How Jim got started programming

I was looking for a new major after deciding chemistry (and lab work in particular) probably wasn't for me. So I decided to try a few different classes, hoping to find something interesting…

I took an accounting, an economics, and a programming class. Luckily, I got hooked on programming instead of becoming an accountant.

How old were you when you started programming?

I took an introduction to programming college class when I was a sophomore in college, so 18 years old.

What was your first language?

Java

What languages have you used since you started programming?

  • Java
  • C++
  • Perl
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • C#
  • ColdFusion
  • VB 6.0
  • VB.NET
  • VBA
  • PHP
  • Ruby
  • Objective-C

What was the first real program you wrote?

Late in my sophomore year, I was fortunate and landed a job with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Urbana, IL. At this point, nearly all of the programming I had ever done were machine problems for my CS classes.

I was thrown into a whole new world of web programming, tasked with writing CGI scripts with this weird looking language called Perl. My first project was to write an application to disseminate groundwater data to Illinois residents visiting this site. This was all done using Perl to dynamically generate horrendous HTML.

What was your first professional programming gig?

Web developer for USGS

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

You don't know as much as you think you do. Even the best developers are constantly learning and working to improve their craft. To do this, you need to read about technologies that are new to you and then practice, practice, practice. You cannot limit your learning to between 9 and 5.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had programming?

It probably sounds passe by now, but the project that I and many of the 8th Lighters are currently working on has been the best professional experience I have ever had. Never have I worked with a group of people so concerned about the quality of the work and the success of the project.

Software is a people business, and working with great people makes even the most mundane tasks bearable and the most difficult challenges surmountable.

Jim Suchy, Director of Software Services

Jim Suchy is a developer, a zymologist, and a co-organizer of the Chicago Software Craftsmanship and Software Craftsmanship McHenry County user groups.