I ve never been at a job where I ve been stressed out. I ve never gone home and said, ˜I can t handle this. There s nothing you can t work out or get help with. Don t allow yourself to believe that programming is going to be too hard for you.
As you work hard in school and make the rounds in interviews, sometimes it s hard to visualize that programmers who are five or ten years ahead of you today were once in your shoes ”looking for that first job, that first promotion, that first big break. If you get a chance to talk to these people ”who are now where you want to be ”you will learn a lot about the multiple paths to success. Toward that end, I give you the profile of Jason Honrath.
A lot of times people ask me what I do for a living, Jason says, and I tell them, ˜I play at work. Programming is solving puzzles, and I enjoy working out puzzles ”mastering problems. It s fun for me. When I come home from work, I know I ve done something rewarding that day.
Jason is a 29-year-old programmer working at a small software development company outside Philadelphia. People think programming is stressful, but that s not true. I ve never been at a job where I ve been stressed out. I ve never gone home and said, ˜I can t handle this.
There s nothing you can t either work out or get help with. Don t allow yourself to believe that programming is going to be too hard for you. There s a popular misconception that programming is some kind of complex science, but it isn t. I know a lot of people, from all different backgrounds, who did poorly in high school and never would have thought of going to college, who went into programming and did well. I think that learning programming is not much harder than learning any other job.
Jason decided he wanted to be a programmer when he was in high school; he liked the Basic programming course he took in eleventh grade. After high school he spent several years driving a van for a uniform delivery company. When he got laid off after three years he decided to take programming seriously and enrolled in a nine-month course at the Cittone Institute, in Edison, New Jersey.
I was kind of surprised, Jason says. When I enrolled I expected it to be some really technical course with a lot of math and engineering, but it was basically like learning to do any other job, except a little more fun.
At Cittone he learned COBOL, RPG, CL (Control Language Programming), and Operations, all for the AS/400 (now iSeries) computer.
I found it easy, Jason says. I really enjoyed it. I learned enough in the nine-month course to get an entry-level job. At the job is where the learning really starts.
It was pretty easy to get a job when I got out of Cittone, which was in 1995, he says. After graduation the school wanted us to give them a list of companies we were interested in so the school staff could help us with the rsum and application process. But I wanted to look on my own. I used the newspaper and the phone book. I also used a book of companies (listed by state) that showed the type of computer they used and the name of the IT manager. My teacher let me copy the whole New Jersey section of the book. [You can find The Directory of Top Computer Executives, a series of volumes listing the largest corporate computer shops in the United States ”with hardware type, number of programmers, and name, address, and phone number of each shop s IT manager ”in the business reference section of most major public or university libraries.]
I sent out 25 or 30 rsums. Within a week I had my first interview. The ad in the newspaper said the company was looking for someone with two years experience, but they called me anyway. I told the interviewers that it would take anyone ”with or without experience ”six months to learn the software anyway, and they could save money if they went with me. Bingo! Two days later I got a call from my teacher. The company had called him to check on my schooling, and had told my teacher they were going to make me an offer.