Q

Someone told me to start with C++, then VB, then .NET?

I recently asked a programmer where I should start if I wanted to learn to program. He said that you can't, or shouldn't, just start with VB or .NET, but that you should start with C++ and then move to VB. Is this true? If so, then why? What I want to be able to do is make a lot of money programming I really don't care what I have to program with. VB seems like it might be easier. I'm 34, and don't have the money or time to go to collage,...

and I have always been the type to buy a book and learn on my own. (That's how I got my worthless MCSE and A+ certifications.) Having said that, where do you think I should start, and what study materials do you suggest (if any come to mind)? Normally I wouldn't answer a question like this because I try to stick to technical questions here at Ask the Experts. However, the sentence: "What I want to be able to do is make a lot of money programming I really don't care what I have to program with." prompted me.

If you want to get into software and your primary motivation is money, you should consider another field. Sure, good software developers do make good money, but those folks have one thing in common: they don't do software for the money, they'd do it for free because it's something they love. If I won the lottery today (I did buy a ticket!), I'd be doing the exact same things tomorrow I did yesterday.

As someone who has been hiring developers for quite a while I can tell almost immediately if someone has development hardwired in their genes. Those that don't, aren't going to get very far in the interview. If you don't love it completely, you're never going to get one of those good paying jobs.

Another unpleasant fact in software is that jobs are disappearing left and right to offshore development. That means it's actually getting tougher to get those entry-level jobs in the field. Unless you can show a unique skillset or you have an in at a company, just saying you can "program" isn't going to get your resume looked at.

My advice would be to take a hard look at yourself and if you aren't always itching to be developing a solution on the computer, to consider something else. If you are hot to develop, I would strongly recommend getting a degree in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science. That will expose you to many things you would never normally encounter just fiddling on your own. Like you, I was older when I decided that I loved these computer things. I sucked it up and finished a CS degree while working full time. Needless to say, that dedication to software was greatly appreciated by companies and I never had any problem getting a job.

This was first published in March 2004

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