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flubbernugget

Programming Project that Would Look Good on a Resume

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Just another "I learned x language, now what?" thread, but with a slight twist. I want to start programming in a way that, if I get REALLY lucky, could land me a job before I have to transfer to a University and let the serious debt start adding up.

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Read about foundational computer science subjects like data structures and algorithms, computer organization, database management systems design, etc. Knowing the syntax of a particular language and being a knowledgeable computer programmer are two different things.

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C++ is a good one to have a general grounding in, but these days you might as well go straight for Java or something .NET, as most jobs I've looked at in the past two years want SQL, PHP, something like C# or VB .NET and... Well, somebody who can turn their hand to anything. It seems rare that just one language for doing just one thing is asked for, in my experience.

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I think that any programming project would look good on your resume. I think it helps the most, better than just claiming that you're good on a programming language or skill.

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Phobus said:

It seems rare that just one language for doing just one thing is asked for, in my experience.


Precisely that. What "sells" today is actually experience in a complete software/solution stack or framework, not knowledge of a single programming language, even if you are that language's Guru (in which case, you'd be better off writing a book about it than searching for random jobs). In addition, certain languages today pretty much tie you to specific industries or sectors.

For example, just "Java" won't get you far today, nor is it very likely to land a job where Java is used for e.g. desktop apps development: Java today is used almost exclusively as a server-side language powering web applications, so being a "Java developer" almost automatically means you're a "Web developer", too. If you don't want to get your hands dirty in that way, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.

Java in particular is not a good choice for one wishing to learn a language that's also marketable on its own: you must always learn some other specific framework or solution stack, be it some persistence framework (e.g. Hibernate), a MVC framework like Struts or GWT, Oracle databases and of course a lot of the Web 2.0 crap that comes with them (LAMP, Javascript, XML, etc.), and almost always you'll need parallel knowledge of at least one scripting language like Python, PHP, Perl, etc. And if you don't feel up to it, don't worry: the competition (about 100.000.000 Indian script kiddies) are ready to take your place.

Similarly with Microsoft, learning just VB or C# won't get you far today: you need more "web orientation" by coupling it with ASP, ASP.NET, perhaps a framework like Azure or Sharepoint and whatever administrative tools those use.

Even "hardcore" languages like C/C++ are unlikely to "sell" on their own: you would still need some specialization e.g. games, embedded systems, system programming, desktop apps, Win32 API, Linux LSB, etc.

The only case where just the (good) knowledge of a single programming language may be a marketable asset (and even grant some job security) on its own, today, would be good knowledge of a niche language like Matlab, R, Delphi, Fortran or Cobol, in shops that still use them for whatever reason (my latest job involves a company whose flagship product is written in Fortran, for instance, and programmers with any knowledge, let alone skill in the language are few and far between). And even then, you might also need some other skill like e.g. a degree in science or engineering to go with it.

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I remember there was a year or two where employers really wanted Ruby on Rails. Otherwise, PHP + SQL. Oh and Arm, so you can make apps, but most apps are just made in India. Actionscript 3 can be converted into Arm.

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Again, don't make the mistake of focusing on a "language that sells", bur rather, a sector that sells. Game development, e-commerce, financial applications, web development, website design etc. you must make a choice of sector and learn ALL the necessary tools for that sector, keeping in mind that things may change further down the road, even within a single sector.

Focusing on a single language only makes sense if:

  • Your job is teaching that language.
  • Your job is writing books/documentation about that language.
  • You are a novice programmer, and you're using it as a "didactic language", but that opens even more cans of worms, and ideally you should cross-train with other languages and/or frameworks.
  • You plan on working in a sector/industry which revolves around one specific language (hint: those tend to be non-mainstream or too specialized)

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I agree with Maes that it's more about sectors.
Can't say how it is in other countries, but here in Denmark you can make a solid living and get plenty of job offers if you know C#, JavaScript, Webservices/WCF Servies & ASP.NET alongside working against a database either through sql queries or the Entity Framework (or similar tech). This shows that you can fetch data, process it, send it via a service, display it neatly on a web page, edit it, send it back over the service and update the database. Generally speaking, these abilities will cover 90% of what you need to do in a lot of positions.

From there you can easily expand to other areas like Sharepoint, but also interfacing with stuff like SAP/SAP PI or Biztalk

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Even then, the problem is that you may "know" all of these things but lack experience in using them together to form a coherent whole, or lacking one or two specialized things required on top of them (aka: relevant job experience). E.g. you may have a textbook knowledge of C# and databases and played around with a framework for shits and giggles, but that doesn't mean you're ready to start a lucrative career even as a Junior Web Developers/DBAdmin somewhere: there's also a certain je ne sais quoi that you need to have to convince a prospective employer. Previous job experience certainly does the trick, otherwise you need a hands-on project demonstrating competency in putting everything together. Even if it's some webapp w/db you made to e.g. manage your personal comic collection.

But yeah, the current IT employment/job market trends are all about "soft" and "enterprise" stuff like databases, web services, ERP, social media, business computing, e-commerce etc. etc. and there's no single language or framework which covers it all, so you need to be competent in at least 20 current buzzwords :-)

There are some newly-cut niches like mobile development, as well as more "nuts & bolts" industry niches like system, telco, embedded etc. development, but they certainly lack the glamour of a facebook programmer putting some tweets in a database ;-)

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Things to include: anything that nobody will ever shut up about - JavaScript, especially jQuery or Node.js if you know them, ASP.NET, .NET in general, C#. Mobile APIs, especially GLES programming.

Things that will make you a pariah: C, C++, MFC, Java if anything OTHER than J2EE w/extensive database experience. Regular OpenGL - nobody uses that shit any more right?!

Things that are a total tossup: SQL - tout it if the job asks for it. Hide it like you'd hide a shriveled up arm if you notice even the slightest hint that this is a NoSQL shop.

The paradoxical situation is that they want people who appear to be about 20 years old yet have 10-20 years of "real world" experience. If you weren't a wizkid running an IIS server out of your bedroom when you were 10, you're probably SOL in the current job market apparently.

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Okay, so I probably worded my first post wrong. I have learned a handful of languages and want to do something more with them. My first instinct is game development, but the only income that would land me is freelance/entrepreneur money. What other things could I look to program that would look better on a resume than for example, another asteroids clone? I need ideas to start learning programming concepts and API's that would directly help me in the programming labor market.

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Quasar said:

The paradoxical situation is that they want people who appear to be about 20 years old yet have 10-20 years of "real world" experience. If you weren't a wizkid running an IIS server out of your bedroom when you were 10, you're probably SOL in the current job market apparently.

I noticed this last year when I was in the jobs market - they were offering low wages and asking the world. Hell, half the people they were asking for simply don't exist, especially for 18-25 grand a year. I had one company set me a ridiculously hard test project in a language I'd never used before, combining with software only tangentially related to what was on my CV and expecting skills I didn't have, just to see if I could learn it all in a week. Needless to say, fuck that.

It's like they know people are unemployed, but expect us all to train up in our spare time and bring relevant experience... Still, they'll learn eventually, when they're relying on incredibly high cost contractors who flit away as soon as bigger money is available. They have to offer training and make this ideal employee they seem to be after.

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Shaviro said:

I agree with Maes that it's more about sectors.
Can't say how it is in other countries, but here in Denmark you can make a solid living and get plenty of job offers if you know C#, JavaScript, Webservices/WCF Servies & ASP.NET alongside working against a database either through sql queries or the Entity Framework (or similar tech). This shows that you can fetch data, process it, send it via a service, display it neatly on a web page, edit it, send it back over the service and update the database. Generally speaking, these abilities will cover 90% of what you need to do in a lot of positions.

From there you can easily expand to other areas like Sharepoint, but also interfacing with stuff like SAP/SAP PI or Biztalk


I guess i'll go to live in Denmark!

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Damnit, why is Microsoft with their .NET so popular?! Doesn't that limit one to the proprietary and costly Windows servers? [assumption warning]

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flubbernugget said:

What other things could I look to program that would look better on a resume than for example, another asteroids clone?

Spongsteroidtris Invalandernoids.

Success guaranteed. It will become the most addictive game ever. Billions of humans starve and dehydrate to death as they play the game.

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People said:

Job hunt related

About a month or so ago, I almost managed to land a job with a software company in Virgina. When I say, "almost", they strung me around for two weeks telling me they were trying to arrange an interview, and the e-mail never came. :/

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Quasar said:

Things that will make you a pariah: C, C++, MFC, Java if anything OTHER than J2EE w/extensive database experience. Regular OpenGL - nobody uses that shit any more right?!

Why the hell would good, solid and reliable languages like C or C++ make a potential employee undesirable?

Should I try to get a college education to develop my skills as a programmer or am I too screwed to get a job in any IT sector?

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Sodaholic said:

Should I try to get a college education to develop my skills as a programmer or am I too screwed to get a job in any IT sector?

That's what I would like to know. I'm going to study at IT university. I've learned C++ only by myself at a primary school already. Later at high school, education of programming was basic and easy for me. I'm very familiar with the logic and principles of programming, they seem natural to me in the way I think. However I've never really practiced, got further experienced, or programmed something actually useful. :|

Sorry, I've just considered saying this as relevant to the thread. I cannot provide any advice or experience. More likely, I'll take it from reading the thread, so I'm glad that "programming knowledge in practice and in market" is discussed here.

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printz said:

Damnit, why is Microsoft with their .NET so popular?! Doesn't that limit one to the proprietary and costly Windows servers? [assumption warning]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems

Currently working with Windows Embedded Standard 2009 and damn am I glad I don't have to mess around with some ARM running some ridiculous vendor specific Linux.

While the things I'm doing I could do just as well with Qt 4.8 as with .NET 3.5, my colleague who's writing touchscreen apps can't even imagine moving from WPF to Qt Designer or whatever.

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Quasar said:

Things to include: anything that nobody will ever shut up about - JavaScript, especially jQuery or Node.js if you know them, ASP.NET, .NET in general, C#. Mobile APIs, especially GLES programming.

Things that will make you a pariah: C, C++, MFC, Java if anything OTHER than J2EE w/extensive database experience. Regular OpenGL - nobody uses that shit any more right?!

Things that are a total tossup: SQL - tout it if the job asks for it. Hide it like you'd hide a shriveled up arm if you notice even the slightest hint that this is a NoSQL shop.

The paradoxical situation is that they want people who appear to be about 20 years old yet have 10-20 years of "real world" experience. If you weren't a wizkid running an IIS server out of your bedroom when you were 10, you're probably SOL in the current job market apparently.


Add XML as well - many companies use it.

C#, .NET, ASP.NET, Javascript, XML and SQL are all highly recommended. The best recommendation I can give is to get a paid internship (if you can).

VB.NET is a plus. It's also used within ASP.NET. Of course, the more you know of any language, the better. Each language has a purpose. Even Brainfuck.

ASP.NET comes in two flavors: Regular and MVC. I don't know much about regular but I have been using MVC for pretty much everything.

I started programming at 16 and got my first full time job at 22 and internship at 18. I don't work in a city known for tech and got a job within 3 months of looking. Been there for 2 1/2 years.

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Stygian said:

Read about foundational computer science subjects like data structures and algorithms, computer organization, database management systems design, etc. Knowing the syntax of a particular language and being a knowledgeable computer programmer are two different things.

This is good advice; however, it's worth stressing that reading books won't make you a good programmer.

Sodaholic said:

Should I try to get a college education to develop my skills as a programmer or am I too screwed to get a job in any IT sector?

Certainly get a college education, but don't assume that education will "develop your skills as a programmer".

You will only learn to program effectively by programming.

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fraggle said:

This is good advice; however, it's worth stressing that reading books won't make you a good programmer.

Certainly get a college education, but don't assume that education will "develop your skills as a programmer".

You will only learn to program effectively by programming.


Last sentence is really all that matters. Books can get you 5% of the way there. You have to actually write code to be able to write code well. It's like anything else in life.

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Pure Hellspawn said:

Add XML as well - many companies use it.

Well XML is just a data storage or design mark-up language. Nothing to be scared of complexity-wise.

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Sodaholic said:

Why the hell would good, solid and reliable languages like C or C++ make a potential employee undesirable?


Because C/C++ makes you think of some 60-yo UNIX guru dinosaur:



or some IT dungeon dweller caricature from the 80s:



writing code in arcane languages and platforms nobody cares about.

While Spring/XML/JScript/jQuery etc. make you think of more fancy and glamorous buzzwords that sell, like "e-commerce", "service-oriented architecture", "value added services", "rich internet applications", "e-shop", "ERP", "social media" etc.

More cynically, there's more demand for the latter than for the former types. The majority of "programmers" today actually work on some specialized sub-sub-sub-sub-branch of "web development", while the demand for system software, desktop apps etc. is much reduced and considered secondary (and of course it also offers fewer jobs).

In other words, they prefer this:



over this:


Quasar said:

The paradoxical situation is that they want people who appear to be about 20 years old yet have 10-20 years of "real world" experience. If you weren't a wizkid running an IIS server out of your bedroom when you were 10, you're probably SOL in the current job market apparently.


You'd be surprised (or not?) to learn that there were (and are) actually such kids, so bona fide I'd say that's what those jobs ads are really aiming for. Either that, or some sort of "creative accounting" is applied when calculating YOEs (Years Of Experience).

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Pretty sure it's just the young ones who claim they know c++ when they don't, who are being derided.

Also I don't see the problem with the current state of programming job demands. Your talents are still rewarded, you still need to build robust, efficient software, no matter the framework. If it feels boring, it means you're doing repetitive work, which means you lack scripting skills and are a slow worker.

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printz said:

you still need to build robust, efficient software, no matter the framework


That's just as a dead letter as the "best practice guidelines" that said that every AJAX application should have a pure HTML fallback. Other then Google's gmail, when was the last time you saw anybody truly giving two shits about it? If you want to see what "robustness" and "efficiency" mean today, try seeing how much memory Farmville consumes in Facebook ;-)

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They still shouldn't crash. And if you're allowed to get away without that, great! Less stress.

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printz said:

They still shouldn't crash.


Well, the apps themselves maybe not, they can't "crash" in a traditional sense of causing segfaults or stack overflows, as they run in a sandboxed VM where everything (?) is under control. OTOH, the browser VM's running them can ;-) But yeah, technically, it's not the app that crashes, but the VM needing more awesome (e.g. Chrome instead of Mozilla). Go figure :-p

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If it doesn't crash, but throws all manner of errors, quitting everything while the user swears, well that's also something to be avoided :p

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