How I Got Started In Programming

I've got a storied career. I went from being a draft resister hippie type near the end of the Vietnam War to being an expediter at a nuclear power plant construction company near Wall Street, then finally left New York for warmer weather in Florida where I spent a couple of years as a real estate broker and eventually landed at Merrill Lynch as a financial consultant. I stayed at Merrill for about 8 years.

It was at Merrill that I first became interested in programming. I had been graphing the technical indicators from Bob Farrell's group in New York with colored pencils and there was an older guy at the Orlando office who had a TRS-80 and printer. So I learned to program the indicator data in BASIC and print out graphs. Before long I had saved up $3500 to buy an Apple IIe and began seriously studying BASIC. Later I enrolled in an external doctoral program to get my PhD in economics, and a good part of my dissertation was spent coding FFT algorithms in Turbo Basic.

Later on I made plenty of money as a developer with Visual Basic 5 and 6. Then I got into web programming with classic ASP and learned to use javascript. To this day I still recommend that beginning programmers learn javascript as their first programming language.  Finally in 2000 I attended the Microsoft PDC in Orlando and got the first 6-CD set of .Net and I was hooked. It's been .NET and C# ever since, and as an ex Microsoft MVP for 10 years I can say that Microsoft has been very good to me.

Software development is one of the few professions where you can earn six figures with no formal degree. But it takes a certain kind of personality. Programmers are paid to think, and that requires a logical, problem-solving type of mindset - and a lot of patience and motivation to learn.

I hope some readers will get insight from this.