Back at the turn of the year I was told my role at work would be coming to an end, which came as no surprise as things had stagnated towards the end of the previous year. Fortunately, working for a sizeable company meant that the situation didn’t lead to redundancy – like it did when my department was axed in my previous job down in London.
Although nothing happened immediately, by June I’d been moved onto one of the development teams, where I set about re-learning programming skills I’d long since forgotten. The trouble with spending the last eight years as a web designer/developer, is that it was pretty far removed from the programming I’d done at college and university.
php is quite a high level language, when it boils down to it – you don’t really care about things like memory management, for example, because it’s all handled for you. It’s also not strongly typed – if I declare a variable and initialise it as an integer, I can change it to a string later on if the mood takes me. Not so with C or most other programming languages, for that matter – I’ve never quite understood why php was like that.
So, as you can imagine, six years spent as a php developer hasn’t exactly sharpened my programming skills with regard to C. It’s led to quite a bit of frustration over the summer, due to spending most of my time picking through compile errors caused by syntactical nuancies. It goes without saying that I was starting to doubt if I could hack it as a “real” programmer, even though I’ve wanted to be a games programmer since I was dabbling in Sinclair Basic at the age of eleven.
Recently things have been going better, though. The principle programmer on our team has offered to mentor me, and that’s been invaluable. I think I’ve moved forward more since our first session two weeks ago than I had in the six weeks previous.
I still have a long way to go, and I’m sure the steep learning curve wont even out for a while. I still welcome the odd scrap of web work that comes my way, because the feeling of confidence that comes with really knowing what I’m doing is a welcome relief.
However, I am starting to get that same buzz I had back when I was learning to program at college. I find it really satisfying to solve a problem in programming – even if it’s a bit of a kludge, the thrill of getting something working and then working it over to make it better is one I haven’t had in a long time. I guess I’ve just been going through the motions with php for a while, with no real incentive to push myself.
I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to change discipline within the company. Now the onus is on me to work hard at it and make it count.