How I Got Started in Programming

Monday, July 14, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

Brian Sullivan tagged me on this, so here goes...

How old were you when you started programming?

I was a late bloomer. College was the first time I actually wrote any code.

How did you get started in programming?

Like a lot of programmers, I had a Commodore 64 as a kid. But unlike a lot of programmers, I wasn't really that interested in it. I remember trying to type in a BASIC program and getting bored after about the 10th line of code. I played a little with my dad's PC through grade school and learned enough DOS to move files around as needed. The first time I really remember a light bulb going off and realizing that programming might be a career choice was my freshman year of college in my "Intro to Computers" class. We had an assignment to build a basic 2-3 page website and while most people paid someone else to do it or copied their buddy's, I remember spending about a week's worth of late nights in the lab working on just the right spacing on my HTML-based resume. It was also a couple of years before the year 2000, so at that time when they showed starting salaries for the different majors, CIS was at the top of the list. I would like to say that didn't influence me at all, but the fact that I still remember that should tell you whether it had an effect on me or not. :)

What was your first language?

The aforementioned HTML website was my first experience with programming. But since that's not neccessarily a language, I'd have to say C++ during college.

What was the first real program that you wrote?

While interning at an insurance company after my junior year of college, I wrote a VB6 application to allow claims adjustors to add descriptions and upload photos from their cameras to a backend to later be read by Lotus Notes. It took me most of the summer because I was really hired to do PC support and just wrote the app in my spare time. It actually ended up being used by claims adjustors throughout the state for at least a couple of years. That was the first time I got a taste of what happened when you shipped a buggy and non-user-friendly product to a large number of end users. The funny thing is, I could probably sit down and write the whole app in about 2 hours now.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Like Brian, I'll distinguish between college and real-world. College: C, C++, Cobol, Java. Real-world: VB6, classic ASP, Javascript, VB.NET, C#. Wow, that's really not much compared to most of the other people I've seen.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I've already talked about my job at the insurance company, but I wouldn't neccessarily call that a professional programming gig since I was hired for PC support. My first job out of college was at Data-Tronics which is an IT company who provides services mostly to ABF Freight System in Fort Smith, AR. I started in Marketing working on ABF's website and helped to implement Microsoft Content Management Server 2000 to allow the ABF employees to maintain their own content.  I then moved to the Intranet group creating shared components in classic ASP for consumption by the rest of the company's intranet developers. It was a great job in which I gained invaluable experience in a wide range of technology and learned a ton from some really brilliant developers.

If you knew what you know now, would you have started programming?

Like most people that are answering these questions, I will say "Definitely". I guess if you're interested enough to maintain a technical blog, odds are you enjoy what you are doing. The profession is a constant challenge and requires consistent growth and learning. I can't imagine working in a job where I could learn what I needed to know and never have to learn anything else.

If there was one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Pay attention in those computer classes in school! I often feel like I should have a better base in computer science because I don't have an excellent understanding of underlying memory structures, etc. My last piece of advice would be to try to find a mentor. I've been lucky enough to work under some very intelligent developers and have learned a lot from them.

What's the most fun you've ever had... programming?

It would probably have to be my time in the Intranet group at Data-Tronics when I was developing components for use by other developers. Because of the heavy use of these classes, quality was extremely important, but usability of the class was very important as well. It was a challenge to me to make the interface to these components as clean and understandable as possible. I also took pride in the documentation because I knew that if the documentation was easy to write and understand that I had probably done a good job designing the component. I guess maybe I should be working for a component vendor. David, if you're reading this, please ignore that last line. :)

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MSDN Ramp Up and Certification Exam Discount

Tuesday, July 8, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

I first heard about this from Zain Naboulsi back in January and am finally getting back to blogging about it. MSDN has a developer learning program called Ramp Up that they describe as follows:

Do you want to gain new Microsoft .NET development skills, but aren’t sure where to begin? If so, MSDN Ramp Up is the place to be.

Through a solid foundation of premium technical content from renowned experts, Ramp Up provides the step-by-step guidance and in-depth learning content you need to build your portfolio of professional development skills.

Basically, you choose your track (most likely the Visual Studio 2008 Tech Ed Track for most people reading this blog), complete that track, and then at the end you get a "Graduation Award" consisting of a 50% discount on exam 70-536 among other things. That exam is the first exam on the road to a number of Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certifications for developers.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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