-n-save for the next person who asks “Should I get into programming?”
#1. You want a lot of money. – Sure, software companies make big bucks – and that all goes to the CEO. Slinging code pays somewhere between a janitor and a plumber. Currently, if you sawed open the brain of the average IT manager (not a bad idea!) and looked at the part that thinks about human resources, you’d see this:
Managers don’t have clue one and don’t care. That’s why programming pays the way it does: managers see you as a plumber for data. Data entry. Something a monkey could do, if only bananas would come down two cents in price. What’s the difference between a powerful masterpiece and crap, if the customer will buy and run crap?
#2. You ask questions in forums or chat instead of Googling or reading a manual. – I’ve often thought of a service for humanity: write an IRC bot that goes around finding every instance of “What programming language should I learn first?” with the response: “Forget about it!” If you’re cut out for programming, you have already found the thousands of available resources for free online and have at least experimented with a simple language or two. If the problem of picking your first language to learn stumped you so bad that you had to ask for help, how are you going to solve the harder problems like plugging the zero-day exploit in your PHP project?
While we’re at it, here’s “How To Ask Questions The Smart Way“.
#3. You don’t see the sense of “How To Become A Hacker“. – Eric S. Raymond’s essay is timeless. I don’t always agree with him; granted, his ego is his downfall. So is William Shatner’s but he still made a great Captain Kirk. Without an exception, every single good programmer I have ever met agreed with at least most of the ideas in this essay.
#4. You are impatient. – Learning to code is hard, hard, hard work. You have to crack 1000-page manuals, practice, study, immerse yourself, block out interruptions. You burn a lot of midnight oil. Yet we see new students thinking they can walk right in, teach themselves C++ in 24 hours, and be done with learning forever. The reality is, you’re more likely to have to “Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years“.
#5. You’re in it to be “cool”. – Yeah, I know, we like to have our fun and make ourselves look like “1337 h4X0rz” and watch cyberpunk movies and so on. I’m just as guilty of posting about the “cool” side of geekdom on my blog as anybody else is. But to be real: programming will not make you cool. Computers are becoming such a huge part of human culture that being a geek gets you a little envy on the street, but that’s actually based on the false impression that just because you know something about one area of computers means you can fix any computer-related problem. In the real world, it’s just a person hunched over a keyboard and squinting at a screen, doing something that at the most a handful of people will care about.
#6. You don’t enjoy playing with logic. – Not necessarily math, but logic in general. Programming will involve thinking in complex, yet abstract ways. This is part of the reason that geeks seem to take so strongly to satirical humor of Monty Python or the math and logic games of Martin Gardner. To them, logic is not just work, but a toy; something fun to play with.
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