The Importance of Staying Fluent

Many career programmers are lazy. Perhaps not with their code, but they can certainly be lazy in a company that makes them comfortable. I have a job that could certainly do that to me. Every day I am expected to work on the web in languages like PHP and ASP with a dash of JavaScript here and there. But what about my knowledge of desktop programming? What about VB, C++ and C#? Unfortunately my company does not want those skills. However, that is not a good enough reason to let those skills rust!

Another trait programmers have is falling in love. Falling in love you ask? Yes, we love our code and what it can do for us. We usually fall in love with one style of programming and one language above the others. This is because it is familiar and again, comfortable. It really is a struggle to make sure you stay on top of the programming world of other languages. Each week I try to dabble in a little bit of each language. When it comes to an idea for a program I also ask myself “Should I code this in C#? I haven’t done that language in awhile, maybe I should do the project in that just to make sure I haven’t forgotten how to do it.”

Many of you programmers are probably saying to yourself “oh I don’t have to worry about losing my skills, once you program in one language for awhile going to the others is like riding a bike, I can pick it back up again in a matter of a few days.” Don’t let this mind set fool you! Just the other day I decided to code a quick listbox in VB.NET and had forgotten the proper way to loop through its choices using a for loop. Needless to say I actually had to crack open a book and look it up. Of course once I saw it I felt stupid since it came to memory before I even finished the second sentence. It is very easy to forget such things when your focus is on another syntax.

If I can give you one important piece of advice it is too stay fluent with every language you know. Try to code the same thing in one or two languages. Maybe find something online that is coded in Java and see if you can do it in C#. You can expand your mind and your skill set instead of letting them rot. You don’t want to wake up and be asking yourself “They asked me how to code this project in C++…. now where did I place that beginners book?”

About The Author

Martyr2 is the founder of the Coders Lexicon and author of the new ebooks "The Programmers Idea Book" and "Diagnosing the Problem" . He has been a programmer for over 18 years. He works for a hot application development company in Vancouver Canada which service some of the biggest telecoms in the world. He has won numerous awards for his mentoring in software development and contributes regularly to several communities around the web. He is an expert in numerous languages including .NET, PHP, C/C++, Java and more.