Thursday, 12 June 2008

Getting there

I've edited this since originally posting it, as it didn't give entirely the right impression.

I've been a computer programmer most of my working life, spending 12 years freelancing, and returning to permanent employment as a C programmer in 2002. I thought that was the dream job, only 20 minutes drive from home, and planned to stay there until I retired.

Sadly, the team I was in changed, my boss changed, the requirements changed, and I couldn't keep up. My C turned out to be less good than I'd thought; I needed to learn bioinformatics, which I found really hard; I was expected to do program design, which I'd never done before, and GUI programming, which was also new. Being an academic institution, they expected me to do all this without training. I had to find out for myself. I'm not good at that. To add extra spice, I had personal problems. These made it impossible to focus on sorting out work, while the work problems made it difficult to deal with the personal stuff.

The outcome was inevitable: I left in 2005, my confidence in my ability as a programmer completely destroyed. I thought myself lucky when I got my present job as a software tester, some months later. (I have to say here, it's a joy to work for my present boss, Gavin Johnson, who is a simply great manager . If the Broken Family Band ever goes professional, I'll consider it a personal tragedy!) I did talk about breaking back into programming, but never with any great conviction.

About 3 months ago I found an introductory C# book at work (that's the programming language they use), and decided to work through it in my spare time. I used my lunchbreaks and stayed after work reading the tutorials and going through the exercises. Edit: Which is why I've not been blogging as assiduously as previously. I was using blogging time to learn C#. Sorry. Eventually, though only half way through the book, I felt I needed a small project to help me consolidate what I'd learned. One of the development team suggested a small utility that would be necessary when the next major software release is made, so I made a start on that.

Today, that utility is functionally complete, and could be shipped as is. In reality, I need to package it up into the typical Windows installer package (ie setup.exe) that the end users can download from the company website, but essentially it's done.

I can't really describe how I feel about this. Overjoyed is the first word that comes to mind, but also immensely proud of myself. I know I still need to get a good year's solid coding behind me before I could apply for a job as a C# developer, but I've overcome the first major hurdle, which was my conviction that I was a useless programmer and there was no point even thinking about getting such a job.

And a huge thank you to the people around me for their unfailing support, but especially to those at work for letting me get involved, for helping me when it was difficult, and especially for encouraging me.

I've just re-read that, and it really does just make you want to vomit, doesn't it?

5 comments:

Swearing Mother said...

No it doesn't make me want to vomit, it makes me impressed.

I am a technically incompetent idiot, anything to do with computers impresses the heck out of me.

Well done.

Sparx said...

Hey, no vomiting at all, I'm very impressed with that and I'd be thanking those people too. Well done indeed, that stuff is all completely out of my ken.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Actually Rob, how great that you can write that, feelings and all, for us, your "virtual" friends. Well done indeed - if I may say that. It sounds as if it was hard graft, and a real milestone for you. Here's to the future. M xx

Rob Clack said...

Thank you all, I really appreciate it. And I am still feeling very pleased indeed with myself.

The key thing now is to get back into reading the book and learn some more. I'm only half-way through, and there really is a hell of a lot more to C# than I can do so far. Hopefully there'll be a string of small projects I can pick up at work so I can build up my competence sensibly.

And something more is that it's really great to have such a sympathetic bunch of virtual friends with whom I feel comfortable enough to share this kind of stuff. That's worth more than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

DJ Kirkby said...

No it doesn't...I thought this post was sweet and I felt really proud of you!