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What makes a programmer more desirable to employers? | Reply
Hey topcoders. I'm in highschool and I want to become a better programmer.
By better programmer, I mean by what things employers think are desirable when looking for a programmer. So far I know programming contests are a great way to increase your raw programming skill, but real life programming as a job isn't like contest programming. I'm wondering what other activities and in what order one should be doing to prepare for programming jobs? I plan to go to university for compsci, so things that are taught by uni I can wait for uni to teach.

Do you think doing very well on programming contests is what employers are looking for and that's what I should focus on?

What's the pathway I should follow?

I should
-definitely learn more than 1 language

Should I
try to get into open source?
learn things like oop?
train for components compeititons on topcoder?
focus on doing programming contests (i'm still at beginner level) until i'm very good?
develop my own hobby software?
focus on one or do a combination of them? how much skill should i develop in each of them?

Thanks for reading!:)
Re: What makes a programmer more desirable to employers? (response to post by redmonkey) | Reply
Try to find something you like. If you like programming contests, that's great. If you like to do 'hobby software' (like amateur computer games), that's great too. If you like to learn by heart 30 patterns of oop design, ok, do it :) But if programming is not fun for you, IMO you'd better to think of some other way.

Personally, I'd suggest first two ways. They are fun and do not require any skills/experience to start.
Re: What makes a programmer more desirable to employers? (response to post by Orange_Cloud) | Reply
Well, I like contest programming. I have fun :). I'm simply not sure if It's the best way to go about and what not. I do think maybe I'm thinking too much about it, but I want to use my time wisely.
Re: What makes a programmer more desirable to employers? (response to post by redmonkey) | Reply
> maybe I'm thinking too much about it
I guess so :) First things first. Do something you can do. Get some basic programming skills. You have enough time and it's good that you don't want to waste it for nothing.
Good luck!
Re: What makes a programmer more desirable to employers? (response to post by redmonkey) | Reply
That's a big question with many answers. I'll just discuss the topic I like.

Well, if I were you, the first question I'll ask myself is "Do I really want to be a programmer"?

Programming maybe exciting for you, or maybe you like the implied exclusivity of it, or you probably simply always get this satisfaction whenever you finish a component or an euphoria if you manage to build that one huge project.

But ask yourself again, do you really want to be a programmer?

This is not a question whether living as a programmer sucks or not. This is a question whether you will be best satisfied if you take your life to the programming path.

You're still young, you can afford to taste here and there. You may change your preference. Expose yourself to every kind of job you can be exposed to. Don't just focus your experience only to enhance your programming skill or skills supporting your job, while abandoning all others life experience. You may never know if you will be happier living as an accountant.

Anyway, back to your question. If I were you, I'll just do everything I like and try to make it connected to programming.

For example, suppose you like to observe/study about cross-cultural differences and traffic in your place is pretty bad. Connecting these to programming, you can make a computational model of traffic jam, considering drivers culture (particularly the level of tendency to give ways to others) adjusted for distance of where they life, also adjusted for reaction time and physics limitation, considering time left before the start of normal office hour.

The above project will look impressive in your resume, or at least when you're interviewed. But what's more important, this project will expose you to different subjects, not just programming thus making you less likely to regret choosing programming.
Re: What makes a programmer more desirable to employers? (response to post by redmonkey) | Reply
Just keep learning a broad spectrum of stuff. You will have lots of time to specialize later. Just dive into anything that looks like fun now and keep sampling anything that looks interesting.

Any decisions you make now, will probably not be valid in four or five years anyway.

[Knowing a lot of science and math is good too, even if you are just writing code. You never know when you might apply something to some code.]
Re: What makes a programmer more desirable to employers? (response to post by redmonkey) | Reply
LOL Accountant ! SNORE. They probably think the same thing, programming is boring. I know because I took accounting classes in highschool. You're making me doubt myself, but yes I want to be a programmer. I could live, breathe, sleep with my programming books. It's fun and I get into flow. I imagine I would be happy if it was my profession for the next 10 years and If I didn't maybe I could become a project manager or start a business related to programming or some other interest like the stock market. I do have limited life experience, you're right, I gotta keep my eyes and options open. Maybe I won't like programming 10 years from now or I'll find something better.

I like that project, combining math, traffic and physics. I use to have a huge interest in the stock market, perhaps I'll do something with that.I guess I'll keep on doing contests and try a little bit of everything else.
Thanks for all the advice amitz.sekali, Orange_Cloud and Rustyoldman.
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