Five Tips for Becoming A Software Developer
1. Determine what kind of programming you are interested in:
When I first became a software developer there were only two types of programming jobs to choose from. You either had to write code for a mainframe computer or what was then called a personal computer (PC). I did not have any interest in programming on a mainframe. Although I learned how to use languages such as FORTRAN and COBOL in college, this kind of software development did not interest me. Today, there are a few more choices for the new programmer. Before you get too far down the path on learning your craft, take a step back and decide whether you want to develop software for the web, mobile devices, gaming consoles or televisions.
2. Learn the fundamentals of programming:
Do not equate learning a language with learning the craft of programming. These are different skills. To be a good developer, there are at least two skills that you must master. You must learn how to program and you must learn how to use a programming language. I have seen many people make this mistake when transitioning from other careers into programming. In some ways, programming is problem solving. It is also problem finding. Learning a language will not help you to problem solve, and the problem solving is the essence of computer programming.
3. Choose a Programming Language:
Above I mentioned programming languages that I learned in college for programming mainframe computers (FORTRAN & COBOL). Today there are many more languages to choose from. Over the years I have used many languages. I have never used COBOL or FORTRAN professionally, but I have used languages such as Clipper, PowerBuilder, C++, C# and Delphi. There are many languages such as Java and Python that I have never used. Some I care for, some I do not. Take your time and explore some of these languages and determine if you like one more than the others. Solve a problem using one of these languages. You might also do a search on a job board or LinkedIn to determine which languages are most in demand. For years Visual Basic was THE most popular programming language. Recently I read that there are over 14,000 jobs available for PHP.
4. Determine the best way for you to learn the craft of programming:
There are multiple ways to learn the art of programming. I wrote a blog post last year on my blog (http://www.WhereAreBlacksInTechnology.com) regarding several ways you can go about learning these skills. You can read that article here. No one way is better than the other; the key is to find what works for you. I actually went to college and earned a degree in computer science. This worked for me. And there were fewer options then. But in my professional career I have met many colleagues who have taken very different paths to arrive at the same destination. Choose the path that best fits your situation. I am also a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT). In order to become certified you must pass a series of exams. For this credential I was able to use the Microsoft self-paced training kit and I was very successful. Figure out what works for you.
5. Determine if you enjoy the work:
After completing steps 1 through 4, take a step back and evaluate what you have learned. Take a moment to reflect and determine if you are enjoying the work and knowledge you have obtained. There is nothing worse than being locked into a career or job that does not energize you. At this point, you should have some feel about whether or not you enjoy what programming is about. Do you see the kinds of opportunities you had envisioned before started out on the journey? Is the work as challenging as you thought? Are the problems you are solving interesting? If you have reached this point and you feel good about it, then you are well on your way. Now you just need to gain experience. Practice makes perfect. From this point you simply need to do what developers do and develop software!