A programming language is a formally constructed language designed to communicate instructions to a machine. Amazingly, there have been thousands of programing languages used to create millions of programs, and while these “programs” are used primarily for computers today, their existence in one form or another predates the digital computer.
Some historians claim a program was first used in Baghdad during the 9th century to create an automatic flute. Others point to more recognizable punch-card versions used in the early 1800s to operate Jacquard looms and barrel organs.
Whatever their origin, programs, and the languages used to write them, have been crucial to developing and keeping our high-tech world functioning smoothly. Over time, tens of millions of IT professionals have learned and used these languages to write simple programs like a calculator, all the way up to complex operating systems.
India is fast gaining a reputation for supplying the world with highly-skilled programmers. Our need for more programmers has been driven in large part by multinational IT and consultancy firms setting up shop in country and needing skilled personnel to manage their databases. We also have a fair number of home-grown IT giants hiring programmers at a rapid pace.
Since there is likely no end to the variety of computer programs that can and will be written in the future, the outlook for programmers is very positive. While there are many excellent programing languages to choose from, Indian employers seem to show a distinct preference for five particular languages.
SQL is primarily a database management system. While not an actual programing language, it’s pretty difficult to write any program without using SQL.
Database management systems such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server, are used by small and large businesses and institutions to manage databases. This means that just about every process requiring electronic interaction ends up using SQL. For example, all iPhones and Android systems utilize SQLite to access their databases. Additionally, many mobile apps developed by Google, Skype and DropBox use SQL directly.
Anyone who wants a career as a computer programmer needs to learn SQL.
This is one of the most widely used programming languages. Worldwide, Java is used by some 9 million developers and running on more than seven billion devices. Java’s popularity is due to its relative simplicity and readability. It is also very compatible, which means that older applications will continue to work in the future as well. Java is widely preferred for Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and enterprise architecture.
C++ is a widely used object-oriented language based on the C language. C++ is also useful in many other contexts, such as desktop applications, servers, and critical applications (like telephone switches or space probes).
C# is a relatively new programming language that is increasing in popularity. Designed by Microsoft, C# is used for enterprise applications that are going to be run on the .NET Framework. A combination of C and C++, the C# language has the characteristics of being modern, simple, object oriented, and type safe.
PHP is a server-side language designed for web development, but it’s now also used as a general-purpose programming language. PHP tends to be a popular language since it is easy to use by less experienced programmers, but it also offers lots of advanced features for more experienced programmers.
Database administrators are in high-demand in India. They use specialized software to store, organize and retrieve data. While most database administrators kick-start their careers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or information technology, a certification and experience may be sufficient, depending on the organization.
Skilled database administrators will understand database theory and design, have a strong knowledge of an RDBMS, like MySQL, the ability to use a structured query language (SQL), like SQL/PSM, and the ability to conduct routine maintenance, recovery, and handling failovers of a database.
The daily duties of a database administrator are very hands-on, as they:
- Install and upgrade database servers
- Allocate and plan future storage requirements
- Make modifications to the database structure
- Control and monitor user accessibility settings
- Monitor and optimize database performance
- Maintain consistent and synchronous archived data
- Create regular backups and restoration of databases
- Generate reports by querying the database
System Administrators shoulder the responsibility for configuring, managing and maintaining reliable computer systems; especially multi-user computers, like servers to ensure that the performance and security of the system meets the needs of the users. The skills needed include a knowledge of operating systems and applications, an ability to solve problems, and a strong grasp of computer security.
The regular duties of a system administrator include:
- Analyzing system logs and identifying potential issues with computer systems
- Researching and integrating new/advanced technologies into the existing infrastructure
- Routine checking of systems and software
- Updating operating systems
- Maintaining online security
- Troubleshooting user problems
Network Administrators are similar to system administrators and share many of the same tasks and responsibilities. In fact, it is common in an organization with a small network, for the system administrator to be responsible for systems and networks. Organizations with large networks will usually employ a separate network administrator with the primary responsibility of ensuring that the network’s hardware and infrastructure are properly maintained.
The work load of a network administrator is very proactive. Their duties involve regularly testing the network for weaknesses, keeping an eye out for required system updates, updating security programs, maintaining E-mail and Internet filters, and constantly evaluating network implementations.
As with system administrators, successful network administrators require a broad range of technical knowledge and the ability to learn the intricacies of networking and server software packages quickly.
Software developers, also often known as programmers, software engineers, and software analysts, are those IT professionals involved with all aspects of developing software, including research, design, programming, and testing. Skilled developers are proficient with one or more programming languages, have strong critical and analytical skills, enjoy solving complex problems, and are very detail oriented.
Developers regularly conduct performance and quality tests on products, services, or processes as well as identify and document indicators of system performance.
Learning a programming language
Step 1: Carefully investigate areas of software that interest you. Knowing what you enjoy doing will help you know what language(s) to learn. For example, if you decide to work in database management, then it would make sense to learn SQL as well as gain knowledge about database management systems like MySQL.
Step 2: Thoroughly study and grasp the basic concepts of your chosen language. While different languages have their own concepts and functions, there are certain key ideas that must be fully understood in order for one to become proficient. Also, a key component of creating a supportive environment is to use the right IDE (Integrated Development Environment). A user friendly IDE is a helpful tool for any learner who is just starting out.
Step 3: Practice, Practice, Practice! Practice makes a man perfect, and a programming language is much like learning a foreign language. You can only get better at it by learning the basics (syntax) and practicing them. The regularity of the practice is more important than the length of each session.
Step 4: Expand your knowledge. Once you have the basics under your belt, you need to continue improving in your chosen language by regular study and practice. There are numerous online and offline courses that offer help to people trying to learn programming. These can be great for new programmers, as you can get hands-on help from experienced programmers. They also provide you with an opportunity to direct your learning to a point where you can actively gauge your progress.
Some excellent online sources for programming languages include Khan Academy (for basic concepts) and Stack Overflow (for doubts and trouble-shooting).
As India continues to rise in the IT field, the need for more highly skilled programmers will continue to increase. As always, the way to develop your programing skills is through education. Such education can, and often does, come from formal programs offering degrees. Certifications are also an extremely valuable way to demonstrate your skills and knowledge.
Remember to use care in selecting your programming languages, learn their basic concepts, practice, continuously expand your knowledge, and good luck in your career.