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I'm 17 years old, I need a powerful path!

 
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I want to be able to be a really good leader in programming, but the problem is the way I'm going to get there. I'm self-learning really slowly Java, and I know a lot about web design, XP, Apache, PHP, JavaScript, WarCraft III, Unreal Tournament 2004, and Diablo II.

And my big question is like WHERE to go after high school. Because it's getting pretty close to the end of summer, and I'll be heading to my senior year at high school. I was thinking perhaps keeping it up with Java, then taking an exam?

I was thinking about going to my state's college, but they're so...open, so learn everyone--make everyone a well-rounded person so they know how to combine atoms blah blah blah. I want a technical school where like 70% is computer related. At least 70%! Because I want to learn about computers inside and out. And I have been, but it has been on the outside, because the concepts are difficult to comprehend from reading on the computer screen all of the time.

I need a good training facility where I can become the best programmer I can be, but I don't know where to go! I've heard ITT (or IIT...hmmm) is bad, OSU looks bad (because it's too well-rounded, riding college seems like the worst option), anyone have any advice? Thank you for your time!
 
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Go to your state's college, or another general university. You will not be successful if you are not well rounded.

Any bozo can learn 7 software languages. Do you think someone competant with 15 years of development in C/C++/Java/Lisp would have any trouble learning C#? More generally all the great new technologies are really re-invention of existing technologies. The "ultra-thin clients" a few years back were effectively the dumb terminals of the 1970s. Same concept, just at a high level.

There is a low barrier to learning this stuff. Look at how many people become web developers in the late 90s. Not just CS people but graphic designers, lawyer, secretaries, high school drop outs, etc. If anyone can do it, it's not a very valuable skill.

Learning how to think is the key, and a general education will help. Years ago software engineers needed to understand disk I/O. I understand it in only the most general way. I will never have to deal with the details because the level we work at today is so far abstracted from it (except for the small handful who want to work in that area specifically). Every generation we further abstract general activities (e.g. disk I/O, network protocols, logging, transactions, interprocess communications, GUIs, error checking) allowing us to focus more business specific solutions (e.g. data analysis tools, information workflow, data mining).

If you want to be a sucessful software engineer in the US in the future you can't be a code monkey, instead you need to understand the bigger picture. Focusing only on technologies will not help you.

I do not recommend ITT, DeVry or any of those schools. I do recommend college. You can go to a technical school if you prefer a higher geek factor, e.g. MIT, CalTech, CMU, RPI, WPI, WIT, but you should look at a true college or university.

--Mark
 
Jack Kay
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I never thought of it like that. I thought well-roundedness was all about being socially accepted lol, but I see what you mean, I'll give OSU another shot, thank you Mark
 
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In addition to what Mark said, I'd suggest really thinking about what you enjoy doing with your tech skills. After all, we aren't just using our tech skills for the sake of using them... they are the means to an end.

Do you like topics in science? Mathematics? Business? Sometimes you don't know you like something until you take a few courses in it. In college for example, I didn't like accounting courses; but I loved economics courses.

About four years ago I had some time off between contracts, and started dabbling in 3D game design. Until that time I never really liked mathematics that much (but enjoyed physics). I ended up really enjoying calculus! I almost wished that I had gone the science route instead of the business route...
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Jack Kay:
I never thought of it like that. I thought well-roundedness was all about being socially accepted lol, but I see what you mean, I'll give OSU another shot, thank you Mark



I am quite happy to know that I was of help. :-)



Originally posted by Robert Chisholm:
In addition to what Mark said, I'd suggest really thinking about what you enjoy doing with your tech skills. After all, we aren't just using our tech skills for the sake of using them... they are the means to an end.



An excellent point! You might find you prefer low level work to high level work. You might find you like finance and want to do IT work on Wall St. Or maybe you like biology and want to get into bio-tech software. Part of college is about exploring.

One advantage you have is that you use sites like this. be sure to talk to lots of engineers, here, in person, at summer jobs etc. Ask them about what they really do, what they do and don't like about it, how it differs from other types of work they did at other companies.

You may feel pretty set in what you want to do but keep your eyes open. Many people here are happy with their careers, and most knew they wanted to go into software and did. But I'll also bet most, at 17, wanted to do something different from what they want to do now. It's great that you're focused, but even within this field, there are many possible options, so be sure to look into some.

--Mark
 
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I went to Washington University in St. Louis. I KNEW i wanted to be an engineer, and got into the school. Freshman year was about exploring, trying different areas. So I took Mech E. classes, Chem E, Elec E... all the intro classes. Know what i learned???

I hated engineering. i switched to...Theatre. I have a B.A. in Drama, emphasis in lighting and sound design. I met some of the greatest people in the world. And, with a B.A., i took many classes in many different fields.

Now, after being a retail manager, a middle-school math teacher, and a reservation/customer service agent for a major airline, I write java code for libraries.

and i wouldn't change a single moment of my life experiences. It's amazing how often some stray bit of knowledge comes in handy in places you'd never imagine.

I guess my point is that i agree with what Mark and Robert are saying. Explore every possibility. Take a class that you NEVER think you'll use - sculpture or philosophy or astronomy or whatever... and then be amazed at how often you do use it.
 
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You might look into the technical program at Devry. I know a lot of people in the tech world that went there. In fact, my company's CEO graduated from there.
 
Jack Kay
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Hey! I really like this college so far:
http://www.devry.edu/dvuc/undergraduate_cis.html

As far as I knowing where I want to go, I understand what yall mean, and I really like your technique fred with taking all of those beginner classes. But I definitely won't be taking Chemistry 101 (AP Chemistry is so complex!).

Yet the paths to college are so plentiful, I was thinking about these paths:
Air Force ROTC Scholarship (4 years at a good college) --> Air Force officer for 4 years --> A really nice job.
Army 3 years with college --> full-time college --> A really nice job
Marines reserve & college --> A really nice job

Any advice on these paths?
[ August 09, 2004: Message edited by: Jack Kay ]
 
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I know more unemployed people who went to Devry. I recommend taking a pass on Devry.
 
Mark Herschberg
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I'm not a huge DeVry fan either. They seem a little too focused on current technology and not enough on general principles useful to long term success. My brother also interpreted (he's an ASL interpreter) a few semesters at DeVry in Chicago and was not impressed.

--Mark
 
Jack Kay
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Alright I'm back

I talked to my friend's brother--he went to OSU. And well, he quit after his first year, his reason? Because he didn't learn anything new! Wouldn't that be scary if you didn't learn anything new in your major?

Should I just go anyways? Even if I don't learn that much from my computer science major classes?
 
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Hi, i am 18 years old, and i feel my way towards my achievement is clear when i got some certs, so i think you can learn something to get some certs and then you'll find what you're interested at...
i used to use C/C++/Allegro to write game, found it very helpful for programming skills, but later i touched some enterprise issure and then i realised i cannot spend whole life on game...it's time for me to actually learn something.
i'll finish high school at the end of this year, hopefully i will go to Melbourne Uni and do computer science.
good luck to you.
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Jack Kay:

I talked to my friend's brother--he went to OSU. And well, he quit after his first year, his reason? Because he didn't learn anything new! Wouldn't that be scary if you didn't learn anything new in your major?

Should I just go anyways? Even if I don't learn that much from my computer science major classes?



Why?

That's the question you need to ask. Why didn't he learning anything, and how might you experience be similar or different.

A friend of mine was doing contract coding by age 14. I'm sure if he had to take an intro software class, he wouldn't have learned much there. People going to top prep schools sometimes take harder classes there than in some mid-range colleges. I know at some colleges, your first year is taking general requirements, and for some students it's much less interesting and informative than the stuff they take the next few years in their major.

What classes did you friend take? Why did he take those? How did he come to already know the material? Will you take the same classes? Do you know what he knows?

How about students in later years? Did they feel the same as a freshman? Do they feel the same now?

Take an hour and map out what courses you might take over the next 4 years. Then see if you can find the syllabi for those classes online. Is that what you know already? Does it look interesting?


--Mark
 
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Originally posted by Jack Kay:
I want to be able to be a really good leader in programming



Here's a few questions you should consider:
Does your school or school district offer the Computer Science A and AB Advanced Placement exams (or classes)?

What is the speciality of programming you want to pursue?

What industry do you want to work in?

For example, noticing that you mentioned Warcraft 3 and Unreal Tournament,
you could be expressing an interest in working in the game industry.

In that case, you'd want to take classes that help you understand how to program real world physics or AIs or even graphics..
(And likely want to find schools that are good for those specialities)

For other industries such as Finance or Marketing, you'd want to look at schools that have good business school programs.

There are many options for you.
(Electronic Engineering, Statistics, Cognitive Science (if you are focused on developing interfaces..) )


You already have some tools to make you the best programmer you want to be.

You're curious and driven.
Just think about where you'd ideally like to work, and you'll have a good place to start for pondering where you want to go.
 
Mark Herschberg
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I totally missed that first part, good leader in programming. Good leader in programming != good at programming. It is useful to understand programming, and being a better programmer is even more helpful, but leading development is a different skill. Not every developer can or wants to lead manage programmers. Not every manager can or wants to program. But the point is there are other skills you will need to develop to be a leader.

Of course, I'm assuming your definition of lead means run a team. There are many ways to lead. Gosling leads. The senior develop to whom everyone turns to for advice leads. What does leadership mean for you?

--Mark
 
Jack Kay
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I totally missed that first part, good leader in programming. Good leader in programming != good at programming.



Weeell, I mostly meant good at programming. I remember I met a project leader for software, she just made sure that the project goes successfully, none of that techie stuff. But I would like to be a good leader/programmer. Where I would be like a senior programmer. I'd write programs and clear everyone else's. Like a senior editor for newspapers.

I'm getting boggled up by what you guys have said, I'm going to reread this thread several times and jot down what I should do next!

"That's the question you need to ask. Why didn't he learning anything, and how might you experience be similar or different."
I shunned that question, but mainly because I wasn't talking derectly to him, but one of his siblings. I'll add that to me list

"Does your school or school district offer the Computer Science A and AB Advanced Placement exams (or classes)?"
I really really really like that question, I'll ask my computer teacher when school starts! 11 more days. This goes to my list too

"What is the speciality of programming you want to pursue?"
I've been thinking strongly on web design & windows programming. I LOVE windows programming, mainly because I was in C#, and it was so easy to put things on the form. Then I went to Java, that was a little more complex with the layout managers, but still pretty cool. Then I went to C++, and it was so cool because it was so hard! I still haven't even added a button yet and I still love it. I love web design because I love PHP & mySQL. Please note I am not that experienced lol. But I have a notes website that I keep to myself that I use that goes reeaaally fast with phpmyadmin. This also goes on my list

I really like Blizzard's website, especially the map, where you get to move your mouse over the world in "World of WarCraft", that is so cool. It took me hours to get my own going, but it was definitely worth it, and it was cool.

So I'd say C++, C#, PHP, Java, anything. Though I'm not truly that experienced at any of them. 1-10 I'd say 3 lol.

"What industry do you want to work in?" Any is fine. Finance, gaming, 3D, photography, all is good. And I'll add this to my list as well

"good luck to you." -HaoZhe XU
Good luck to you too

I'm going to think about this thread more...
 
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I second the point that you want to get a good college education. In a few years, you may have different goals and you need the tools to adapt.

Another thing I did starting out was to read really good code.

For example, the source code for the Java Foundation Classes is available for downloading on sun.java.com and it's not only very well written but exemplary (deliberately worthy of emulation). Since you know what these java classes do, you can work out exactly how they do it

Be sure to learn at least one assembly language, so you know how computers really work. Wintel is fairly easy and the tools (e.g. gcc) are free.

Finally, install an OS on an empty CPU. This will show you how to research software and figure out the doc on your own.

Above all, write lots of code and make it work well.

There is no reason you can't be a Java coding expert in a short time. It will take longer to be a professional.

It's worth it. Good Luck.
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Jack Kay:

"That's the question you need to ask. Why didn't he learning anything, and how might you experience be similar or different."
I shunned that question, but mainly because I wasn't talking derectly to him, but one of his siblings. I'll add that to me list



Ah. Here is a very important businss tip: always try to get first hand information and prefer it over second hand information. The brother may have made some comments which the sibling misinterpreted, or maybe not, but misunderstandings lik this are far more common than you'd think.


Originally posted by Jack Kay:

"Does your school or school district offer the Computer Science A and AB Advanced Placement exams (or classes)?"
I really really really like that question, I'll ask my computer teacher when school starts! 11 more days. This goes to my list too



If they don't offer them (or perhaps even if they do), also ask about taking programming classes at your local college of even a vocational school like DeVry. You might be able to get credit and/or funding, and this will give you a chance to try one of these places ahead of time.


--Mark
 
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