Bjarne Stroustrup: Advice for Programmers

In a fascinating interview about the state of C++ and computer science education, Bjarne Stroustrup, the inventor of the language C++ talks about his background at the old Bell Labs, and his new career as a professor at Texas A&M University.

Programming is part of software development. It doesn’t matter how fancy your code is unless it solves the right problem and you can explain it to others. So, brush up on your communication skills. Learn to listen, to ask good questions, to write clearly, and to present clearly. Serious programming is a team sport, brush up on your social skills. The sloppy fat geek computer genius semi-buried in a pile of pizza boxes and cola cans is a mythical creature, best buried deep, never to be seen again.

Learn your first language well. That means trying it for difficult tasks. Don’t obsess about technical details. Focus on techniques and principles.

Learn another programming language; choose any language that’s quite different from what you are best acquainted with. You can’t be a professional in the IT world knowing only one language. No one language is the best for everyone and for everything.

Don’t just do programming. Computing is always computing something. Become acquainted with something that requires your software development skills: Mediaeval history, car engine design, rocket science, medical blood analysis, image processing, computational geometry, biological modeling, whatever seems interesting. Yes, all of these examples are real, from my personal experience.

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