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Programmer´s Career

Started by Dave, Sun, 2 Oct 2011 04:46



I´m 28 years old and the life of a Weight and Balance controller is quite good but I want more. I´m about to get my Aircraft Mechanic license and I´ve been thinking: how would it be if I become, someday, somehow, an aviation-based programmer, just like Hardy? Millions of ideas came through my mind, specially with aviation personnel training (CBT´s and so on). That was good to think, so I come with the question: what is the first step to become a programmer? Do I still have the time to try it? I´m am not thinking about financial returns, yet. Hardy, can you give me some word on this? Sorry If I´m being immature.


David Oliveira


Approach #1: Discover an unexploited market niche, convince some investors (or get a day job), create a product, and market it, thereby doing the whole entrepreneurial thing.

Approach #2: Get the education you need, then apply for jobs with companies doing #1 (above).

Best of luck.  The field probably always has room for talented, passionate, and creative people.
Will /Chicago /USA


Hi Will,

Thanks for your advice. My concern is all that involves the education part. I´m a failure when talking about math, algebra and so on... But I believe it´s all about training and time, and a bit of talent on those subjects. Is it virtually impossible to succeed on programming without math skills or am I just guessing? What computer language should I learn first? Those are my concerns, for now.

David Oliveira

Hardy Heinlin

Hi Dave,

in my life so far, things went in this order:

First the idea, then the work, --  --  -- then the business.

Further keywords: Passion and patience.

Passion generates spontaneity which I find important to start something at all, -- and patience prevents from sloppy overspontaneity.

Find the perfect balance :-) Of course, passion and patience can't be commanded, they must come from your "inside".

I started programming when I was 28. That was also the time when I got my pilot license. Not a coincidence, I learned programming only to write flight simulator code :-)

Just my two cents, -- certainly not a universal reference.

Best wishes,


I'd start with Java.

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

(Hoppie gets coffee)

I have always been, and still am, notoriously bad at math. My mental calculation capacity is a mess, I am basically formula blind, and I don't get any form of excitement out of calculations, algebra, or proofs. My math grades were below acceptable levels at secondary school, at the bottom limit before hitting the ground at university.

However I have always been rather good in physics, chemistry, and all other "hard stuff". I have been building digital electronics since I was twelve, got my first computer at 17, and programmed Z80 machine code (in hex on a noteblock) two months later.

Hence I don't believe that traditional math skills are a requirement to do anything in programming. Yes, if you want to program mathematically complex stuff, it is going to haunt you, of course. But that ain't the only programming you can do!

Stupidly enough my whole academic career (MEng, PhD, postdoc, ...) I got stuck into that philosophical-mathematical logic inference world, trying to get out for 20 years and failing. I spent my spare time learning about more interesting topics, and developed a hobby around (simulated) avionics programming. No single formal education background in this -- what I knew, I learned by myself, and sometimes I followed courses that just got me an easy grade because I knew it already.

I never followed the "standard" in programming language or development environment, because I was too stubborn and wanted to stay away from dead end monopoly developments. This excluded me from shifting my career into "standard" programming, also known as "business" or "IT".

But I did publish my stuff on the internet, so that others could pick it up and enjoy.

And then, suddenly, I am on another continent, fixing up real 737 aircraft that contain avionics with bits and pieces of my own code already in there, following the same architecture, and generally I feel at home straight away.

Making such a career shift at 44 years old to me proves that you can do the same, without formal education, as long as you drag a chest of evidence around that you can do it.

Attitude and perseverance always win. Skill can be developed. Knowledge can be gained. The internet is a fantastic resource that enables all this.


Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Concerning the programming language: it is not the language that is the hard part. Most languages are fairly small and simple, with limited vocabulary.

The killer is the library of pre-cooked material that comes with the language. Java and .NET, the two biggies, come with a million things that are not part of the language, but create a complete environment or ecosystem around it. And it is this environment that determines by and large what you need to do, how you need to think. And, eventually, what you can and cannot do.

Personally I went with Tcl/TK around 1996 and I never had to change. Never? Well, I have done some stints in C, ok. But yes -- those 737s run tcl.


Garry Richards


Find an introductory course on programmming and try it. You will likely find that a magical world opens for you or that it is an impenetrable mystery.

Then you will know how to proceed.

Good luck.



Hey guys,

Thanks a lot for the tips. Now I have something to get started. Knowing that Hardy started his carrer at 28 years old was great, it gave me more confidence.

Garry,  that´s exactly what I´m going to do. I need some material to "feel" what I am about to work. Surely it will give me some vital indications for my final decision.

Hoppie, thanks for sharing your experience and all. All of those words are valuable information for me, at this moment.

I hope you guys don´t mind if I keep disturbing you with such questions from now on.

Thank you all!


David Oliveira

Phil Bunch

I'm not sure this reply is really on topic, but here's an interesting series of articles on being a programmer, etc, for a high-frequency stock trading company.  I can't figure what to make of this activity, which accounts for most of the volume on the major stock markets these days.  Trading stocks thousands of times per second is rather bizarre in some ways...

and for some comments plus author replies:

I personally think it would be better for most people, in most respects, to enjoy the pleasures of aviation-related programming!
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

In my very personal opinion, such an activity has less to do with being a programmer and much, much more with being an analyst. You need both, of course, but the analysis part is more important in this application than the programmer part. Not many people are both a brilliant analyst and a very strong technical programmer. Don't confuse these two skills.




perhaps a bit late in the game/thread, but this article (published today) may also be of interest. Do also have a look at the comments.

Furthermore, my own tip would be to also check which companies are "off-shoring" how many developer  jobs how fast to low-wage countries...
(Dept. where I was: ca. 60% already done, more to follow.)


John Golin

We have a major (multi-million dollar) software development happening in our company at the moment (.Net).

Most of the developers are from overseas, and the intention of the Applications department is to outsource and offshore more development as it is so much cheaper.
John Golin.

Phil Bunch

A perspective from the front lines of financial computing, which I found to be interesting:

I don't have any way to comment on the accuracy of this person's perspective but the situation described for programmers, etc, at large companies has a ring of truth to me, as a retiree from a large company.  While I worked in scientific programming, computer simulation, scientific data analysis, among other things, I needed to interact frequently with the central IT crowd (mostly to fend them off and prevent them from controlling how I did my work!).   I soon became so discouraged by attempting to use the central business computer systems for scientific purposes, and used as few as possible of their resources and hardware.  Yet I still wondered if a well-run, competitive engineering/scientific computing facility, as they have at the large national laboratories, wouldn't be a better way to get work done.  There is a lot of overhead in maintaining one's own computing environment for such work.   I guess it all depends on how efficient one is at acquiring and configuring one's computer.
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

It has always been a fierce struggle between the "administrative and financial" automation people and the "technical and scientific" people. The former want No Changes and No Users. The latter want freedom to solve the problems at hand. The former is run by the administration department and increasingly resides under the CFO, decreasingly the CIO. The latter is run by the engineering or research department and falls under the VP R&D.

Both sides are sufficiently different to be not mergeable, in my opinion. But cost-cutting people from admin always think that by moving engineering to standard Windows, they gain a few millions.

Don't get me started...


John Golin

I typed a long reply to hoppie, but to summarise - give IT the money and resources and they will LOVE to make you happy! :)  

Having sat on both sides of the fence, (and kind of stradling it these days!) it is VERY frustrating to have your hands tied by Legal, Financial and Security restraints imposed upon you.
John Golin.

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

I did not use the word "IT"!  I used CFO!    :-)

John Golin

Yeah - that's why I didn't post my original reply :)
John Golin.