Confessions Of A Wannabe Geek - IV
Welcome To The Future...
Ray Levasseur (c) March 18, 2000
My programming career was influenced by early mentors, which were all women; Liz, Alice and Sarah. They were all older women with no axes to grind and no political agendas. Geeks are geeks, whether male or female. They shared a love of programming, science fiction, the absurd and problem solving (or absurd managerial problem solving), and were willing to freely share their accumulated knowledge and wisdom with no strings attached.
I had been working in a purely Finance role, which I found boring. They had also come from Finance and Accounting backgrounds, looking for something more interesting and creative than mere "bean counting". Programming is a logical career move from accounting, since there is so much programming, application and report development to be done.
I started with simple things like Lotus 1-2-3 V1 macros, some DBase II, VAX Datatrieve and a couple of other fourth generation languages. At first COBOL and BASIC seemed very difficult, but my mentors taught me to approach by taking things apart, piece by piece and analyzing what the code was doing. They also taught me the good manners of internally commenting all my source code and deleting dead and/or redundant code.
I rode the wave of VAX Platform programming for almost 13 years, until everyone around me kept insisting that VAX, Mainframe and all old world programming would fade away, replaced by desktop and client server technologies.
I had a very difficult time (at first) making the transition from character cell, command line interfaced to windows (GUI) and relational database schemas.
Sarah helped me a lot in understanding relational databases, "think of them losely as a bunch of flat files, which share common data fields." OK, It was an overly simplified approach, but I managed to quickly learn using Microsoft Access and some basic Oracle queries.
Another concept that was difficult to grasp at first was "event driven" programming. Visual Basic was a great learning tool that helped me understand this methodology. Of course I had to get over my COBOL background where everything is loaded in one big program and is not triggered by individual events. Objects were also unfathonable in the beginning but I have grown accustomed to object oriented programming since then. I do have to say that this paradigm is more confusing, since the code is scattered all over the place and exercized when a user "clicks" or does some other action, but it all makes sense now.
Same Church, Different Pew
My mentors claimed that, "once you program in one language, then you can more easilly learn others." This is making more sense now, but each language and application have their own syntax and quirks, which require re-learning or un-learning older skills; the learning never seems to stop. I'm just beginning to get comfortable with Visual Basic, and have been told that it's old hat, and if I want to be taken seriously, must become a guru in Java, xml, dhtml, c++, and all things having to do with e-commerce. At times I wonder why I became interested in a High-Tech career in the first place, and I'm not about to stay awake 23.5 hours a day, just to keep up with what it hot this week, and soon to be legacy.