October 18th, 2007
The old joke has a guy asking pianist Arthur Rubinstein "Pardon me sir, but how do I get to Carnegie Hall?" and Rubinstein replying, "Practice, practice, practice." The question that novice programmers often ask is like it, "How do I become a professional programmer?" And, like the guy who only wanted directions they want to know which classes to take or certifications to earn to become a programmer. However, the real answer is that one must practice programming just like one practices the piano in order to master it.
How Do You Practice Programming?
The obvious way to practice is to write programs just like if you expect to learn piano you play the piano. But, it goes deeper than that. To learn, to effectively practice, you need to work on things that aren’t easy for you. For example, if you struggle with understanding how to write a good SQL Join, practice writing them until you get good at it. If the ins and outs of ADO.NET baffle you, work on them. Find areas that you’re weak in and practice them by writing actual working code.
Another way to practice programming, particularly when you’re learning a new language, is to take an algorithm that you wrote in one language and figure out how to write it in the new one. For example, if you’re transitioning to VB.NET from VB6, take some of your old code and figure out the .NET way of writing it. If you know VB.NET and want to learn C# or Java, do the same thing. You will find that this exercise not only helps you learn something new but also increases your knowledge of your original language.
Make Your Practice Structured
To make your programming practice more effective create a schedule or structure that you follow. For example, you might set a goal of practicing for 1 hour a week to improve your database coding and dedicate another hour in the week to learning something new. If you don’t set goals you’ll find that your practice becomes less and less until it doesn’t exist at all. It’s also a good idea to chart your progress so that you have hard evidence to yourself that you’ve achieved your learning goals. The sense of accomplishment when you do this is quite rewarding.
Practice While Working
You can practice while you work as well. The way I do this is to have a ’scratchpad’ program where I create little snippets of code. These often match my main work but this gives me a place outside of it to work through ideas without the overhead and distraction of the core program. Often you’ll find these little practice pieces will fit well into your existing program or even earn a place in the snippets plug-in.
Do you practice programming? If you do, what are some of your practice techniques? If you don’t, why don’t you? Do you have anything you would like to add or ask about concerning programming practice? If so, please leave a comment.
Entry Filed under: Personal Development
Rate This Article: