How To Become A Professional Programmer

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If you ask me what are my plans for the coming years, you can be sure of one consistent direct answer -- To move into the enterprise applications development space. In short, I plan to become a programmer who builds and sells applications to businesses and business users.

Just as Reid Hoffman, the CEO of LinkedIn, said in his book -- The Startup of You -- have a plan A, have a plan B and finally have a plan Z. Plan A is that big goal that will revolutionize your entire life and business if you succeed; it is the plan you really want to make happen. Plan B is the plan you have much more luck in achieving and can fall back on. Plan Z is the no brainer that will sustain you if the other two plans are taking too long or plain failing.

For me, plan A is building an enterprise applications/solutions firm. A full B2B company.
Plan B is building a Business Data Analysis firm. Helping both companies and individuals with their data analysis needs.
Plan Z is doing Microsoft Excel training and consulting. It is the thing that I can easily make money from and do even in my sleep. All it takes from me is time. I do it effortlessly.

The real work has been in managing all these plans. I have now gotten plan Z all well set up. I now get constant stream of Microsoft Excel training and consulting opportunities that can keep me and my business breathing. And as regards plan B, I am expanding my toolset beyond Microsoft Excel and positioning myself as a well-rounded Business Data Analysis expert. And just recently I got a consulting role with an international training firm to handle their Business Analytics training in Nigeria and environs. But my big audacious goal (BAG) is to go full-time into the enterprise applications development space (plan A). To build products that I can sell to companies, charge annual license and make money while sleeping.

And to achieve that lofty goal I need to become a professional programmer. And I am glad to let you know that I am already 75% into completing that requirement. In fact, on my resume/profile I am going to put myself as a professional programmer.


So how can you become a professional programmer?
  1. If you google the term "professional programmer" you will get many diverging answers mostly from people who like to make everything look very hard. Programming is hard, no doubt, but not harder than other job skills. I believe public speaking is way harder than programming and I don't see public speaking experts making it look extremely tough, discouraging newbies. A professional programmer is someone who makes a sizeable chunk of his livelihood writing computer programs. And that's all. As long as you can write a program people are paying money for and you are earning a lot from doing that, then you are a professional programmer.
  2. Now that we have made clear the goal. Your first step would be to learn programming. To read books, watch tutorial videos and do some practice.
  3. Second step would be to tackle live projects -- yours or someone else's. Let people know about your programming ambition/skill. Take on projects, whether for free or fee. The goal is to become creative enough to figure out solutions without express guidance.
  4. Third step is to start charging for your solutions. Once you have done enough reading and practice, start charging for your programming jobs. Sign up on freelance sites, put it up on your blog and tell people within your network.
And that is how you become a professional programmer. Once you get to the last step, all it would take for you to become a sought-after expert would be time. As long as you keep putting in time doing valuable work and improving your skills through reading/tutorials, you will soon be as great as the programmers you read about.

I am currently at the next to the last stage. That is why I said I am 75% done.


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