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Programming languages for life: Which ones should you learn to get a good career in IT?
Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 21st Aug 2017

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Experts advise on the IT skills that businesses really want

Which programming languages should you learn to get a good career in IT?

Good career paths aren't necessarily clearly signposted

No one ever got fired for buying IBM, as the saying goes, and by the same token no one will go far wrong learning Python or one of the other ‘big four'.

"There are so many new programming languages coming out but the most in demand are still Java, Python, C and C++. These four fundamental pillars are what make up the majority of businesses' code," said Trikha (pictured).

But what of JavaScript, the language that StackOverflow currently rates the most popular? Could this be because StackOverflow's readers are disproportionately focused on certain areas?

"Yes, we see JavaScript. It's probably number five in some industries like mobile and gaming, but only number seven or so in security, healthcare or finance," said Trikha.

Rust is an up and coming language that some believe may one day displace C++ in many areas where it dominates currently, but so far it hasn't made much of a dent in industry, Trinkha said.

"I looked into Rust, but a lot of companies are invested in legacy systems and it's incredibly difficult to move all that."

HackerRank has also broken down programming languages by industry.

"So in social media is Java and Python, in healthcare it's C# and Java and in security it's C and C++ that are in demand," Trikha said, adding that there are also differences between large and small companies.

"Larger companies look to problem-solving skills not so much the language skills whereas smaller companies need people ready to code on day one."

Other than the example of a small company desperately trying to find a Lua expert, though, it's more about aptitude than language.

"When you know how to program, the language is almost irrelevant," McIvor said. "It's like driving in a way; a Mercedes will handle differently to a banged up old Ford, but the basics are the same and someone who can use one can use the other."

As an experienced programmer your employer should be able to help you get up to speed on the bits of a language you need to know she added.

Recent experience is certainly important. HackerRank's research has found that developers with two or more years' experience who put in about 20 hours of practice had a 50 per cent higher chance of being invited to a job interview following a skills assessments than senior engineers with no practice, while self-taught coders with 50 hours recent practice were on a par with developers with more than two years experience.

Aside from practising on online coding sites like HackerRank, developers should get involved in some open source projects, advised McIvor.

"Experience is something hard to quantify. You have to be a confident programmer, even just knowing what type of thing you are looking for and where to find it is half the battle. There are a load of projects that you can try implementing in different languages to give you experience as well. I don't think there is a minimum amount of experience or a maximum, it's confidence and logic," she said.

"Can you read a problem, work out - usually as a picture - the steps for how to get from A to B, and then can you do it in a reasonable way in your language of choosing? Knowing about things like source control and test driven development is a must these days - all things that you will get some practice with if you get involved with the open source projects."

Once you get to the interview or coding test, you need to display that confidence too.

"Communicate your thought processes as much as possible," said former software engineer at Google, Microsoft and Apple and tech hiring consultant Gayle Laakman McDowell, author of the book Cracking the Coding Interview.

"That's something you can definitely prepare for. Get comfortable talking out loud and exposing your thought processes. Whenever you notice yourself being quiet, take a step back and at least give me a headline of your thought processes."

No one ever got fired for buying IBM, as the saying goes, and by the same token no one will go far wrong learning Python or one of the other ‘big four'.

"There are so many new programming languages coming out but the most in demand are still Java, Python, C and C++. These four fundamental pillars are what make up the majority of businesses' code," said Trikha (pictured).

But what of JavaScript, the language that StackOverflow currently rates the most popular? Could this be because StackOverflow's readers are disproportionately focused on certain areas?

"Yes, we see JavaScript. It's probably number five in some industries like mobile and gaming, but only number seven or so in security, healthcare or finance," said Trikha.

Rust is an up and coming language that some believe may one day displace C++ in many areas where it dominates currently, but so far it hasn't made much of a dent in industry, Trinkha said.

"I looked into Rust, but a lot of companies are invested in legacy systems and it's incredibly difficult to move all that."

HackerRank has also broken down programming languages by industry.

"So in social media is Java and Python, in healthcare it's C# and Java and in security it's C and C++ that are in demand," Trikha said, adding that there are also differences between large and small companies.

"Larger companies look to problem-solving skills not so much the language skills whereas smaller companies need people ready to code on day one."

Other than the example of a small company desperately trying to find a Lua expert, though, it's more about aptitude than language.

"When you know how to program, the language is almost irrelevant," McIvor said. "It's like driving in a way; a Mercedes will handle differently to a banged up old Ford, but the basics are the same and someone who can use one can use the other."

As an experienced programmer your employer should be able to help you get up to speed on the bits of a language you need to know she added.

Recent experience is certainly important. HackerRank's research has found that developers with two or more years' experience who put in about 20 hours of practice had a 50 per cent higher chance of being invited to a job interview following a skills assessments than senior engineers with no practice, while self-taught coders with 50 hours recent practice were on a par with developers with more than two years experience.

Aside from practising on online coding sites like HackerRank, developers should get involved in some open source projects, advised McIvor.

"Experience is something hard to quantify. You have to be a confident programmer, even just knowing what type of thing you are looking for and where to find it is half the battle. There are a load of projects that you can try implementing in different languages to give you experience as well. I don't think there is a minimum amount of experience or a maximum, it's confidence and logic," she said.

"Can you read a problem, work out - usually as a picture - the steps for how to get from A to B, and then can you do it in a reasonable way in your language of choosing? Knowing about things like source control and test driven development is a must these days - all things that you will get some practice with if you get involved with the open source projects."

Once you get to the interview or coding test, you need to display that confidence too.

"Communicate your thought processes as much as possible," said former software engineer at Google, Microsoft and Apple and tech hiring consultant Gayle Laakman McDowell, author of the book Cracking the Coding Interview.

"That's something you can definitely prepare for. Get comfortable talking out loud and exposing your thought processes. Whenever you notice yourself being quiet, take a step back and at least give me a headline of your thought processes."

Source: v3.co.uk

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