Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Advice to New Programmers, Part I

I was talking to someone who was a professor of Management Information Systems at a local university not too long ago.  We were talking about his students and how they would do at their first jobs.

Now, I have quite a bit I can say on the subject of new programmers and mistakes they tend to make, most of which I know from having made them myself and taken the consequences.  But I'll spare you that (for now) and just list some books that young programmers ought to read:

The Programmer's Survival Guide, by Janet Ruhl.  This is over 20 years old, and much of what it says about the IT environment is extremely dated.  Network management and web page design had barely been conceived when this was written.  Nonetheless, the advice on legacy code, legacy people, getting along with your peers, and relating to management is still quite sound.   Ms. Ruhl has since written The Computer Job Survival Guide, which I have not read, but which supposedly has updated advice.

Games Mother Never Taught You, by Betty Lehan Harragan.  This was written, I was surprised to discover, back in 1977.  The world has changed (in spots) since then.  If you find the idea of office politics uncomfortable, this book can scare you to death: its tone is harsh, and the picture it paints an intimidating one.  But you still ought to read it.  Not all organizations work like the ones described in this book, and not all those that do are like that on the lower levels, where the programmers are.  But I've seen things in my career that only made sense in light of what this book teaches. 

Keep the Joint Running, a regular column by Bob Lewis of IT Catalysts.  Possibly the most sensible man currently writing about information systems (as opposed to pure programming), Lewis consistently gives good advice to both IT workers and business managers. He's entertaining as well as insightful, and leaves you with the sense that you've both gained something useful and learned to see a little more clearly.

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