I've been engaging a variety of projects with multifarious teams of teenagers that are always hoping to become the next big Facebook. Of course, they never happened and, of course, most of them failed. However, I've begun to outgrow these prepubescent projects with prepubescent kids and I've started engaging broader communities: StackOverflow & StackExchange.
Nearly a month ago, you may recall that I met up with other StackOverflow members at Irvine. During that time, I met many working, older men that I struggled to connect with as a seventeen-year-old, upcoming programmer. I had a desire to engage with occupational programmers that also find passion in their work. I had the passion but I wanted to experience the occupation. Experience, however, is gained through consistent engagement; a single meetup wasn't enough. I needed to actively engage and contribute to a community.
Contributing as a Teenager
The problem with being a teenager is that my primary community, my peers, are other teenagers that I could easily outperform in standard IT tests. The minuscule population for AP Computer Science is also negligible as a community to support growth. I even established ZeroZaku as a community to support the growth of the minority, technologically-inclined teenagers that hope to pursue a technology-related career in the future. I still couldn't reach many programmers that had as much passion and desire for experience as myself.
Meet StackOverflow, the Q/A forum that I initially joined to solve a C# problem that I had before. StackOverflow offers a community for both senior programmers and junior programmers through an effective Q/A model. Many junior-like developers such as myself getting started in this industry (transitioning from web design), become questioners, people who ask questions. Many senior or experienced programmers become answerers, people who answer questions. It's not a very difficult layout to grasp.
Question & Answer Model
Only a month ago, I had trouble with C++ unit testing but now I can easily create test suites and automate unit testing for my projects (also with advice from William's dad); furthermore, I can share this knowledge with my peers when I arrive to UC Irvine.
Try out StackOverflow and become a better programmer but don't forget that there are real people in the world that you can also meetup and engage if you have the opportunity.