Introduction to Programming 000

Quite some time ago, I went to college for Computer Science degree. I knew that I wanted to provide for a family, that I didn’t want to perform a job with a lot of manual labor, and that doctors and lawyers would fit the bill. But I also knew that I was good with computers, I’d hacked a few games after all. I’d even written a few programs. In fact, the first one I ever “wrote” I can still provide from memory.

10 print Hello World
20 goto 10

But let me get into what this post is really about. An introduction to the world of programming. Currently, I’m teaching my son 6th grade math. It’s introducing him to Algebra. Algebra is cool. It makes math useful, repeatable even. It’s kind of what programming does. The first things you learn in school are definitions, terminology, the words, and what they mean. That way you can communicate with everyone else that learns about the same subject. Without further ado, let me introduce you to some common concepts of programming.

Operators

Just like 6th grade math, you need operators to do anything. Consider 2+2. It equals 4. That’s what your 1st grade teacher taught you. The ‘+‘ sign is the most important piece here. It is the operator. It tells you what to do with the things around it. There are lots of operators out there. Most of the ones you learned in Math apply. And there are few other special operators – but we need to cover other items before we introduce them.

Variables

Leaning back on algebra, variables are representational. They can vary in what they represent. For example, if we say x is a variable, and we have an equation x+1=2, we know that the x variable is 1. Or, if we say, the total is x+1, we can set x to a certain number, say 2, and know that the total is 3. Variables are a huge part of programming. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to record the result of operations. Now, speaking of operations, one of the special operators, is the assignment operator.

In many languages, the assignment operator is notated by the = sign. In other languages, it is a combined => symbol. An example of an assignment operation, would be as follow.

x = 10+2

if we were to print the value of x, it would say 12.

Types

Unlike Algebra, programming variables can be different types. This is because, different things need to be tracked in a computer. In algebra, you’re just tracking numbers. Examples of different types are:

  • integer
  • boolean
  • string
  • object
  • float

An analogy would be something like measurements. If you try to measure flour for a cookie recipe, and you use 2 tablespoons instead of cups – or – you used 2 grams instead of 2 cups – you end up with goop (I know from experience, goop doesn’t taste good). And for this reason, programming languages use types. Keeping track of a of number is an integer. Keeping track of someone’s name, well, that’s a string, and keeping track of your next door neighbor and their email address (is creepy) but that group of types, that’s an object.

Differences between Programming languages

I’m not going to cover a lot on different programming languages at this time. Just know they are out there. A lot of the core principles are the same, or similar, even if the terminology is different. This is because the C programming language became an effective way for programmers to convey ideas. If you’re into language history, think of it as the ‘Latin’ of the programming world in that a lot of other languages stem from it.

Next step

At this point, I’m going to recommend downloading Golang and finding a text editor or IDE. Because eventually, we’ll get started on using some of these concepts in an actual application. Once you’ve gotten an IDE – head on over to Program 1: Build a simple text bot!

5 Interview tips for the Developer Culture Fit

I’ve seen a lot of articles about missing out on jobs because someone wasn’t a culture fit. Older developers think it is because of age discrimination. Younger developers think they don’t have enough experience. Minorities blame it on being a minority, and the same for special interest groups, and don’t forget Gender discrimination. Naturally, that’s what’s at fault. Well, except for a few scenarios… I call hogwash! Poppycock. Etc. You didn’t get the job, because you weren’t a good fit. But there is hope. Here are 5 ways to understanding culture fit and land a job where you’ll fit right in (pun intended).

Soft Skills

Depending on where you are in your career, you may or may not have heard of soft skills. Soft skills are a collection of empathy related abilities tied to Emotional Intelligence.  I cannot emphasize enough how important soft skills are to get ahead. I’ve seen incredibly talented individuals get stuck in their career, or even fail completely at a company because they couldn’t relate to the people around them, or their direct supervisor.

Take myself, for example, I had a huge problem with being passive aggressive. I didn’t know what it was until someone sarcastically called me out on it. I had to go lookup what it meant, and then I apologized to the individual. As I became more aware of the problem in myself, I was much more easily able to recognize it in others. It spurred a desire to understand my coworkers better – because I had come to realize the importance of teamwork, and how to maximize the teamwork.  Now – I’m by no means perfect – and I’m still learning more about this all the time.

If you are not familiar with soft skills, take some time to read through some quick posts online – or find a self help book. I can guarantee it will improve your ability to tell if you’re a good culture fit before your interviewer! Which in turn will enable you to present yourself as a good culture fit. Or decide you didn’t want that job anyhow.

Quit Complaining!

Nobody likes a quitter complainer! Ever had that coworker that just couldn’t catch a break, or that linked in contact that could never land that job they were after, or the friend that just didn’t like their situation? Well, even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard complaining, or participated in it yourself. Complaining is annoying! Complaining, even on a public form, can work against you in the hiring process. Over 70% of people I’ve interviewed I needed to reject, because they were used to complaining about a bad manager, team, or coworker – they couldn’t focus enough to identify what they could do differently. 

If you’re guilty of too many complaints – try to take some time and focus on yourself as the problem in the situations.  Maybe, there’s more to the situation then you realized.  If anything, reducing the amount you complain everyday will improve your interview skills. 

Introspection

The concept of introspection has been around for a long time. See Know Thyself . Just because the concept is old, doesn’t mean that it is easy. And in the concept of a developer interview – it means something more entirely. I’ll use a couple of examples here to make this a little more obvious, if not exaggerated.

Let’s start with Gary. Gary is fresh out of college, and has been applying at startups and large companies but can’t seem to land the job. He’s never had an internship, but was one of the top achievers in his university. He’s extremely confident he can solve any problem or fill any roll given the opportunity. Gary flies through interviews, he’s got no problem with the technical challenges – and the questions he’s asked don’t seem to be a problem. He can’t figure out why they told him no. What do you think might be his problem?

Larry is another interviewee.  He’s much more senior then Gary, he’s had a good number of positions as different companies over the years, but now, he feels older and has grown frustrated as jobs that were once easy for him to land now turn him down on culture fit of all things. A typical interview goes pretty much how he remembers them all going. Except now, he’s able to fill in the blanks of how exactly he’d solve that problem he saw a few years back. Later he finds out he wasn’t a good culture fit. Why would Larry be having a problem getting a role he’s clearly qualified for?

Going back to Gary, A problem I’ve seen in myself, and about 10% of candidates I’ve interviewed (disclaimer: I don’t interview junior roles frequently). Was that I had a brilliant candidate that couldn’t figure out where they’d made a mistake. Asking them to describe projects, or projects with team members – they had no fault in anything they didn’t.  Gary didn’t understand what he was doing wrong. He hadn’t learned to be introspective.

Larry, on the other hand, had a significant amount of introspection. HE knew when he’d made mistakes in the past, and could draw on his wealth of knowledge to solve problems, especially using them for questions in interviews.  What Larry failed to recognize in himself, is that he was getting older – yet he was interviewing like he was fresh out of college, or worse – had a complaint mindset. A younger interviewer is often na├»ve – willing to work excessive hours – more likely to argue from passion then experience – and attuned to learn new things.  Whereas someone with a few years experience is much more likely to argue from a position of experience, and less attuned to learn new things, when after all, the previous way of doing things worked just fine. The best tip for Larry, would be to understand himself as an experienced individual, own that, and then be passionate about new things. Show an online course, a Github repo, or something else in that manner.

There’s a lot to cover on introspection – and I’m no expert – I probably even offended someone with the two examples and my conclusions. Hopefully I didn’t.

Be Politely Passionate

90% of interviewees I’ve had – I’ve known within 2 minutes if the person was passionate. If they weren’t – that meant I wasn’t hiring them. Naturally, the interview would continue, and I would try to prod passion from the interviewee, coax it out even.  In that remaining 10%, I’d say only 1% of them actually proved me wrong.

On top of being passionate, be polite. If you’re passionate to the point where you are interrupting the interviewer, maybe you need to check yourself, that’s right – use some introspection – and some soft skills, and be passionate – but not at the expense of the interviewer.

Ask Questions

One of the worst interviews I gave, was where the interviewee had no questions for me. They didn’t even try to think of any. To me, it came of as if they didn’t care. Needless to say, they would not have been a good culture fit. It’s hard to be a passionate candidate if you don’t have any questions – stall for time if you need to – say something like, “Well, you covered a lot of information about the job – could you tell me more about the commute?”.  Just asking a simple question like that shows how much you’ve been paying attention – and increases your engagement level. 

Summary

Remember – if you’re at the point where your actually talking to someone – be it face to face or over the wire – you are actually talking to someone. That person is getting a first impression of you. That impressions will make or break your interview process.

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