How I Became an Access Programmer

BASIC in High school (1984)

I first wrote a program on a computer 33 years ago in my last semester at El Capitan High School in Lakeside California.  It was the first time they offered a computer course and I'm glad I had the chance to be one of the first students. 

In that class I wrote my first program using an Apple III computer written in a language called "BASIC".  No mouse back then - only a keyboard, a floppy disk and green dots on the screen.  

We were taught first to use a 6 foot long scroll of paper to chart out the program workflow BEFORE writing any code.  That instruction is invaluable to me today.  Once our teacher saw what I had sketched out she said I would never finish by the end of the semester and warned me I might fail since the completed program was the final grade. To her surprise I ended up finishing 3 weeks early and spent that time playing games on our green screens!

What I had sketched out in that workflow was crude logic similar to how a GPS navigation system works today.  When the user opened the program he or she is first asked to choose one of 3 possible destinations in San Diego; Coronado Island, La Jolla Shores or Sea World.  Then the program would present a series of choices to the user of how to drive to that location from our high school parking lot. It would ask the user to choose left, right or straight at each intersection along the way until arriving at the destination.  I used paper maps to calculate several routes for each destination - some longer and some shorter.  I added up all the segments in each route to come up with the total miles for each possible choice the user might make.  As the user made choices to get to the destination the segments were added up.  When the user eventually arrived at the destination their total miles were compared against the shortest possible route and a message appeared telling them their percent of accuracy.  If they choose the shortest route they'd get 100%.     

Working some Jobs (1991 - 1999)

In 1991 a good friend helped me get a job by letting me borrow his laptop so I could teach myself Excel. I got that job and ran payroll and accounts payable for that company for 5 years.  During that time I taught myself Paradox at home by studying late at night and coding what I was studying.  It was a thick book.  When I got lost I'd close it and start over from page 1.  I repeated that process till I got all the way through it and coould code everything.  That helped me get another job in 1996 working for State Farm Insurance in their Texas regional data processing center.  Originally I was hired on to build a Q&A database and maintain it for them. That's where I met a coworker who was dragging and dropping buttons on his screen.  Something totally new to me.  He told me it was "Microsoft Access".  That was the first time I had heard about it.  I immediately started studying Access and building databases for myself.  I would build a sample database, and learn from my mistakes.  I would delete it and then build it all over again, and again and again - until I had mastered it. Each time learning more.  Eventually coworkers at State Farm started coming to me asking for custom databases.  Over time I built more than a dozen databases for them. At one point they drew up an interdepartmental contract to divide my time up between the two departments.  That's when I really realized how valuable Access can be to a business.  I later worked for 2 other consulting firms as their Access Programmer before going independent in 1999 and launching my own freelance business

Launching JustGetProductive

In 1999 I was working from home for an IT company in Austin.  I was getting fewer and fewer jobs from them so I decided to start my own website.  Using online research I taught myself how to build it and learned how to market it.  www.JustGetProductive.com was launched on 13 December 1999.  My first client was in Austin.  As time went on I built databases for companies from nearly every state in the USA plus some businesses in Canada, Israel, Kenya and Ireland.  I have now had over 500 clients.