Category Archives: Careers

Getting Started in Software Development: Part I – More than Writing Code

Ask a lot of people about the requirements to be a computer programmer or software developer and they’ll probably start talking about computer science degrees and years of formal training. Those things don’t hurt but they’re not strictly necessary, either. I personally do not have a degree aside from the accounting diploma I earned from a local college many years ago. I am certified by Microsoft in Windows application development, a certification I earned through self-directed and cooperative study with a few co-workers. Most of what I know about programming is through self-teaching and experience. Nevertheless, with my current experience, all I have to do is post my resume and send copies to a couple of recruiters and my phone starts ringing. It’s about the demonstrated skills, not the paper.

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On unpaid overtime …

From TheCodist.com ….

Why I Don’t Do Unpaid Overtime and Neither Should You

From the article …

“In many countries working overtime is unusual and unpaid overtime is rare or may even be illegal. People value having a life outside of work and the thought of slaving away for their employer for nothing is unimaginably stupid to them. Yet we in the US (and in many parts of Asia as well) often think nothing of it.”

A few years ago, I left a company where my boss actually told us that the company felt it could ask us to work as many hours as necessary because we were salaried. We were told if we weren’t working overtime, we weren’t busy.

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What You Need to Know About Database Technology

In the modern world, our daily activities follow and leave a rich trail of electronic data from e-mail and text messages to credit card transactions and medical records. At its simplest, the data could be an address book or contact list stored in a text file while more complex information such as a store’s inventory and customer information might take up terabytes of space on network servers and require full-time administrators to maintain it. Most of this data is stored in electronic databases of one kind or another where it can be searched, sorted and easily retrieved as needed.

After a basic understanding of how to work with computers, knowing the basics of how data is stored and manipulated is an important part of being technically savvy in today’s world. Whether you work with large amounts of data and need to organize it better or you need to communicate with the people who do, the better you understand the technology, the more effectively you’ll be able to face the daily challenges that come from living in a data-driven world.

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Surviving the Job Interview: Asking the Right Questions

“Do you have any questions for us?”

For some people, that’s the most challenging question in a job interview. They’ll spend time preparing a resume and anticipating the interviewer’s questions but thinking of questions to ask in return gets the least attention. Some people don’t even see the point in asking questions when they’re just hoping to get the job so they can start paying bills again.

Image courtesy of Reyner Media (https://www.flickr.com/photos/89228431@N06/) Used by permission.

Still, the questions that you ask tell the interviewer a lot about you as a potential employee, especially your level of interest in working for the company rather than just collecting a paycheck. When a potential employee has no questions about the company at the end of the interview, he or she can appear lazy or apathetic, which are never desirable traits in an employee.

In any professional position, it’s important to find out as much as you can about the company where you might be working for years. That company will have a place on your resume and will impact the future of your career. The right questions will also demonstrate your knowledge and perspective on your chosen field and that you take the time to do research before making a decision. This demonstrates an intelligence and analytical skill that companies like to see in their professional employees.

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Should I become a computer programmer?

So, I was glancing at Reddit first thing this morning and saw the following question …

I’m exploring the possibility of being a programmer, wondering what there is to it, and why you enjoy your job.

A very articulate high-school student was thinking about career choices and wanted to know what being a computer programmer was about and if he should explore it. Always wanting to encourage potential programmers, I offered my answer …

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Web Design – FREE Online Training!

Visit W3Schools.com.If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to design your own website, W3Schools.com is an excellent online resource that offers instruction in all the technologies you need including HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript. The site offers easy to use tutorials and complete references for these languages with examples and online demos that you can use to practice your new skills.

Before you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on classes and specialized materials, check out what’s available online for FREE. Very often, the only investment you need to make now is your time.

Focus …

Browsing the bookstore today, I came across an interesting selection called “The Startup Playbook” by David Kidder and Reid Hoffman. It’s a collection of success stories from prominent startups today including AOL, Flickr and LinkedIn. Reading the Kindle sample later (I use the physical bookstore just to see what’s new. They’re way overpriced.) I found this interesting quote:

“How confidently do you value your focus, your most passionate efforts (not simply your passion), your time? If you value them highly, quit every activity that steals time without contributing to the important goals that grow and enrich your life. The physical and intellectual time recovered will be re-purposed into your greatest gifts and efforts, leading to dramatic personal and economic returns.”

That one quote pretty much sold me on the book. It echoes an idea that hit me over the head sometime ago which I’ve kept in mind and shared ever since even if I haven’t been able to fully practice it. The old adage says that time is money but time is not money; it’s infinitely more precious. I’ve wasted money over the years on things I didn’t need and that knowledge doesn’t hurt nearly as much as knowing the time I’ve wasted and can never replace. Money in the bank can be counted but tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Even over the last few months, I’ve let myself be snagged by a lot of time-wasters from Facebook to resentments I’ve held onto and I’m finally realizing the price that I’m paying for that baggage in terms of progress and self-confidence. It’s easy to whine about not being motivated but motivation only comes from exercising a little self-control and making ourselves take that first step and then the next.

So I’ve found another book for the reading list once I get some of the old stuff cleared off my desk.

New Article: Surviving the Programming Interview

While preparing for a recent interview with a local company, I was going through my list of questions to ask the interviewer and suddenly realized it would make a good article for the site:

Surviving the Programming Interview: Responding to “Do you have any questions for us?”

Although this is primarily written for programmers and software developers, if you’re looking for a job in another field at this point, there’s some good advice here about the importance of asking good questions on a job interview.  From the article …

” … the questions that you ask tell the interviewer a lot about you as a potential employee, especially your level of interest in working for the company rather than just collecting a paycheck. When a potential employee has no questions about the company at the end of the interview, he or she can appear lazy or apathetic which are never desirable traits in an employee …

“When asking questions, it’s important to treat it like a conversation, not a checklist of items to be ticked off. Pay close attention to the interviewer’s answers so you can follow up on things they say with additional questions that you might not have thought of beforehand. After all, the purpose of asking these questions is mainly to learn about the company and what you’ll be facing if you actually work there. You might even find out that you don’t really want to!”

Bringing things up to date …

Every so often, I remember that I have a blog attached  to the site and I make new promises to myself to keep it up to date but it doesn’t seem to happen that often.

2011 was a busy year for me which was one reason I didn’t update the blog much.  It’s easier to post quick thoughts to Facebook than deal with the expectations of a blog entry.  Those updates tend to get lost in the ether, though, and if I’m going to spend time and effort writing interesting things, I’d rather use them for my own promotion than Facebook’s.

After working independently for an extended period, last year started with a new full-time job that looked like an interesting opportunity.  I did manage to gain some extra experience with ASP.NET while acting as the sole developer on an online solution for the company and consulting on other applications.  The position was not without its drawbacks, however, and at the end of September I had my first experience of anticipating exactly when the axe was going to fall.  When I left for the day one Thursday, I made sure to clean out my desk and sure enough, the layoff came early the next day.

Microsoft Access for BeginnersI hit the ground running, though. By the end of October, in addition to updating my resume and other job search fun, I’d completed the project to turn the Microsoft Access for Beginners series into an eBook. On October 31, it went live on Amazon.com as my first Kindle offering and I’ve started to see some sales. I probably should have added a dedication to Starbucks where I spent so many hours staying caffeinated while editing material and figuring out how to get around formatting issues.

I decided to see how the book plays on Amazon.com before reformatting for other outlets and I was a little sick of looking at the project so I moved on to other things including setting up a Facebook page for Drewslair.com.  After sending out some more resumes, my phone started ringing off the hook and by the beginning of December, I’d landed a new contract as a programmer at a local company.  I actually managed to get two job offers within 24 hours which was a new experience for me.  The other one would have meant moving to Jacksonville and I decided  to stay local.

So, since December, I’ve been gaining a lot more experience developing ASP.NET web applications with Visual Studio 2010 and SQL Server 2008.  Having a regular work schedule again where I could leave the job behind at the end of the day was nice for awhile but I’ve also found it’s inherently limiting. I need to start accomplishing things on my own again so I’m looking at dusting off some of those  projects that I put on hold to accommodate the day job and seeing what I can do with them.

More updates here would probably be a really good start …