Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

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alex123711
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Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by alex123711 »

Is programming still a valuable skill?

It seems like everybody is doing tech/ programming and salaries are going down, almost everyone who loses their job or wants to change careers is being to told to learn to code.

It's also in the best interests of tech companies such as FAANG to hype it up as a career to drive wages down.

It feels a bit like a gold rush/ race to the bottom where it may be valuable for a few years, but then there will be a lot of unemployed people who spent years learning a skill for only short term employment.

What will the future look like? Will programmers basically be the low paid factory workers of the future.
yohac
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by yohac »

alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am Is programming still a valuable skill?

It seems like everybody is doing tech/ programming and salaries are going down, almost everyone who loses their job or wants to change careers is being to told to learn to code.
GOOD programmers, or even competent ones, are still valuable. In my experience, very few people who "learned to code" as a tactical career change were competent developers. Can't tell you how many interviews I sat through with applicants who couldn't answer even basic technical questions.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Good developers are rare creatures, and probably always will be. They can command silly money.

I was a good developer once. I have hired good developers. Rara Avis.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by flyingcows »

Creating solutions from requirements is a valuable skill, programming is only part of that equation.

Compensation and demand for technology skills, from what I have seen, has done nothing but go up since I began my career in 2003. The demand is massive, and the supply of people, world wide, who are both able and willing to do this type of work tiny.

Ive been in this “field” for 17 years and have enjoyed the journey thus far.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by jkusa1791 »

It is a very valuable skill to learn. Quite often I see career surveys showing software engineering is very high on the salary and satisfaction scale. In many cases you can be a software engineer and work from home. I was able to work from home for a while during the pandemic. I agree that there is a lot more to being a programmer. You need to be a problem solver. The premium on programming grows if you add a security clearance to it because there is more work available than there are good cleared developers. I know of a lot of companies that are perpetually hiring because of the demand.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by nisiprius »

Well, from 2009 through 2013 I was working as a consultant. I worked part-time but they wanted me full-time, and I stopped in 2013 because I wanted to retire fully. The pay was typical of what salary surveys say good senior programmers make. This was one of these situations--a VP at the company that laid me off knew someone at a startup, and they liked the cut of my jib kind of thing.

I think the thing to keep in mind is that 1) programming is intrinsically valuable, it is a real skill. Leaving pay and social value aside, it is just as real and as useful a skill as being able to teach golf, express a pet's glands, fix a car, play a violin, or put up drywall. Technological obsolescence is a problem, but so it is in other fields (urologists who trained to do open prostatectomies, stuck at hospitals that didn't have a robotic machine). Programming in one language transfers to newer languages, even though it is hard to explain in a job interview that you can program in C++ because you know Smalltalk.

There are of course serious issues because many kinds of computer programming can be done remotely, as in "another country." (Not all, though!) And I can wave my hands in an airy way and say "people will always need programmers" the way someone who want to sell you a rental property can wave their hands and say "Remember, they aren't making any new land."

A third point that is often overlooked is that a lot of the job wisdom has to do with what might be called central, mainstream job markets. There are a lot of jobs out there that need to be done that are at companies that are not experts at hiring! So just because the computer is going to scan your resume and not even pass it on if it doesn't say 3 years of C++, doesn't mean you can't find some place that needs something done that you know how to do. And that doesn't know enough not to hire you.

Finally, work is work and work often sucks the way work often sucks, but programming is still something that involves creativity no matter how badly managers wish it were otherwise. It is intellectual work and Mark Twain (and, yes, it really was him, it's in A Connecticut Yankee) wrote:
Intellectual 'work' is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and is its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer, general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator, actor, preacher, singer, is constructively in heaven when he is at work; and as for the magician with the fiddle-bow in his hand, who sits in the midst of a great orchestra with the ebbing and flowing tides of divine sound washing over him - why, certainly he is at work, if you wish to call it that, but lord, it's a sarcasm just the same. The law of work does seem utterly unfair - but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash also.
Tell that to the next underpaid second violinist you meet, but it's true anyway!

I would not buy a Raspberry Pi and learn Python on your own and then expect to get a job at a defense contractor job that says they need ADA, but a real skill is a real skill.
Last edited by nisiprius on Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by IngognitoUSA »

Only if you enjoy it, or can bear it. Substance is more important than style in programming.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Elysium »

alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am Is programming still a valuable skill?
...
What will the future look like? Will programmers basically be the low paid factory workers of the future.
Are scientists still valued? is inventing the next vaccine or next device that changes life the work of low paid factory workers? The answers are within the question. While anyone can learn basic programming, learning Computer Science is a highly skilled activity that requires a certain amount of capability. Not everyone can or will do it, there will always be demand for jobs that very few people can fill.

P.S: My team and I have been trying to fill two open jobs that requires multi-disciplinary CS skills and we are still not able to find the right people despite the high unemployment rates and the number of candidates we interviewed.
Last edited by Elysium on Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
oldfort
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by oldfort »

Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Elysium »

oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
Getting hired at FAANG is overrated, perhaps sounds cool, the job is high stress and highly demanding if you want to be a leader. By that I don't mean top, even a mid level Tech Lead. If you are a young person who wants to do cooler things and stay entry level not so much. There are plenty of CS jobs available outside of big tech that pays well and allows work/life balance.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TonyDAntonio »

Once upon a time big companies would hire smart people from all walks of life and train them to code. Smart, creative people make better developers because the mechanics of coding are far easier to learn than the creative, problem solving skills. Learn to code if you like solving problems and are, in general, a critical, creative thinker. Two of the best people I worked with in IT were not computer scientists. One didn't graduate college, one did while experimenting with all the available drugs. They were both musically oriented, creative, talented thinkers who were diligent workers. They enjoyed solving problems and writing elegant code. They were a joy to work with. On a related note, I had a 30 year IT career, mostly as a coder/developer. I took one Fortran class in college on my way to a philosophy degree. I didn't love coding but I liked it and I liked problem solving. I was a decent thinker. Now, not so much. :shock:
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TheOscarGuy »

alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am Is programming still a valuable skill?
What will the future look like? Will programmers basically be the low paid factory workers of the future.
1. Yes it is!
2. I can not predict the future but I find it highly unlikely that software engineers would be like low paid workers.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by carolinaman »

I was in IT for 44 years retiring in 2010 and consulted part time for a few years after that with a global non profit. I started in programming in the airline industry in the 60s and was very technical my first 13 years and then went into IT management for the remainder of my career. In companies that apply technology for business needs there are many IT roles as important or more so than programming. Examples include project managers, network analysts, designers (technical or business), business or technical architecture and security specialists. People use the term programmer for everyone doing coding but there is a wide range of programming skills from simply basic coding to software engineers who possess a high degree of knowledge of complex technical systems. Software engineers are the ones getting the big bucks.

The software development at Google, Apple and similar hi tech companies is very different than what is done at most companies who apply technology for their business needs. These hi-tech companies pay crazy high salaries for the best of the best and can afford to do so because the software these software engineers create is highly leverageable. Most companies who apply technology cannot leverage their software to that extent nor afford to pay those types of salaries.

I doubt things have changed that much since I left the industry.
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JoMoney
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by JoMoney »

TheOscarGuy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:53 am
alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am Is programming still a valuable skill?
What will the future look like? Will programmers basically be the low paid factory workers of the future.
1. Yes it is!
2. I can not predict the future but I find it highly unlikely that software engineers would be like low paid workers.
I think It's valuable to learn to think and structure things in a set of discrete processes to achieve a result... but a job in programming is a supply and demand thing. The 'languages' are getting a lot easier to learn and use, the libraries of existing code that can be reused is growing exponentially, computers are learning to program themselves, it's a job that is very easy to export to a very large and growing pool of global workers.
It's still a pretty good path to a good paying job, but I would be leery of expecting it to stay that way.
A time will come where it's harder to get manual labor employees then having your code written. Pretty sure that even today I could get some small amount of code written online for $5 faster then I could find someone to weed my garden.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by flaccidsteele »

Selling skills is more valuable imo
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by lostdog »

You can look into the other side of the fence. Network Administration, Systems Engineer etc..

I was a Systems Engineer for 20 years. The pay is not as good compared to the development side. I'm not sure of the current competition level on this side.

In the past, people would get certifications with zero experience in the field. We called them "paper certs" at the time. During interviews I could pick out the paper certs candidates that were applying for the high end positions. Even today with paper certs you would need to start out at the support level and work your way up to get the respect and trust needed to work your way up the ladder.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Watty »

alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am It's also in the best interests of tech companies such as FAANG to hype it up as a career to drive wages down.
Retired software developer here.

The FAANG type companies are not typical of the jobs that most software developers have. If I had to guess I would think that probably less than 1% of software developers work at companies like that.
alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am It seems like everybody is doing tech/ programming and salaries are going down, almost everyone who loses their job or wants to change careers is being to told to learn to code.
I'm not sure why you are saying that salaries are going down. My son got a Computer Science degree a few years ago and he and all of his classmates are generally doing very well.

The exception is that some of them who are working at startup type companies have had cutbacks and even across the board pay cuts because of the pandemic but that that is not specific to programming type jobs.

I am retired now and over the years I saw a lot of people that had gotten into programming because someone had told it was a good field to get into. That typically did not work out well since to be a good programmer really requires that you have some natural ability for it. I compare it to being able to draw well. I have tried to learn to draw a number of times and I can draw a recognizable picture but I do not have enough natural ability to really be any good at it.

The people who I saw that did not have some natural knack for coding might be able to learn enough to write programs that worked but they were almost always really mediocre programmers who were either miserable in their jobs or moved on to other careers after a while, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Most of the really good computer people that I have known were naturally attracted to it and were playing with tech type stuff even when they were kids.

The definition of "programming" is also changing and jobs where you sit down and write a system from scratch are a lot rarer now. A lot of programming jobs now involve configuring and linking existing software to do what you need.
Last edited by Watty on Thu Oct 08, 2020 8:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by VictoriaF »

Read Cal Newport's book "Deep Work." He is making a point that the employment world is getting increasingly separated into the premier performers and everybody else. Premier performers can be hired from anywhere in the world, top employers want them and pay them top dollars. Everybody else increasingly becomes a commodity.

Programming is a valuable skill. But unless you have the talent, the passion, and the perseverance to become a premier performer, learn it and apply to other fields. The less programming-like a field is the more distinction you would get from knowing how to program.

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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by DarkHelmetII »

alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am Is programming still a valuable skill?

It seems like everybody is doing tech/ programming and salaries are going down, almost everyone who loses their job or wants to change careers is being to told to learn to code.

It's also in the best interests of tech companies such as FAANG to hype it up as a career to drive wages down.

It feels a bit like a gold rush/ race to the bottom where it may be valuable for a few years, but then there will be a lot of unemployed people who spent years learning a skill for only short term employment.

What will the future look like? Will programmers basically be the low paid factory workers of the future.
Yes if coupled with a) industry domain expertise, b) quantitative skills, and c) diplomacy. My point is that programming alone is highly commoditized, but if you can do that plus "powerpoint jockey" type work, project management, teams mgmt etc... then you really have a unique combination of relevant skill sets.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TN_Boy »

oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
Learning to write simple programs is not that hard. More complex coding -- e.g. multi-threaded programs in kernel space -- is not that easy. Aside from the details of the programming language, you have to actually understand how a computer system works.

Learning to be a good software engineer, regardless of the type of coding required, is also hard.

But to the OP's question, I think a job in the software industry remains a good career option.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TN_Boy »

flaccidsteele wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 8:24 am Selling skills is more valuable imo
Perhaps, though being a good salesperson requires some talent as well.

Somebody has to actually build the thing to sell ...... whether we are talking software, cars, airplanes, washing machines, phones ...

And some sales positions are very high stress. You may have a quota. Hopefully, the market wants the product you have to sell.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by knightrider »

My two cents is spend a little time learning to code in assembly. Once you understand how the chip actually works, then learning any higher level language will seem trivial. I would reckon the majority of "code monkeys" out there have no idea how the computers hardware actually works. They are just fluent in memorizing specific languages which you can just google.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by JD2775 »

It is very valuable to learn some programming, even if you don't plan on going into that as a career. For example there are many tasks you can probably automate in your current job, or tasks you do at home (on a computer) if you know some Python and the basic programming principles.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by KyleAAA »

alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am Is programming still a valuable skill?

It seems like everybody is doing tech/ programming and salaries are going down, almost everyone who loses their job or wants to change careers is being to told to learn to code.

It's also in the best interests of tech companies such as FAANG to hype it up as a career to drive wages down.

It feels a bit like a gold rush/ race to the bottom where it may be valuable for a few years, but then there will be a lot of unemployed people who spent years learning a skill for only short term employment.

What will the future look like? Will programmers basically be the low paid factory workers of the future.
Wages are not going down. Programming is not the most valuable skill of a software engineer.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by boosnark »

I've lead Product teams (and Scrum teams) and find that the best software developers are the ones who are the most adaptable, though not necessarily the best individual "coder", for lack of a better word. And among these the absolute top tier programmers are the ones that have a great sense of teamwork and patience, i.e. the willingness to mentor younger members of the team and to help out when the going gets a little tough.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by vitaflo »

alex123711 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:04 am It feels a bit like a gold rush/ race to the bottom where it may be valuable for a few years, but then there will be a lot of unemployed people who spent years learning a skill for only short term employment.

What will the future look like? Will programmers basically be the low paid factory workers of the future.
If programmers are become the low paid factory worker of the future then I wouldn't want to guess what it would mean for everyone else. Software engineering is a quite complex skill to learn as you can never stop learning since it is constantly changing. Given the way of the world there will probably always be more demand than supply for devs, especially competent ones, because so few people will have the capacity to actually master it.

As far as a skill to learn though, sure it's a good skill to learn but I wouldn't fool myself into thinking just because you wrote some simple intro Python app that you're employable by a software firm. That'd be like teaching yourself how to build a dog house and then thinking you're ready to design and build a skyscraper or power plant. It's a little more involved than that.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Impatience »

What is the alternative? Generic business skills? Even more oversaturated. Manufacturing? I don’t think so. It’s the surest way to money and security that is in a person’s power to pursue. The only thing that might unseat it is a more niche or specialized technology focus. Electrical engineering comes to mind.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by oldfort »

TN_Boy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:38 am
oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
Learning to write simple programs is not that hard. More complex coding -- e.g. multi-threaded programs in kernel space -- is not that easy. Aside from the details of the programming language, you have to actually understand how a computer system works.

Learning to be a good software engineer, regardless of the type of coding required, is also hard.

But to the OP's question, I think a job in the software industry remains a good career option.
Writing multi-threaded programs isn’t that hard. Most software isn’t running at the kernel level and shouldn’t be to maintain good security practices, principle of least privileges, etc.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TN_Boy »

oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:06 am
TN_Boy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:38 am
oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
Learning to write simple programs is not that hard. More complex coding -- e.g. multi-threaded programs in kernel space -- is not that easy. Aside from the details of the programming language, you have to actually understand how a computer system works.

Learning to be a good software engineer, regardless of the type of coding required, is also hard.

But to the OP's question, I think a job in the software industry remains a good career option.
Writing multi-threaded programs isn’t that hard.
No.

Making them work correctly and efficiently is though.

My experience working on large complicated systems -- and that of everybody I know who has built such systems -- is that it is hard. As I noted, it is not just a matter of knowing the language; a fairly deep understanding of operating system and hardware architecture is required for much of the work. You can't take a class in programming C and do this type of work.

But perhaps it is trivial for you.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by pshonore »

Anyone with a logical mind can learn to program. Once you learn the syntax and "tricks" of whatever language you're using, its not difficult. But remember the programmer usually starts with a bunch of specs created by a "designer" who creates a user interface and workflow. Not everyone has that particular skill. I can't believe the number of bad web pages and apps that are out there today.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TN_Boy »

knightrider wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:44 am My two cents is spend a little time learning to code in assembly. Once you understand how the chip actually works, then learning any higher level language will seem trivial. I would reckon the majority of "code monkeys" out there have no idea how the computers hardware actually works. They are just fluent in memorizing specific languages which you can just google.
It is not true that understanding the syntax of a language means you can write good programs.

Learning assembly does not mean that learning something like C++ is trivial. Complex languages are powerful, but can be difficult to use well.

I do agree there are a fair number of "code monkeys" out there.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by oldfort »

TN_Boy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:13 am
oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:06 am
TN_Boy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:38 am
oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
Learning to write simple programs is not that hard. More complex coding -- e.g. multi-threaded programs in kernel space -- is not that easy. Aside from the details of the programming language, you have to actually understand how a computer system works.

Learning to be a good software engineer, regardless of the type of coding required, is also hard.

But to the OP's question, I think a job in the software industry remains a good career option.
Writing multi-threaded programs isn’t that hard.
No.

Making them work correctly and efficiently is though.

My experience working on large complicated systems -- and that of everybody I know who has built such systems -- is that it is hard. As I noted, it is not just a matter of knowing the language; a fairly deep understanding of operating system and hardware architecture is required for much of the work. You can't take a class in programming C and do this type of work.

But perhaps it is trivial for you.
Avoiding race conditions isn’t exactly rocket science or brain surgery. Unless you’re doing truly low level work(OS kernel development, writing compilers, device drivers), most computer architecture knowledge is nearly irrelevant to programming, including multithreaded software.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TN_Boy »

oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:26 am
TN_Boy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:13 am
oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:06 am
TN_Boy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:38 am
oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
Learning to write simple programs is not that hard. More complex coding -- e.g. multi-threaded programs in kernel space -- is not that easy. Aside from the details of the programming language, you have to actually understand how a computer system works.

Learning to be a good software engineer, regardless of the type of coding required, is also hard.

But to the OP's question, I think a job in the software industry remains a good career option.
Writing multi-threaded programs isn’t that hard.
No.

Making them work correctly and efficiently is though.

My experience working on large complicated systems -- and that of everybody I know who has built such systems -- is that it is hard. As I noted, it is not just a matter of knowing the language; a fairly deep understanding of operating system and hardware architecture is required for much of the work. You can't take a class in programming C and do this type of work.

But perhaps it is trivial for you.
Avoiding race conditions isn’t exactly rocket science or brain surgery. Unless you’re doing truly low level work(OS kernel development, writing compilers, device drivers), most computer architecture knowledge is nearly irrelevant to programming.
Clearly we worked on different types of systems.

I worked with a lot of smart people. At top-tier companies. They all thought this sort of work was challenging.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by BlueCable »

Multi-threaded race conditions might not be rocket science or brain surgery because rocket science and brain surgery don't allow for the fault conditions that inevitably occur when engineers make threading mistakes.

If I had to pick a single litmus test for whether a software developer was excellent or average, it would be whether they can avoid or debug threading issues.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

knightrider wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:44 am My two cents is spend a little time learning to code in assembly. Once you understand how the chip actually works, then learning any higher level language will seem trivial. I would reckon the majority of "code monkeys" out there have no idea how the computers hardware actually works. They are just fluent in memorizing specific languages which you can just google.
I wrote in Assembly (IBM) and Macro (DEC). I think it made me a better developer in higher level languages, but that was “back then.” I’m not sure that modern compilers aren’t sufficiently better to make it not worth the effort.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by MathWizard »

The skills that I look for are:
Professionalism:
1) Can I trust you?
2) Can you work on a team and not ruin it? (back stabbing, hoarding knowledge, ...)
3) Can you learn continuously?

Interpersonal skills:
1) Are you respectful of other people?
2) Can you talk to people about a technical issue in an understandable way? (No jargon.)
3) Can you be polite, even when frustrated?

Logic:
1) Can you approach problems in a logical way?

Programming:
1) Can you write to an API (Application Programming Interface)? Bonus if you can you write a good one.
2) Can you work on someone else's program without rewriting it?
3) Can you write a program which contains enough internal documentation so someone else can modify it?

Business sense:
1) Do you understand how businesses work?
2) Can you make a business case for a new project?
3) Can you talk to product owners (agile term) get the actual requirements for a project

If you have all that, the language is irrelevant. You will pick a language so quickly that it is not important.

These are the people I hire, and I pay them well, because they are worth it.
Yes, I did all this when I was in their shoes.
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nisiprius
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by nisiprius »

1) For most of my career I was either the only frog in a small pond, or a medium-sized frog in a medium-sized pond.

The only time I was in a big pond, for 3-1/2 years, there were perhaps 1,000 programmers ("software engineers" but let's not go down that rabbit hole), and many of them had been with the company for ten years or more and never had any code they wrote become part of any product that was ever released. They had software quality processes in place, except that every couple of years someone would come in and throw out the old one and bring in a new one, we're not doing Integrated Quality Process any more, we're introducing Seven Omicron, which is the wedge we will use to drive quality through the organization...

For fourteen years I was one of about five programmers in a mid-sized company. The company made $50,000-$200,000 pieces of high-tech machinery. They were driven from desktop computers, and I wrote drivers, and for a while embedded software (firmware). Every day I could walk past the shipping dock, and I loved to look at the big cartons on pallets with labels on them saying where they were going--literally all over the world. They shipped with either Macintosh or PC software inside the big box, and there was a checkbox on the side saying which it was. It was roughly a 50/50 split, and if one of them was checked I knew that it was my software inside the box. And that some customer was willing to pay for a piece of gear, including my code, because it would help them make money by doing a useful piece of work for them.

Which experience do you think was more satisfying?

2) Writing code could be called easy, I guess. But writing code that will pass software quality assurance (SQA) isn't so easy.
Last edited by nisiprius on Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:32 am, edited 4 times in total.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
Normchad
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Normchad »

If you want to make bank with a 4 year degree, this is a very good way to do it.

Demand for developers right now is through the roof. Salaries in the DC area are rising very fast. Very mediocre people are easily finding six figure jobs.....
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Ben Mathew
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Ben Mathew »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:00 am I’m not sure that modern compilers aren’t sufficiently better to make it not worth the effort.
My brain is still compiling this sentence... :shock:
knightrider
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by knightrider »

Ben Mathew wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:34 am
TomatoTomahto wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:00 am I’m not sure that modern compilers aren’t sufficiently better to make it not worth the effort.
My brain is still compiling this sentence... :shock:
Haha, a "triple negative"...
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Ben Mathew wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:34 am
TomatoTomahto wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:00 am I’m not sure that modern compilers aren’t sufficiently better to make it not worth the effort.
My brain is still compiling this sentence... :shock:
Many years ago and far away, an employer wanted to compare VAX vs IBM run times. They developed some code to do a bunch of math and then printed out how long it took. IBM took 30 seconds; VAX took 0.001 seconds. They were astounded. Turns out, the compiler figured out that if you aren’t going to use the result, it would optimize away the calculation. :sharebeer
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.
FreemanB
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by FreemanB »

BlueCable wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:57 am Multi-threaded race conditions might not be rocket science or brain surgery because rocket science and brain surgery don't allow for the fault conditions that inevitably occur when engineers make threading mistakes.

If I had to pick a single litmus test for whether a software developer was excellent or average, it would be whether they can avoid or debug threading issues.
THIS! I'm a software developer, and threading is probably the hardest single aspect of software to actually do well. Add in the additional complexity of microservices and a distributed environment, and you'll be tearing your hair out trying to track down a problem. When I'm interviewing prospective developers, one of the first questions I'll ask is how they generally debug a problem in their code. Their answers to that question almost always give me a good indication of their actual skill level.

As for the OP's question, with all of the various automation tools and simple languages out there, it would be beneficial to almost anyone to have at least a basic knowledge of programming. That won't likely get you a job writing software, but it will certainly be useful and may help get a job in a number of other fields. To really have a reliable career though, would mean learning software development, which involves a lot more than just simple programming. That career path, while harder, is certainly still lucrative.
rich126
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by rich126 »

I think it is for many technical jobs, even in security jobs. Knowing some assembly and C will help learning how to script in Python, Perl, Bash, Powershell and various other languages as needed. I don't know Ruby but it was easy enough for me to modify and run something in Metasploit since once you know a language like C it isn't hard going to most other languages (certainly not all, I am still clueless with something like Prolog).

I've moved to more security work but being able to write up a script to manipulate data or do other tasks can save you a lot of time.

Ideally the more background you have, the better technical person you are. I've done hardware design in my past so I have no issues with looking at waveforms and the like but the biggest help is understanding how things work and what your code does on a piece of hardware. I think it makes me a better programmer in a lot of cases (less so in some applications).

And while there are a lot of people out there with engineering, CS, etc. degrees, many of them are pretty weak in coding, debugging and problem solving. You can get a ton of work done with a small team of excellent programmers and easily out do a significant larger group of technical folks IMO. I've gotten stuff done in hours or a day or two while watching others struggle for weeks or longer. They simply are in the wrong field. And I don't consider myself an elite programmer.

This won't apply to most people but if you are in the defense/intelligence sector, there are a ton of jobs for people with clearances and Java/C++ or Cloud skills right now. I really don't fit into those categories since I prefer to work at lower levels.
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by oldfort »

rich126 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:22 pm This won't apply to most people but if you are in the defense/intelligence sector, there are a ton of jobs for people with clearances and Java/C++ or Cloud skills right now. I really don't fit into those categories since I prefer to work at lower levels.
Why would anyone want to work for defense/intelligence as a software engineer? Comp is far higher in the private sector. You can’t telework in intelligence.
getthatmarshmallow
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by getthatmarshmallow »

$0.02: "coding" is everywhere, and when it's being taught to 7-year-olds the mere ability to "code" isn't going to by itself translate into a great job for very long. Think of it more like a prerequisite than the job itself. But it can also be valuable in other ways -- being the project manager who can 'talk to the geeks', being the journalist who understand what they're writing about, being the developer who can pick up new languages quickly, learning the techniques to solve problems.
MarkRoulo
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by MarkRoulo »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:00 am
knightrider wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:44 am My two cents is spend a little time learning to code in assembly. Once you understand how the chip actually works, then learning any higher level language will seem trivial. I would reckon the majority of "code monkeys" out there have no idea how the computers hardware actually works. They are just fluent in memorizing specific languages which you can just google.
I wrote in Assembly (IBM) and Macro (DEC). I think it made me a better developer in higher level languages, but that was “back then.” I’m not sure that modern compilers aren’t sufficiently better to make it not worth the effort.
If you don't understand what the machine is doing at a fairly low level it is VERY easy to write code that runs 10% as fast as it should. Or 1%.

And not realize it.

The compiler won't save you from these sorts of mistakes.

My all-time winner was a loop to remove the first 'n' characters from a string that was written to be O(n^2 * m) rather than O(1). Just thinking about what the various functions were doing would have avoided this.
rich126
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by rich126 »

oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:36 pm
rich126 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:22 pm This won't apply to most people but if you are in the defense/intelligence sector, there are a ton of jobs for people with clearances and Java/C++ or Cloud skills right now. I really don't fit into those categories since I prefer to work at lower levels.
Why would anyone want to work for defense/intelligence as a software engineer? Comp is far higher in the private sector. You can’t telework in intelligence.
Well, because it is low stress and pays the bills. You can get plenty of time off, 40 hr work weeks, job security and do work you cannot do in the private sector. And sometimes have access to various resources you won't see elsewhere. Also, depending where you work you can do a ton of training on the clock which is a nice perk to learn new skills.

I would agree if money is your motivating factor, forget it, but a 6 figure salary, job security and 40 hr weeks are good for some people. Now I have to admit telework appeals to me.

Money has never made me happier, interesting work has (and sure there are a lot of intelligence work that can be tedious and boring, you just need to avoid that stuff). As I get older (50s now) I am very thankful I didn't work long hours with limited vacation. I had tons of opportunities to ski, and travel and enjoy life.

I had a job when I was ~40, and I could take off/flex my hours any time I wanted and would be out on a golf course on a Tuesday with friends and was thinking "geez, people wait until retirement to do this and I can do it now". Sure if you get lucky with a startup and make $5M by 40, then maybe that is a better choice but I don't think that is common. Instead often tons of hours are worked and companies don't succeed. For every Google there are many others that fail.
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Ben Mathew
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Ben Mathew »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:41 am
Ben Mathew wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:34 am
TomatoTomahto wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:00 am I’m not sure that modern compilers aren’t sufficiently better to make it not worth the effort.
My brain is still compiling this sentence... :shock:
Many years ago and far away, an employer wanted to compare VAX vs IBM run times. They developed some code to do a bunch of math and then printed out how long it took. IBM took 30 seconds; VAX took 0.001 seconds. They were astounded. Turns out, the compiler figured out that if you aren’t going to use the result, it would optimize away the calculation. :sharebeer
Now this I use everyday... :beer
Normchad
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by Normchad »

oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:36 pm
rich126 wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 12:22 pm This won't apply to most people but if you are in the defense/intelligence sector, there are a ton of jobs for people with clearances and Java/C++ or Cloud skills right now. I really don't fit into those categories since I prefer to work at lower levels.
Why would anyone want to work for defense/intelligence as a software engineer? Comp is far higher in the private sector. You can’t telework in intelligence.
Defense work also provides a protective moat against competition. Some of these jobs actually do pay very well, because there aren’t a lot of candidates who have the skills and can get the clearances needed.

These jobs are unlikely to get offshored anytime soon.....

There is more job security, especially as you age.....

Your customer never runs out of money......
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Re: Is programming still a valuable skill to learn?

Post by softwaregeek »

TN_Boy wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:38 am
oldfort wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:23 am Learning to write code is easy. Getting hired at FAANG or any of the top tech companies is the hard part.
Learning to write simple programs is not that hard. More complex coding -- e.g. multi-threaded programs in kernel space -- is not that easy. Aside from the details of the programming language, you have to actually understand how a computer system works.

Learning to be a good software engineer, regardless of the type of coding required, is also hard.

But to the OP's question, I think a job in the software industry remains a good career option.
This. "Learn to Code" is like saying "Learn to play guitar". Some people will have the talent to be a rock star. Others, less talent. And plenty will not have the ability to pick up the skills. And it's not like you can take an intro course and learn to do it well enough to be a rock star.
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