What Was Your First Programming Job Like?

Written By John Sonmez

In this episode, I talk about my first programming job.

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Full transcript:

John:               Hey, John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com. I’ve gotten this question a few different times. I don’t actually—I’m not actually reading an email because it’s a pretty basic question. I thought I would answer this here which is: What was your first programming job like?

So, my first programming job. I have to—there’s a couple of different jobs I had that could be considered my first programming job. I started off doing testing because I couldn’t get a programming job and then I eventually transitioned over to working on a team where I was basically working on a very small amount of programming while doing testing. I won’t really call that my first programming job. I think that was probably—it wasn’t really my first programming job.

My first real programming job I remember this pretty distinctly. I was living in Boise Idaho and I was making like, I think it was like around 20 bucks an hour working for HP in my—in that quasi programming job and I got this call from a recruiter in Sta. Monica, California and it was to work at a contract at Xerox and they were going to pay me $75 an hour. I was 19 at that time and was like, “Okay, yes, sign me up. Where can I—I’ll get in my car and I’ll be down there tomorrow.”

In the interview for the job and on the interview for the job this was kind of during the .com craze. The person who interviewed me basically just asked me some very basic questions about C++. They didn’t even ask me technical questions. They just asked me if I had experience and if I knew anything about C++ and if was comfortable working on such and such project and of course they said yes and I pretty much got the job like in a 10-minute interview for—if you can imagine at 19 for $75 an hour job which was way, way more—it was over triple what I was making before.

I went down to Sta. Monica and I remember as I was—like the week before I started the job I was furiously reading through a C++ book because I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t deserve the job. This is a lesson to learn, a mistake that I made is when I did get the job, when I finally started the job I still had no clue what I was doing. Instead of really learning I was sort of just kind of getting by and I wasn’t really learning much. It was kind of an interesting job because I think they just hired a lot of contractors without really knowing—evaluating their skills. I definitely didn’t deserve the job at that time. I tried my best but with my limited knowledge I didn’t accomplish very much and I didn’t continue to learn at that time. That was a big lesson for me.

So during this .com craze for the next 6 months or I guess it was a year everything was good. I was getting this ridiculous paycheck for basically not even doing much work because there wasn’t even much work to do and I didn’t know what I was doing. I should have been using that time to develop my skills but I felt like I was on the gravy train and I had sort of backed off learning and then all of a sudden I got let go, a bunch of contractors let go as the .com thing started to come to an end. I was left scrambling.

Once I found that I was getting let go I basically started studying very hard and started getting my skills ready for another job and things worked out. But yeah, that was my first real programming job and there was, like I said, few—yeah, I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve to get that job, I didn’t know what I was doing but I learned an important lesson from that job which was basically, you know, if you try and—if you’re going to fake it ‘til you make it, you actually have to make it at some point, you can’t just fake it. I was just trying to fake it there and I wasn’t actually learning.

I could have used that opportunity to actually perfect my skills, to actually be worthy of that job but instead I chose to goof off and I chose to just take things for granted and just assumed that things were going to be that way. The only thing I learned from that was that just being smart wasn’t enough. I felt like I got the job for “being smart” but I didn’t actually have the skills or knowledge that was necessary to keep doing that job.

I had a bit of a struggle after that but I eventually found my way. I started becoming a lot more studious, a lot more devoted to learning and improving my craft and then I actually got good, but yeah, that was my first programming job. For all of you that have been asking me about that that was it and if you have a question for me just email me at john@simpleprogrammer.com and I will talk to you next time, take care.