On Becoming a Programmer

I got this question the other day. I tried to respond to the sender but as you’ll see below I was unable to. I elected not to post this on Ask Leo!, for reasons I’ll explain below.

First, the question:

Im a 16 Year old, and I need information about how to become a computer programmer. I want to learn how to make games, then move on to actually programming the computer’s windows and stuff like that. the main stuff I need is what classes I should take and what I should learn to become a good programmer.

The answer that I sent back:

Well, I’m not trying to be mean here, but one start would be to learn to read and follow instructions. It’s a critical skill that you’ll need. Had you read the instructions on the page on which you submitted this question you would have seen instructions to search first, and if you had searched it would have lead you to this article which addresses your question without needing to wait for my response: http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_become_a_computer_programmer.html

Here’s the kicker: my reply to this young person bounced.

I actually spent some time on the answer because I wanted it to be strong without being insulting. it was extremely frustrating to then have it bounce. Not only did that waste my time, but the time of the person asking the question – he (or she – but probably he) will never get my answer unless he happens to stumble on this post.

All because he couldn’t type his own email address correctly.

As I said; very frustrating.

I’m not sure programming is the appropriate career choice for this young man. I could be wrong, but a few things – like attention to detail – need to change.

In the end I decided I was probably a tad too snarky for Ask Leo! anyway, but didn’t want to throw my work away.

Here, I get to be snarky.


  1. Craig Fearing says:

    Hi Leo
    Without being “snarky” at all, I would like to point out that writing “…and if you had search would have lead you…” might also be an example of not typing as precisely as intended. Didn’t you mean “…and if you had, that search would have led you…” {adding the missing “that” and correcting the tense of the verb}?

    I hasten to add that it is fairly rare to catch such errors in your writing. It’s just ironic when a criticism is guilty of the very “sin” it is criticizing. (:>)

    I further add that I really enjoy reading your writings. Keep up the great work, and don’t be afraid to offer critical advice to our youth, even in Ask Leo. Today’s educational systems, in their efforts to ensure students only have positive feelings about themselves, seem to avoid pointing out where their weaknesses lie and thus fail in their task of fully preparing those people for the realities of the future they are facing. Thank you for helping to compensate that lack.


    It’s always ironic when I have bad grammar or a typo in a post relating to English, grammar and spelling. It’s also inevitible. Smile