Computer Programmer Career Interview
Jeff Lyons has been a computer programmer for 26 years, which has included running his own company and working at Dixie Electric Company (DEMC0). He is also the president and founder of the National Association of Computer Programmers.
Computer Programmer Career Path
What started out as a hobby for Jeff morphed into his lifelong career.
“I was working as a systems operator, and there’s a lot of idle time working in that field,” he says. “During those times, I started playing around with my computer, and soon enough I was self-taught in working with computer programming. I started working in the field, and then went back to college to get my degrees.”
Computer Programmer Experiences
Jeff attended Louisiana State University for his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree, both in management information systems (MIS). He earned these degrees while still working full-time as a computer programmer.
He started at Dixie Electric Corporation (DEMCO) in Louisiana as a systems operator, but as he taught himself, he switched to being a computer programmer there. He worked there until 1997 when he left to start his own company.
However, because of Hurricane Katrina, his business was completely destroyed in New Orleans.
In 2007, he went back to DEMCO and has been employed there since then.
Computer Programmer Degree Programs
“I would recommend learning anything that deals with databases because that is fundamental for working with any kind of programming,” Jeff advises. “Knowing databases is especially necessary for working in larger companies.”
Although Jeff was self-taught originally, future computer programmers should at least have a Bachelor’s degree in something dealing with computers or mathematics.
Computer Programmer Job Description
Jeff is a data analyst working at Dixie Electric Corporation (DEMCO) in Louisiana. He is also the president and founder of the National Association of Computer Programmers.
Computer Programmer Daily Routine
“Everything I do is computer-related,” Jeff explains. “I work with AMI (automated meter information), reading the meters, converting computers to digital databases, writing the systems to handle the conversion, and writing customized code for the company.”
“I’m the only one at my job who does what I do,” he adds. “I do everything but computer networking.”
Computer Programmer: Steps to Success
A successful computer programmer needs to be extremely patient.
“Programming is 5% actual writing the code and 95% debugging it,” Jeff laughs. “You may have pages and pages of code, and you might just have one little mistake to find. Sometimes it may seem repetitive.”
Computer Programmer Job Opportunities
The only thing that can assure a computer programmer a job is experience. Lots and lots of experience.
“In my case, getting into the field was really accidental,” says Jeff. “One of the biggest obstacles when you first start is a lack of experience. The initial experience is hard to get because clients won’t hire you. It’s a catch-22, and it’s one of the biggest hurdles. Once you have a year or two under your belt, it’s easier.”
Computer Programmer Favorite Aspect
“Although you are doing very similar things, everything is different,” Jeff explains. “Every code, program, and database is different. It’s not like factory work where everything has to be the same.”
“I get told that they need to have a computer do X, and I get to make X happen,” Jeff continues. “It’s kind of like being an artist. It’s cool to have 30 people working on a program that came out of my head.”
Computer Programmer’s Future Ambitions
Jeff hopes to just continue what he’s doing at DEMCO until the day he retires from computer programming.
“The company gives me directions on what they want, and I have the flexibility to make that happen,” says Jeff. “At bigger companies, it can be more constraining. I work with good people at a good company, and unless something dramatic happens, I plan to retire from here.”
Advice for Prospective Computer Programmers
“You should narrow down what kind of programming you want to do,” Jeff recommends. “Then you should find others in the field and learn from them because that is how you can figure out exactly what kind of work you will be doing it.”
Jeff also recommends getting into IT work only if you enjoy doing the work.
“I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t love it after starting off,” he says “If you go to IT for the money, you won’t enjoy it. You have to love it.”