Original question from Quora:

What is the best advice you can give to a junior programmer?

My Answer:

If there was one thing I would tell every programmer it is this…

Well, before I tell you what that thing is, I need to relate a quick story that I believe will help you more than a pithy one liner will.

When I was like 10 years old I got incredibly interested in computers and the idea of programming computers. Boxed software, video games, operating systems, all of that stuff was just so cool.

I was the kid who would go to the local computer store and look at boxes of Mandrake Linux and Red Hat and think they were just so cool. I would sit at Staples and look at every different kind of software there was.

It was all so interesting.

In 1995 we got a Packard Bell computer that ran Windows 3.11 for Workgroups. It had a Pentium 66 Mhz processor, 8 MB of RAM, a CD-ROM drive, and a 500 MB hard drive.

I loved that computer and I knew I wanted to write software for it.

So back then, the best solution I could come up with was to go to the local bookstore and buy Teach Yourself C in 21 days. (Thanks mom!)

I devoured that book. And I wrote code. I was terrible and most of the time things wouldn’t compile for reasons that took forever to understand.

Note: I didn’t have a fancy text editor. I had NOTEPAD.EXE. It didn’t do syntax highlighting and forgetting semicolons made for a bad day.

So it was real tough to learn to code, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t know it could be easier. I just made up stuff to code and coded it.

I wrote a lot of silly text based calculator type apps and things. Eventually I found the Allegro graphics library and started making my own games. I was maybe 13 or 14 at the time.

For whatever reason this was something I would just do without any prompting or pushing from my parents or teachers. I just loved to make things.

This strange habit of building things with code continued for the next twenty or so years until today when I get paid to do this all day long as a Senior Software Engineer at a successful software company.

And yet, I find myself still with that strange habit of building things and learning things pretty much all the time. Nobody tells me I have to be doing that kind of thing outside of work. I just do.

I really enjoy the process of writing code, getting better at writing code, solving my own problems, and just building stuff.

I can’t really explain why, but I love it.

If I was an accountant or lawyer all day long, I’m pretty sure I’d go home and write code and build things for fun.

So, to all junior developers out there I would say…

…fall in love with the process of writing code and building things all the time.

That seems to have the biggest impact on everything else.


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