Are you detail-oriented? Analytical? Do you use logic and reason to keep a cool head when things get complicated?
If so, programming might be the right profession for you.
The road to becoming a programmer isn’t for everyone, says Osama Morad, PhD, an adjunct faculty member in Capella University’s School of Business and Technology and founder of an IT learning organization. “For people who are good at breaking big projects into small tasks and then executing them in logical fashion, though, programming can be an excellent fit.”
“You can’t force it,” says Morad, an expert in Java, an open-source computing language. “But if you have the aptitude, programming work is very rewarding. You’re helping craft solutions that move the business enterprise forward and potentially benefit a lot of people.”
What does it take to master programming? Hard work and patience are key, Morad says. Here are his suggestions for programmers who want to kick their careers into high gear:
1. Plan to fail.
“No program runs correctly the very first time,” Morad says. He tells students that a software program takes time to build, test, and refine—often multiple times. The omission of a single semicolon in a string of code can short-circuit a program. But good programmers can find errors quickly and propose smart solutions. No programmer ever writes a perfect program from the start,” Morad observes. “It requires patience and attention to detail. You can’t wait until the last minute to do it.”
2. Scour the web for free resources.
Have you hit a snag in your programming work? Check out the resources offered by Microsoft, Oracle, and other companies—often for free. Morad says there are resources on YouTube. Still can’t find what you need? Morad suggests visiting websites like Stackoverflow.com, a place where developers can pose questions and share answers.
3. Connect with the online community.
In the open-source programming community, developers are often willing to share their expertise and even snippets of code with others. Cultivating strong connections with other developers online can help bolster your own efforts to build your skills. Eventually, you may be able to pass along to others the expertise you learn today.
4. Build skills by volunteering.
If you’re new to programming or want to develop your skills in a new area or language, Morad suggests considering finding a nonprofit organization that needs assistance. Generally speaking, programmers are in short supply in the nonprofit realm, so many organizations will greet your offer to help with gratitude. You’ll experience the satisfaction of assisting an organization that needs a helping hand while simultaneously adding skills and depth to your own resume.
5. Read other programmers’ code.
Programming revolves around languages: Java, C++, C#, and others. According to Morad, reading code written by other developers will give you a sense of how to use the language efficiently and creatively, according to Morad. He encourages developers to peek behind the curtain and see how other folks handle tricky coding situations. “Learning a programming language is similar to learning a natural language,” he says. “The more you see it and the more you use it, the better you will get.”
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