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Funny, people ask me what I do pretty often as a part of small talk, and then it becomes difficult. I tell them my job title, Chief Technology Officer, and they give me the blank stare. I say I am responsible for all of the software development and technology hardware and software at my company, and they are still not quite there. I explain that per my schooling, I am a software engineer. Closer to understanding, but still not quite there. I am a computer programmer. Oh, a computer programmer!

After that, there is the suffering through them telling me about a computer they have that is not working and asking if I could take a look at it. I think I get the feeling a doctor gets telling someone what they do and the person saying “Can you take a look at this?”

One of the first questions I usually get from people when I tell them I am a programmer is “What programming language?”

There is an answer. I develop in Visual Studio, primarily in C#, and almost exclusively around the Microsoft family of products. Like I said, there is an answer, I just don’t like the question.

The question pigeon-holes a programmer. Judgments get made unnecessarily. Are you a Microsoft corporate slave? Are you some Linux geek living in your parent’s basement? Are you an Objective-C hipster? Are you some college-professor C nerd? PHP – oh, that person’s not a REAL programmer, just a web developer! Pish-posh!

I recently was tasked with replacing a VERY expensive enterprise-level software product that does statistical modeling of our customers’ data. Rhymes with ess-pee-ess-ess. We discovered that the best replacement would be a free one – Python’s many modeling libraries. A fellow member of the team here at my company has an affinity for Python – it was his first language. Cool. I took on the challenge of creating a modeling script in Python that would replace our enterprise product, and within two weeks, I had the skeleton of a working copy. (Full disclosure, it would take a further 2 months to refine it, but the idea was set after the first two weeks…) There. I had never coded a single line in Python, but I had learned it and created an enterprise-level product in the language in 2 weeks.

My compadre was ecstatic that I had joined the Python ranks. “Isn’t Python cool?”

Uh, not particularly. I don’t get excited about specific languages other than it being a bullet on my resume. I can (obviously, from this exercise) pick up the SYNTAX of a language in hours and have a working knowledge of it. I am a PROGRAMMER, not a “Python Programmer” or a “C# Programmer” (or Visual Basic, PHP, Java, PERL, Assembly Language, Pascal, Basic, C, Javascript, or any of the other languages I have worked in before).

You want me to build a house? Give me a hammer. “What brand? I like Estwing,” you say. I don’t care, just give me a damn hammer.

Programming languages are like hammers. Sure, they are different, but they are just different versions of the same tool. Don’t be intimidated by the language. Be a polyglot.

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