Become a programmer


I wanted to tell you about my programming job and how you can become a programmer.

I like science and math and finally got a computer job 20 years ago after previously being a secretary for 20 years - believe me it pays a lot more and I don’t have to participate in an ongoing beauty pageant at work. If you like computers even a little I would give it a shot. The only downside is having to fit in with the high income nerd culture - but since companies really need programmers they are open to diversity.

I had some computer courses from a community college under my belt. You can get free computer courses at Coursera. At my current job they were so desperate for cobol Programmers they had Boot camp training and some of those men (no women unfortunately) didn’t have a college diploma.

The big trick is to get some experience. Certification tests after classes are also good and you don’t have to be in college for that. The other thing is patience. It took me awhile to find a job but it was worth it.

You can get experience by volunteering or posting free help for graduate students etc or online places like up work. It is good to also have any admin experience at the type of place you want to work ie a bank so you become familiar with the culture. If you are not already upper middle class the culture is a shock.

Post your ideas and I will give you advice.



Interesting! Good for you, @shurley. Can you tell us more? You mentioned it took you awhile to land a job – what was that process like? How did you get your current job?



i got my initial job by overhearing someone talking about little league in the hallway.

After Congress cut back Medical research (who needs Medical research???) I was laid off and have been contracting for the last six years. It depends on if the people know how to interview and how rigorous HR is at the agency. I didnt have as much of a headache because they are desperate for programmers - and luckily one of the supervisors was a woman which helped

it took me awhile because I was not a young college student who had a lot of internships and upper middle class contacts. It literally took me two years after my college degree in my late thirties to get a job to be around the right people in an admin job (step one) and four more years to finally make a contact (step two). I got the first job because there were only two applicants and the first person didn’t want it. I got the second due to listening in a hallway.

So my advice would be for someone who doesn’t have all the magic beans at the age of 22 On how to get in at the bottom floor. Two metaphors in one.

My first advice would be to take free courses and do any kind of work or volunteering in the field that interests you and need programmers. Ie telecom, medicine, retail, government, banks, finance, websites. You should look at people on linked in to see where they work and what skills they have. Is it Java or SQL or python etc?



Thanks for sharing your experiences! I’ve been interesting in coding and programming for a while and I don’t have a degree so this helps a lot. Do you enjoy your current job? What are the ups and downs to being a programmer? And also, do you have any advice for people who struggle to stick to learning this?


Yes I really like programming - it is like solving problems. My hardest parts were controlling my adhd and continuing to focus as well as getting along with wealthier people. It’s a culture thing. Like if you don’t have a degree you might have to listen to people bragging about their degree. I couldn’t tell people it took me 19 years to get my degree.

I also had to act like I always knew what I was doing. Programming is mysterious to some people and they only see reports. They rely on you to make the reports produced by a unseen method. When I was a secretary it was different- I had to act stupid and not have an opinion.

What is your struggle exactly? Programming is like writing a book - you have to keep the whole plot in your mind so your characters (like the ‘final score’ character) continue to act properly through the whole story. I always say remember the Hubble telescope disaster - someone forgot their decimals and part of the telescope reporting was broken.

So part of the job is communication because someone always forgets to tell you exactly what they want and you have to go back and redo things. I got caught with this recently and instead of making the person rewrite the plot I made a work around and got blamed for the slow time.

You have to kinda like the area of programming - like medicine - and like sitting in one place for hours typing. Part of the job is figuring things out while looking at the computer screen.

I am somewhat sociable so I miss talking to a lot of people. And of course other geeks also have the same personality. So it can be very quiet in my department. But at least they all like Star Wars.

Have you tried an online course? Are there tech meetups in your area? You could then meet other people. It might be harder to volunteer for a tech job but you should try. You will find one if you keep trying

Somehow I got a volunteer job to set up an access database intake system for a women’s law project. Their previous method would be to put phone callS on post its and put them on the wall (it wasn’t a hotline - you had to give your info so someone could call you back )

Have you tried to do a online class? What volunteer jobs are available? For example if an area church or temple has a food bank, you could set up a tracking database or webpage

Another important thing is research what type of jobs are plentiful in your area. For example Philadelphia has a lot of pharmaceutical and insurance companies. So I luckily do a type of program needed by these companies. I would also think colleges listings are for popular types of programs like R Python or Jjava or .net I hope they don’t teach people unpopular things. You can also look at the job listings in local companies to see what they are looking for.



i found many free learning code sites on line. i was wondering if anyone has seen one that pays you to learn?


Google’s got some free programs and I guess they technically ‘pay you to learn’ in the sense that if you complete their certs, you can just apply to their corresponding jobs and get a job that way.

I don’t know if anyone would be incentivized to pay people to learn because what’s in it for them? They’re looking for talent and they provide these free training programs so that you can bring your skills to a level that’s good enough to contribute and for them to hire.

One of the best ways I’ve learned to get better at programming is 3 steps:

  1. Tackle a big project I wanna do on my own.

  2. Absorb as much information as I need via YouTube tutorials

  3. Start writing code and pulling in libraries via GitHub so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Then, for interesting snippets of the code you incorporate, you can just read how other people have implemented it. This reading of how other experts do things I feel makes learning a lot faster because a lot of open source code is quite clever.

Once I finish the project, I come out on the other end a lot better at coding and I can shove it in my resume.

And as far as interview prep - I feel like leetcode is a great place to do a lot of practice. Interviewing for jobs and doing the job are 2 completely different things. As such, you need to cultivate 2 separate sets of skills (as annoying as that is).

Interviewing = can you solve / memorize solutions to random, irrelevant coding puzzles?

Doing the job = can you read code and engineer something that not just works, but is easily readable/editable by others.

It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it because of the money, flexibility, and other reasons I describe why engineering is one of the best ways to go in your career if you have no direction.

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