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  1. #1
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    Nov 2011
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    Looking For A Way To Track Programming Progress

    Hey guys and gals! I'm not only new to this community, I'm new to programming in general. The company I'm with has me started on Access and VBA. Problem is I'm new to programing and I'm having a rough time determining my progress. My managers keep saying "when you get it you'll know it", and maybe that's the right answer, but I wanted to get a second opinion. Higher level I understand what's going on, but I'm just struggling with syntax and know what all the features are and how to use them. I'm a numbers guy, and I want to be able to track my progress somehow, am I "getting it" or not. I'm about a month and a half in, and I still feel so overwhelmed by everything. So is there a gauge to measure my progress against, or will I just know it when I get it?

  2. #2
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    I just checked your programming progress gauge, and you are at a solid "2". Good job, keep up the hard work.
    If it's not practically useful, then it's practically useless.

    blindman
    www.chess.com: "sqlblindman"
    www.LobsterShot.blogspot.com

  3. #3
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    Bear with me for a paragraph.

    The first widget is hard because it is your first widget. The second widget is hard because it isn't your first widget. The third and subsequent widgets are just variations on the theme, so bring them on!

    I always used to say this about learning new programming languages. Then I discovered it applied to methodologies (structured programming, OOP, RAD, declaritive, etc).

    As I got a bit more experienced, I discovered it applied to project scopes: personal, group, enterprise, public, etc. It also applies to positions: Newbie, Staff, Lead, Manager, etc.

    It will take you a while to get to that third stage in each group. For exactly the same reasons as it did in the previous group! That seems to be human nature.

    You're asking the right questions. You have the right attitude. Unless your supervisor becomes concerned, consider it part of the process and work like the very devil was nipping at your heels! That will make you a better, and a happier person over time.

    -PatP
    In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, theory and practice are unrelated.

  4. #4
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    As an aside, I have to raise the issue of you learning MS Access and VBA, and thinking you are learning anything resembling modern application programming language.
    Not.
    I fear you will become proficient in these skill sets, only to find out that nobody (serious) does any (serious) development with them. Any decent IT shop would scoff at a resume limited to just these two technologies.
    If it's not practically useful, then it's practically useless.

    blindman
    www.chess.com: "sqlblindman"
    www.LobsterShot.blogspot.com

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Phelan View Post
    You're asking the right questions. You have the right attitude. Unless your supervisor becomes concerned, consider it part of the process and work like the very devil was nipping at your heels! That will make you a better, and a happier person over time.
    I think you're drilling down to the root reason for my question. Everyone keeps telling me I'm doing fine. It's just I've always been a "quick learner" and had a decent grasp of what I was doing very quickly. Or at the very least I'm able to spot indicators that let me know my station in the subject matter. Programming is hard for me because it's accepting that I don't know something, and blindly trusting my teachers to guide me to the end of the maze where it all makes sense. All and all thanks for alleviating my concerns Pat

    Quote Originally Posted by blindman View Post
    I have to raise the issue of you learning MS Access and VBA, and thinking you are learning anything resembling modern application programming language.
    You've got me a little concerned. Programming as I've said is total foreign to me and each company has their own way of mentoring their staff. From what I understand they want me to start with Access and VBA, then my next tier is MS SQL Server and .NET, I don't know what's beyond that, but I do know there is a progression. Does this sound logical, or is that traveling farther down an archaic and "that was so 10 years ago" tech?

  6. #6
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    The danger in starting with VBA (like I did) and moving to .NET is you may have difficulty adjusting to the shift in paradigms. However, the same thing could reasonably be argued if you were to start with .NET and then try to move to VBA. They have wildly different approaches to solving problems.

    I wouldn't consider VBA -> .NET a natural progression. VBA doesn't really fit in to that track unless you have an immediate need for it. VBA will acclimate you to basic control structures and some syntax/keywords that may be available in VB.NET. That said, VB.NET is the blacksheep of the .NET family and you will still have the hurdle of learning a whole new approach.
    Last edited by Teddy; 12-01-11 at 11:26.
    oh yeah... documentation... I have heard of that.

    *** What Do You Want In The MS Access Forum? ***

  7. #7
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    If you want to be a database developer, you can get your feet wet with MS Access and then move on to a true database server such as MSSQL, MySQL, Oracle, etc.

    If you want to be an application developer, learning a non-object-oriented language such as VBA is NOT the way to go, and when you hit the .Net languages you'll essentially be starting from scratch again.

    VBA has very little use, other than in MS Access and maybe some hardcore (misguided) Excel developers.

    If you can program .Net, you could pick up VBA easy. The reverse is not true.
    If it's not practically useful, then it's practically useless.

    blindman
    www.chess.com: "sqlblindman"
    www.LobsterShot.blogspot.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Hmmm... well all of that is not great news However my issue lies in that, 5 years ago when I could afford college I went for a degree in something that I thought I wanted to make my profession. Now that I've realized I want a career in development, and that's where I really feel happiest, I can't afford to go back to school. Even worse, I have no tech degrees, no certifications, and no job experience beyond freelancing some websites.. badly. Combine that with the current economy, where it's a struggle to get a desk job answering phones and I have very little leverage in the tech job market. This employer has given me a golden opportunity, to pay me, to train me and teach me. Beyond that, to have hands on experience in the industry, which is invaluable! Every day at the office I learn more than a weeks worth of reading from my books and doing exercises. Bottom line I can't afford to be picky at this point.

    I'm open to suggestion, but from what I'm understanding, I should take all the experience I can get at this opportunity. They've been open 20+ years, so there must be something of value to learn here. However once I get an understanding of programming, I should pick up a more relevant skill-set. Perhaps Oracle if I'm going to stay in DB management, or something like Python if I'm going into application dev.

    This is a hard pill to swallow, but I guess one has to play the cards one is dealt.

  9. #9
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    I've been there. You'll likely find yourself finding the limits of VBA relatively quickly.

    I'd recommend picking up a "For Dummies" book or start tinkingering with some beginner tutorials in .NET while you're working through the VBA stage at work. The earlier you can get exposed to fundamental object-oriented development, the better.

    A lot of terms and names for patterns and concepts are shared among many languages. Once you get the basic vocabulary there isn't much to it. Working through some basic tutorials in .NET will teach you a ton that can be immediately applied to VBA if for no other reason than you will know what word(s) you need to search for to figure out your current issue. Once you know how to read the documentation, the whole world opens up. I liken it to attempting to learn advanced German given only a textbook written in basic German. That's an issue if you don't know any German at all...

    That's another huge focus now that I'm thinking about it... Don't bother trying to learn EVERYTHING about a language. It ain't gonna happen. Not even the folks responsible for the BCL (base class library) and VB/C# compilers know all of .NET. Instead, strive to learn and understand the basic terms you see repeated all over the place, where the best places to look for help are and how to use them. I haven't met a good developer who doesn't also happen to possess above-average research skills. That's not a coincidence... The longer you do this stuff, the more the ratio of stuff you have forgotten to stuff you currently know will lean heavily to the former. That's not a problem so long as you remember where you found the answer the first time...

    I'd also recommend you focus on C# as opposed to VB.NET in your personal research. It has better market penetration, tends to be the language you'll see in technical articles/blogs/forums/etc, and shares a fair bit of structure with other popular languages which will make it easier for you to dabble elsewhere. IMO it's best to be fluent in both, acceptable to only know c#, and sheer folly to only be fluent in VB.NET.
    Last edited by Teddy; 12-01-11 at 15:50.
    oh yeah... documentation... I have heard of that.

    *** What Do You Want In The MS Access Forum? ***

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Wow Teddy, real quality stuff! Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your advice. People are so quick to retort with a sharp tongued two liner, I really appreciate the value of several paragraphs based on years of wisdom. Means a lot

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Stick with your current job.
    Learn Access and VBA, but learn some .net and/or SQL Server on your own (you can get developer licenses for SQL server for about $50).
    You'll learn basic database design and coding principles from Access and VBA.
    Once you have done some hobby-level coding with .net and SQL Server (after about a year), try to introduce these technologies on a small project in your place of business. If they are please with the results then congratulations, you are now the big frog in that small pond. If they are not keen on adopting enterprise level technologies, then after a few more small projects to add to your resume, try to get an entry level spot at a more serious IT shop.
    Estimated time span: two years to kickstart your career.
    If it's not practically useful, then it's practically useless.

    blindman
    www.chess.com: "sqlblindman"
    www.LobsterShot.blogspot.com

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