I have talked to some people in the field that said that they wanted to be computer programmers because they just found computer programs and their languages so fascinating that they wanted to dedicate their lives to unpacking them as often as possible. Most of the people who I addressed on the subject gave me a strange look and then mumbled something about money and job opportunities. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that money and job opportunities motivate most programmers to get started and to get finished even when the going is rough.
I don’t think that this is a bad thing: we all need to eat, even sedentary programmers, and sedentary programming is certainly a ticket to a life of no hunger. However, I like to look on the bright side a little more when I’m thinking about this subject, and I think that one of the great things about learning programming and working in programming is the simple fact that it gives you so much flexibility.
I work for a huge company with regular paychecks and benefits, because that’s the sort of lifestyle that works for me. I’ve gotten a few promotions, and I rose through the ranks. However, if I wanted to quit tomorrow in order to start a freelance career as a programmer, I could do it and I would automatically have all of the skills that I needed.
You can do all sorts of jobs freelance on the Internet these days, and some people seem to make all of their money by doing what used to be known as odd jobs on the Internet. The thing is, if you’re a programmer of some stripe, half of those jobs are going to be for you in one way or another. There’s a certain satisfaction in going on a freelance job board and knowing just how much people want your skills.
There’s also the fact that programming is one of the most useful skills that an entrepreneur can have. Obviously, networking and marketing are going to trump programming any day in the business world, which is full of rich people who know people better than they will ever know computers, even if computers and people merge at some point. However, if you can program your own website or your own software or both, there are so many business opportunities open to you as a result.
Almost anything that you can imagine can be coded using your skills, which should make a huge difference for the people who want to start their own businesses at some point and just haven’t settled on a plan yet. You don’t need to have your plan figured out yet: you just need to have the skills that will actually allow you to execute that plan. It’s hard to go wrong with computer programming in any language. If you’re young and you’re not sure that you know what to do with your life, I recommend learning programming. It will keep your options open and create new options for you.