I am the host of ".NET Rocks!", an Internet audio talk show for .NET developers online at www.dotnetrocks.com and msdn.microsoft.com/dotnetrocks. My co-host Richard Campbell and I interview the movers and shakers in the .NET community. We have over 200 shows archived online, and we publish a new show every Tuesday morning. For more history of the show, check out the May/June 2004 issue of CoDe Magazine, in which this first column appeared.

In show #204, Richard and I talked to Arfa Karim, the youngest MCP in the world, at TechEd Developer 2006 in Barcelona, Spain.

Carl Franklin: Hey Richard, how are you doing?

Richard Campbell: I am good. Enjoying myself. This is a new interview for us, arguably the youngest interviewee ever.

Carl Franklin: That’s right. I am here with Arfa Karim.

Carl Franklin: Hi Arfa.

Arfa Karim: Hello.

Carl Franklin: And just to set the record straight, how old are you?

Arfa Karim: I am 11 right now.

Carl Franklin: Eleven and you were on stage at the keynote at TechEd [Developer in Barcelona, Spain - November, 2006], were you not?

Arfa Karim: Yes, I was.

Carl Franklin: You are a very popular young girl. So your claim to fame is?

Arfa Karim: I am the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in the world.

Carl Franklin: Wow, and what are you certified in?

Arfa Karim: I certified at the age of nine.

Carl Franklin: In C#?

Arfa Karim: In C#, .NET, Windows, Win Forms.

Richard Campbell: Nice lead off, you could have got an MCP, which is Word.

Arfa Karim: I don’t like to do simple things.

Richard Campbell: Well, okay, so you’ve got .NET, now you have had some of this certification since then.

Arfa Karim: Yes, this year I’ve got another certification. It’s [in] developing Web-based applications, ASP.NET and C#.

Richard Campbell: ASP.NET and C#.

Arfa Karim: Yes.

Richard Campbell: So, a couple more to go and you’ll be a certified developer.

Arfa Karim: Yes, and I am really looking forward to that.

Richard Campbell: That’s exciting.

Carl Franklin: What made you want to get into computer programming?

Arfa Karim: Actually, I was interested in computers. I saw my first computer when I was about six and whenever you see something new, you [think] what is it? How does it work and all that? So, that was when my interest began, and so, I asked my father to get me a PC and he bought me one and I used to mess around with it and so, about two years later, I knew how to operate Windows and how to operate my MS Word completely, by hit and trial method.

Carl Franklin: And that wasn’t enough. You naturally had that curiosity, how do I do this?

Arfa Karim: Yes, I had curiosity in everything from the beginning, and so, my dad took me to an institute nearby our home and there I started to get professional education about software.

Carl Franklin: Wow, so let’s see, how long have you been programming in .NET?

Arfa Karim: Two years.

Carl Franklin: Two years.

Arfa Karim: Yeah.

Carl Franklin: And what kinds of applications have you written?

Arfa Karim: Windows-based applications, basic applications, console-based applications, and Web pages in ASP.NET, some in HTML, and like that.

Carl Franklin: What do your teachers think about you? I mean, they must look at you like, “Hey you kids, you should be more like her now, come on”. What do they think?

Arfa Karim: They think like that but I normally ask them to not do like that in front of the other students. So, sometimes they get discouraged or something.

Carl Franklin: Yeah.

Arfa Karim: So, I don’t like to be like, I am [more] special than you, I am something other than you. So, I like to be normal like them.

Carl Franklin: And I’m sure you help kids with their computer homework and so?

Arfa Karim: Yeah, computer homework and other homework as well. Other class work, when they can't get to know what the teacher is saying. Or what they have to do. Or they can’t get any sum right. So, I am there to help them always.

Carl Franklin: And so you have more interests than just computers, obviously, you are very bright. What kinds of things are you interested in besides computers?

Arfa Karim: I am a good singer.

Carl Franklin: Really?

Arfa Karim: Yeah.

Carl Franklin: Wow!

Arfa Karim: I write a little bit of poems, as well. I do poetry, as well, and I am really, really very fond of reading.

Carl Franklin: Good.

Arfa Karim: And I never leave [a book] until it’s finished.

Richard Campbell: You have to go through the whole thing before you’re done.

Arfa Karim: Yes, I have to.

Richard Campbell: Now this is not your first conference, either.

Arfa Karim: No, it’s not. I have been to many PDCs in Pakistan, and I have been to the JDCs, Junior Developer Conferences, as well.

Richard Campbell: Right, tell us a bit about the Junior Developer Conference. I don’t think a lot of people know about those.

Arfa Karim: It’s like there is a junior developer curriculum by Microsoft. It’s like, it tells you how to-it teaches you VB .NET for kids-it’s for kids and there are like, four, there are four cartoon characters who take you on a journey, and whenever you reach any stop, you have to pass a test and you learn some things; and I went through that as well. And I was-I represented that JDC at the JDC.

Richard Campbell: So, you were the speaker at JDC, as well?

Arfa Karim: Yes, I was the speaker, yeah.

Richard Campbell: Did I hear you’ve already met Bill Gates, as well?

Arfa Karim: Yes, I’ve met Bill Gates.

Carl Franklin: I haven’t even met Bill Gates. We’ve done 200 shows. What is up with that?

Richard Campbell: I think we are just too old, maybe that’s it. So, what was your experience with Bill Gates?

Arfa Karim: It was really, really very amazing and exciting. And I found Bill Gates really nice and soft-spoken and all that. And I asked him, I met him for ten minutes, and I asked him…

Richard Campbell: He is a very busy guy.

Arfa Karim: Yes, and ten minutes with him is, I think, it’s a very big thing for me, and I asked him questions like, why aren’t there many women in your company and…

Richard Campbell: She was going right at him.

Carl Franklin: What was his answer, I am curious?

Arfa Karim: He said that it is very hard to find women interested in technology. So…

Carl Franklin: That is true, that is true.

Arfa Karim: I asked him that if you come to Pakistan or some areas, and you’ll find out many women interested in technology, and he said that, “I am planning to come to Pakistan in the next couple of years.” I am still waiting for those two years.

Carl Franklin: Excellent. So what is in the future for you? I mean, what are you going to do from here? What's the next thing you’re going to do?

Arfa Karim: I am -- nowadays, I am looking forward for my O and A levels, and my aim is to get three days in both O and A levels, and then I will be going to probably Harvard and that’s my aim; and I’ll be keeping software development along, because that’s my passion, and software development can be implemented in other fields, so I’ll be taking any other field along; and I have not chosen that field yet, because maybe what I decide today, there is something new tomorrow so I would not be bound here.

Carl Franklin: Well, when you get to Harvard, you look us up, because we’re two hours away at the studio. So you can come down, give us an update, a progress report.

Arfa Karim: Sure.

Richard Campbell: You’re 11. How soon do you expect to be at Harvard?

Arfa Karim: As soon as I finish my A level.

Richard Campbell: As soon as you finish your A levels?

Arfa Karim: Yes.

Richard Campbell: Wow! Is it that soon, next couple of years?

Arfa Karim Yes, about three…

Richard Campbell: Three more years?

Arfa Karim: …four years, yeah.

Carl Franklin: Richard and I were pontificating that perhaps maybe software is too small of a fishbowl for you, that maybe you have a future outside maybe in politics or in at the U.N. or something. Do you think that you could possibly get into some sort of other field after you’re done in software?

Arfa Karim Actually, I’ll never be done in software; I’ll be taking software along. Yeah, I can go in any other field, as well. If I go into some politics or something, I’ll keep software development along with me, and I’ll implement software development in my office work and all that stuff. I won’t leave software development.

Carl Franklin: Yeah. Well, it’s a great field to be in anyway.

Arfa Karim: Yes.

Richard Campbell: Wow, I’m blown away. I don’t even know what to say any more.

Carl Franklin: I don’t either -- kids study hard, daddy is coming home, that’s all I get to say. Alright, thank you very much for talking to us.

Arfa Karim: Alright, thank you.