On programming and being a programmer

13.9.2017FranticReading time 10 min

Today, 13th of September 2017, is International Programmer’s Day. Each year, the Day of the Programmer is observed on the 256th day of the year (because “256” (28) is the number of distinct values that can be represented with an 8-bit byte, and 256 is the highest power of 2 that is less than 365, the number of days in a year.)

International Programmers’ Day celebrates the positive changes that programmers make to improve our everyday lives. At Frantic, our programmers also make our days on a regular basis. But how did they end up being programmers? What drives them? To give a voice to our developers, we asked a few coding-related personal questions.

How did you get in touch with coding in the first place?

Akseli: In high school we drew shapes on the screen and made wonderful random "music"  on a 386 PC.

Sean: Around 1998 I wanted to make a website about Pokémon and made an account on Angelfire, a free website building platform, to do so. There was an option on whether to use their ‘basic’ website creation tool, which was essentially a graphic user interface, or to use an ‘advanced method’, which was an HTML input interface. I figured I was technologically understanding enough to use the advanced method, clicked the conversion button, and almost immediately regretted my decision. Around the same time my sister was working on her own website, which was to showcase her lime green coloured car with its high-tech stereo (which later became my first car). She used to have an HTML book kicking around her efforts with stickers on various pages for useful things to know, such as which code could be used to display an image or make a hyperlink. I borrowed the book, learned some stuff, and things progressed.

Mikael: It was probably in the mid-'90s in elementary school, when I created my first website inspired by IT classes.

Claudia: When I was coding a basic HTML webpage about 3 years ago at school. Of course the first experience wasn't that great because errors occurred, and it took a while to learn debugging properly.

Paul: I started out coding as a hobby, learning HTML, CSS, JS, and PHP for fun. Then I decided to make it my full-time job – you may as well do something you enjoy, right? I loved being creative, but can’t draw to save my life, so the idea of being able to “create” a webpage using code and logic was really appealing to me.

Jutta: I started out in junior high school by making different kinds of fan pages. I didn’t consider it coding by then, though.

Alexis: At some point in my youth I spent too much time on my PC and noticed by accident that you can look at the source code of the websites you were browsing through. Before that I used to think that all code is super-secret, so I really loved that I could see behind the curtains all of a sudden! That was when I really wanted to understand how that sorcery worked…

How did you end up making it a profession?

Alexis: I think it began when I really hated how bad the website of my local music school looked and just tried to fix it. When I was done I went to the principal and told him I made a better version of his site and felt so cool when he was willing to pay for it. I figured it was a skill worth pursuing as it's fun, you're fixing stuff and you get paid for it.

Akseli: My classmate asked me one day if I’d come to work for a company, so I did.

Paul: Before becoming a developer I’d had many jobs - from waiting tables to building saunas - but never stayed doing the same job for more than a year (I get restless easily), so I decided to go ahead and self-study web development full time. It’s almost impossible to get restless when being a web developer since the industry is relatively new and it’s fast-paced-forever-changing – what’s hip/modern/best practice this year, is old news/redundant/legacy the next.

Santeri: Programming was fun as I enjoy problem-solving and logical thinking. Nothing beats the nirvana-kind of feeling after you manage to solve a difficult problem.

Eero: I liked the fact that by coding one can create awesome things that benefit a great amount of people.

Claudia: My dad was an entrepreneur so I had a strong interest in business but after realizing that without an eCommerce, website and all the other existing and upcoming technology, the business would not grow. I wanted to join the hype ride of tech so I started my information technology studies at Arcada. I have not regretted my decision because the learning never ends, even after you have become a developer.

Sean: I mostly just fell into it during a work term placement. I went to school to be a graphic designer, but during a work term placement I was doing website design and development as I had a previous, but small, experience with HTML and CSS. It seemed interesting enough so I continued on with it.

Mikael: I kind of stumbled into it. I studied media technology initially because I was interested in video/audio/photography/graphic design, but through my studies coding grew into a bigger interest than other subjects. I just simply liked creating things by coding and the problem-solving aspect, so naturally, it became a profession.

Why should one learn how to code?

Paul: You’ll never be unemployed [smiles]. You can branch out easily from a programmer background, so even if coding isn’t for you, you can easily step over to UX, analytics or something else data-related.

Mikko: I believe coding will be an essential part of the way of working in the future, one way or another. Coding develops logical reasoning and problem-solving skills. Also, few things give the same feeling of happiness when you succeed in solving something.

Akseli: I think coding is much like learning about a philosophy or a new language. It opens up a wider world.

Laura: Coding allows you to figure out new and useful things and it challenges you to think logically.

Sean: If one has an interest in creating digital applications in one way or another, then they should educate themselves in various ways to help move from an interest to activity. If they have no desire to code then they should maybe gravitate towards something more parallel with their interests.

Alexis: Because it's fun, really. You can have your first small successes after an astonishingly short amount of time spent learning. That's different from - let's say - learning an instrument, where you need to spend a lot of time to create something that's somewhat presentable.

Mikael: It’s possible to create things that really matter, which can be really rewarding.

Eero: Programming is the future. Understanding that will be necessary regardless of profession. But above all, coding is really rewarding and fun once you get past the difficulties in the beginning.

What’s new and interesting for you in your field/job at the moment?

Eero: Machine learning, which I’m currently studying.

Alexis: Right now I'm spending some time thinking about how to optimise coding together as a team, which is powerful but can also be challenging. Also fixing the web so that all people could use it is interesting, for instance figuring out accessibility and performance.

Jutta: It’s interesting to run into things to which there are no direct answers. In these cases, I get to think about how it should be solved. Luckily most of the problems are like this, as there are always several ways to make it happen. I like comparing and evaluating the options.

Paul: Hmm, automated testing is pretty cool. Also, I’ve started creating Chrome extensions to improve my workflow, they’re pretty easy to do and can be really powerful.

Mikko: During the past few years I’ve taken part in projects that require advanced skills in programming. It has been interesting to get to learn more and to apply new technologies in my work.

Sean: More recently I find it interesting to enhance projects to make them more accessible and usable for non-sighted users.

Akseli: How coding is merging with other fields of design. The tools we use are also getting better every year, never had a better time doing my job than now.

If you could program anything, what would it be?

Laura: An app for people who collect sneakers.

Jutta: Something really impressing and visual, it could be for example computer graphics or animations.

Paul: Maybe an app, one day. To be honest, I haven’t really thought about programming anything else beyond websites, Chrome extensions and backend server stuff. I guess if I had the time I would like to create a content management system, but that’s quite a job.

Alexis: I wouldn't think about what I want to code, more about what problem I could solve with some code. On the largest imaginable scale, it could be something that would help us understand global problems and conflicts. I can't solve any of those, but with that shared knowledge someone else might.

Santeri: Maybe an exoskeleton or some kind of a robot.

Mikael: Perhaps something to do with IoT (Internet of Things) that could be utilised in everyday life.

Akseli: Games are pretty much what I code in my free time… So more games.

What would you like to say to people who are interested in programming?

Claudia: Give it a shot. Go to Codecademy or other similar sites. It is worth it!

Jutta: Starting and trying it out is primarily really much fun! Nowadays there are a lot of coding schools and camps, so taking the first step has been made really easy.

Mikko: Start with the very basics and continue taking small steps. And when an opportunity comes your way, take a chance on it!

Laura: Be patient, even though you may not succeed the first time. And remember to enjoy it when you manage to solve a challenging problem. Happy coding!

Sean: Interests come and go. If you are interested in something you should make efforts for those interests in your life, which may shape or direct your future in ways you didn’t imagine it would or could go, be that through programming or otherwise. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that we have, so follow your interests.

Eero: I totally recommend it. Coding may take you to work in very interesting companies and to solve real problems. It might feel tricky in the beginning but is very rewarding the deeper you dive.

Paul: Do a sudoku. If you enjoyed it try solving a Rubik’s Cube (you can google the solution), if you did that, and still enjoyed it then try some Javascript. Being a web developer is good for logical people, but it can also satisfy creative types who can’t draw - like me.

Santeri: “If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again” - William Edward Hickson.

Alexis: Go ahead and play with code. Come up with a project you care about and start! And don't stress about not knowing enough, that feeling won't change anyhow, just continue writing and learning and enjoy the process. Just like life, I guess.

Mikael: If you like solving technical problems and constantly learning new things, try it out!

Akseli: Ask questions! This is probably the most important skill for a coder.

To join our crew, check out our open positions and get applying!

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