Friday, 21 October 2011

Don't Try to Run Before You Can Walk - Understanding Existing Code

This week, Joe puts on his programming hat and straps his matching trainers but soon learns that it's hard to run before you can walk...

The most important lesson that I have learnt in recent weeks is that before I am going to change something I need to understand what it did before. It all makes sense now, how can you change something and make it better if you don’t understand what and how it did whatever it’s doing before? By not understanding what something does but trying to change it to make it better is the same concept as trying to run before you can walk. 

Spending hours reading over the same lines of code trying to put pieces together and understand what it is the code is doing and why has been one of the things I have struggled with most in my journey so far.

I have now realised that I don’t need to spend hours reading over the same lines but I can run through a section of code line by line and just comment in what each bit is doing. Derek and I spent a short amount of time looking at a few lines of code that I had been studying for at least 3 hours. I hadn’t quite grasped what was happening or why. Within minutes Derek had told me just to comment each line of code as we go through saying in English what that line is doing. By doing this I had started looking at a line individually rather than everything together which meant that I could now break the code down and understand it. 

I’ve started to deal with SQL queries with some of the different alterations I have been making over the last week. I came across one of our queries in the database which had a huge number of different sections and tables added and linked to it. Looking at a query of this size scared me at first as I had no idea where to start when trying to use it to gain the right information out of it. After actually reading through it, it became quite clear that all I needed to do was to select in the code the correct field of information that I wanted to know from the results of the query. 

By taking over a project that someone else has been managing for quite a long time puts me in the position of having to read, understand, edit and add to someone else’s code. From being able to do this successfully means that my knowledge of VB is increasing vastly. I am able to break down different sections of code that once upon a time I would have just shook my head at and walked away to now being in the position to have a quick look at it in a logical way and work out what is going on. 

My journey is always changing and always going in the right direction, UP! I am constantly learning and progressing in what has been a short amount of time but large amounts have been achieved. I have gone from an absolute novice to being able to work my way around VB with a little bit of class and make some quite simple but very beneficial programs and functions. I can’t wait to be telling you all in my next chapter in my Programming Journey.

Can you remember your first experiences of programming? Do you have any advice to give to those who are just starting out? Tell us here and let others know and pass on your wisdom to the next generation of enthusiastic software engineers. 


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