Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm a 23-year-old novice game developer who just got his first job in the industry a year ago. Unlike most programmers I know, I started programming pretty late, during my second year in college, and I didn't work on any projects of my own until a couple of months ago. I feel like I'm doing quite well and picking things up quickly, but what intimidates me the most is just how many "prodigies" there are in the industry. If you read the biographies of any set of randomly-picked indie developers, you'll almost certainly find that they started programming at the age of 8, that they made 20 games before starting their latest successful venture, that they got together with a group of friends to start a company straight out of college, that they do music and art in addition to programming, etc. Especially now that I no longer have the free time afforded by a lack of responsibilities, I'm starting to get scared that I'm running out of time.

So my question is this: how important, really, is this time differential? Does it actually take 10 years to "catch up" to a developer who's been programming since they were a kid, or does that difference matter less when you're programming professionally? And more generally, if you're less experienced than your peers, how on earth do you juggle expanding your technical knowledge, networking with fellow developers, working on side projects, planning a business, maintaining a social life, and retaining a job while at the same time not dying of exhaustion?

Apologies if this isn't a good question — I'll delete if I see downvotes.

share|improve this question
1  
Social life? What's that? –  thedaian Mar 1 '12 at 3:25
3  
Don't worry about other people, worry about yourself: youtube.com/watch?v=iCNCuuo27_o –  jfrankcarr Mar 1 '12 at 3:29
    
Good question, something every dev tries to juggle every single day. If you want to be good, social life, unfortunately, is/should have less priority. –  arin Mar 1 '12 at 16:31
add comment

3 Answers

If you read the biographies of any set of randomly-picked indie developers, you'll almost certainly find that they started programming at the age of 8, that they made 20 games before starting their latest successful venture, that they got together with a group of friends to start a company straight out of college, that they do music and art in addition to programming, etc.

This is called marketing.. The purpose of the bio is to self-promote and promote great talent within the firm. They have a 2 inch layer of sugar coating the surface.

Does it actually take 10 years to "catch up" to a developer who's been programming since they were a kid, or does that difference matter less when you're programming professionally

The market does not care about code you write as a kid, it cares about professional accomplishments*. What made these guys great is not the they coded as kids, but their great interest in the subject matter and the drive to succeed and be great at what they do. (Think Jobs and Woz: Woz had the talent and great interest, Jobs had the drive and perfectionism.)

You have a job working with good people in an industry you love, learn from the people around you. You will advance in no time.... That being said, you need to set better goals for your self. Bench-marking yourself to others is not a goal in and of its self, but is a useful tool to to help you set goals for yourself.

*"I wrote an iPhone app that sold 150 copies" is a lot more respected in the market than "I wrote 20 iPhone apps for fun & learning". One professional failure outweighs 20 amateur side projects. The fact that you took it to market speaks volumes.

share|improve this answer
1  
"Bench-marking yourself to others is not a goal in and of its self, but is a useful tool to to help you set goals for your self." Agreed. As long as you continue to advance your abilities, don't worry about other people. Because there is always someone better/more advanced. –  Dylan Yaga Mar 1 '12 at 14:25
add comment

The technology changes so fast, 90% of what you knew about programming 10 years ago is completely worthless today. For the most part, worrying about being behind is just silly.

Some knowledge does stick around. Knowing that a multiply takes a lot longer than an add. Knowing what binary trees and hash tables are and how to use them. Being able to spot a real new idea (OOP, for instance) and hype (OLE, TQM). But 10 years isn't enough to really pick up this stuff, and a 23 year old will learn it a lot faster than an 8-year-old anyway. There's a few old-timers out there you're never going to catch, but we're not going to live forever.

And most of those prodigies aren't programmers, they're businessmen, managers, and even leaders. And, most of all, salesmen. Some of them are really great people doing really great stuff, but they hire programmers, they don't do the work themselves. At least, not for long.

share|improve this answer
2  
Multiplying by a power of 2 does not take longer than an add. –  user16764 Mar 1 '12 at 19:28
add comment

The time differential is important, but only if:

  • you aim to be better than these people you compare yourself to,
  • your perception of success is only based on other people's success.

If you have fun doing it, who cares if others do it "better"?

As long as you (and possibly your family) are happy and can get by, seems to me like "you're winning".

Plus, your achievement over them will be exactly just that: you weren't a prodigy. You worked hard, you had to catch up, and you tried your best. Thinking that you HAVE TO catch up sounds like setting yourself for failure.

Though I don't mean you should be too easy on your goals either. It's great to aspire to be like the stars of your industry (speaking of achievements and skills, not necessarily of collaterals like lifestyle), it's good to push yourself. Just aim for what makes you happy and feel like you achieved something (and a bit beyond that), but don't aim for what makes others happy.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for having fun while doing the job you like. –  arin Mar 1 '12 at 16:32
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.