Are you a professional programmer or not turned out to be one of the most important questions anyone ever asked me. It was life changing. For years I led a successful career as a professional application developer back in the days when most of the work focused on xBase languages like Ashton-Tate's dBase III, Clipper or FoxPro. I was working as a consultant at JP Morgan Bank on Wall Street in New York City. My assignment was to serve as a senior developer on a huge project team that created and deployed a real-time foreign exchange (forex) trading system for currency traders in New York and London. The project lasted three years.
One day our new project manager called me into his office and asked me to write a Lotus Notes application. I had never even seen Lotus Notes, let alone have the programming knowledge to write an application. I respectfully declined the assignment citing those reasons. That's when he asked me the question. Perhaps it was pride, perhaps some other emotion I felt at that point, I don't remember. What I do remember is answering emphatically, "Of course I am!" So he responded, "Then write me an application in Lotus Notes. I'll give you six weeks." The application he requested was to track issues and bugs for our newly deployed trading system. I delivered it in five weeks. One week ahead of schedule.
That incident gave me the confidence to know I can program in any language or on any platform that I set my mind to; and I've proven it over and over again. Since then I've written applications in C, C++, C#, .NET, ASP, PHP, PERL, Java, SmallTalk, and the common web languages. Not too shabby for starting from teaching yourself BASIC on a Timex Sinclair 1000. Today, after an eight year hiatus from hands-on coding while I served in corporate IT leadership, I'm back at it, but for myself this time. I've been doing a lot of work writing a companion application for my book in Java for the Android market. At some point, I shall port it over to the Apple platform as well. I've also been doing a lot of web work in the LAMP stack. I have six web domains online for different purposes. You're reading this post on one of them. And I'll probably have a couple more up early next year. If you don't know what the LAMP stack is, it is an acronym for Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP.
The point I want to make is that if I could do it, anyone can do it as well. If you know how to program in any language, don't be afraid to try a new platform if the opportunity crosses your path. Programming is programming. There are only so many ways to write loops and branches. Syntax is easy to pickup and I find it remarkable how similar many of the object-oriented languages are today in their structure. So let me ask you, "Are you a professional programmer or not?"