Learning From Developers

I am taking a great course from OneMonth.com called Programming for Non-Programmers. The course is for people that have an idea for a web application, but don't know where to start or who to hire.  Although I am an Excel and VBA programmer, I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about the entire development process.

Developing for the web is a lot more complex. There are more coding languages that you have to know, and a lot more components like servers, security, compatibility, etc.

Excel is slowly moving to programmability with JavaScript APIs. Modern apps (add-ins) will be based in a task pane or pop-up window within the Excel application, and basically use a web frame with a combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to access the Excel object model. This will allow apps to run on all Excel platforms (web, iOS, Android, etc.)

This week's homework assignment for the course is to interview a few developers, and learn what they look for when deciding to work on a project. Here are the results of my interviews.

My interview with Zack:

Zack is a fellow Excel developer, but has also know many other languages and platforms including web development.

  • How did you learn to code?
    • Self-taught, books, curiosity
  • What advice would you have for someone learning to code for the first time?
    • Learn to fail, a lot, then find people who do it well and study their every move.
  • What qualities are you looking for from an employer or potential client?
    • Things I look for are attitude, willingness to learn, ability to fail gracefully, ability to listen and communicate, and a deep desire to go beyond their realm of comfort.
  • What advice would you have for people that are looking to hire developers to help them communicate better?
    • Technology is an evolving landscape, and we’re increasing at breakneck speeds. Most people in the industry are self-taught now, which makes college degrees more obsolete, and they have a hard time keeping up with content anyway. Degrees are only good for about 3 years, and that is lessening every year with technological advancements. Those willing to be flexible and adapt to new technology as it approaches the business world will have the advantage.

My interview with Randy:

Randy has worked in the banking industry as a back-end developer for bank websites and internal systems.

  • How did you learn to code?
    • I learned to code by attending a technical school. It was nine months of heavy duty coding projects in several different languages . Throughout my career though, I have continually tried to learn new things and have gained knowledge by reading technical books and trying to do hands-on work with code. Today, with the advent of YouTube, etc. I find myself using it to see different ideas and snippets of knowledge about particular subject I am interested in. I am a big e-book reader too as I love the ability to be able to reference something from my phone, iPad or laptop.
  • What advice would you have for someone learning to code for the first time?
    • I would tell that person to immerse themselves in as much information about the language they are trying to learn as possible, using books, help libraries, object models, code samples, whatever they could get their hands on. Online course are also very reasonable and can provide a “learn at your own pace” type environment. I find that to be less pressure and like the ability to revisit information that may not have been clear the first time around.
  • What qualities are you looking for from an employer or potential client?
    • I would look for opportunities to be a part of something that is going to have a good chance to succeed. Obviously I would have to have an interest and a good understanding of the technology that is going to be used. Also, I think an interest in the application solution that is being developed would be helpful. I also would look for people to work with that are passionate about their work and want to build something great.
  • What advice would you have for people that are looking to hire developers to help them communicate better?
    • I would suggest that the hiring people should be instructing the developers to know their audience when they are communicating, either in an email or speaking in a meeting. If a lot of technical jargon is used with business people, the communication is going to be difficult. Put yourself in their position and try to determine if they are going to understand what you are saying when you use technical references. Try to explain problems in terms and use cases they would understand.

It was great to learn from a few people with a lot of experience as developers.  I think the common theme here is that as a developer you have to be open to continual learning.  There is a lot of change and new technology to keep up with.

In regards to hiring developers and managing projects, it is also good to keep an open mind and have a willingness to adapt to change.  Communication is key, and the developer and project manager need to be able to find common ground.

I have been fortunate to teach a lot of people how to code as well.  I find that it is best to relate coding to common everyday things that people can understand.  I use examples from the kitchen a lot.  I find that there are a lot of similarities between cooking a meal and coding a program.

I have a free video training series on an introduction to coding with macros & VBA, and use a lot of these everyday references to explain complex things like the object model and properties & methods.

Please leave a comment below with any questions.  Thanks!

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