The truth is, everyone can learn how to code no matter what their previous background is. The only prerequisite is a clearly defined goal and a single-minded determination.
Before jumping into online tutorials and code challenges, take some time to figure out what drives you to learn how to code in the first place. Is it mostly changing careers and getting a higher paycheck at the end of the month? Maybe you’ve got a really cool business idea and you want to set up an e-commerce website to launch your product? Or you’ve been struggling with tedious tasks at work and you wish to write a program that will automate the repetitive tasks, boosting your productivity in your current job?
There might be a myriad of reasons why you’d like to learn to code. Understanding the motivation behind it will shape your path and help you stay on the right track without losing focus.
Coding Might Be Tough at the Beginning
You can start learning basic concepts yet without understanding why you want to be a coder, you could easily get discouraged and simply lose interest after a couple of months.
Coding will be tough at first as you’ll be learning a completely foreign syntax. You’ll work on developing an analytical mindset and start looking at problems from a different perspective. At this stage, the internal drive is immensely important as it will keep pushing you forward. If you can pinpoint the real benefit that knowing how to code will have in your life, it will be much easier to stick to the daily practice and not give up.
Take a piece of paper and write down 5 reasons why you want to learn how to code, then write down one major goal and 5 smaller goals that coding will help you achieve. This, in turn, will tell you if you should mostly treat coding as a hobby or a serious career change.
If programming fascinates you and you want to understand how it works, you’ll be better off starting with free online tutorials on Codecademy.
However, if you’re seriously thinking of a career change and want to focus on getting a job as a developer, you could consider signing up on a coding bootcamp. Coding bootcamps are intensive trainings that will give you a clear structure and prepare you for the current job market. Make sure you choose a coding bootcamp which has a job guarantee program.
Web Developer, Mobile App Developer or Artificial Intelligence?
The world of technology is vast and it’s developing at a breakneck speed. You have plenty of options. Defining the motivation behind the drive to learn how to code will help you in deciding if you want to become a web developer, mobile app developer or maybe go in the direction of robotics, machine learning and AI.
Shout Out to the Code Newbies - Set Up a Timeline!
Once you know the language you want to start with, set up a timeline and make sure you select a couple of smaller goals you want to achieve before a particular deadline. For web development, it could be anything of the following,
- Learn the basics of HTML
- Learn the basics of CSS
- Learn about simple CSS animations
- Create your first website
- Optimise the website for mobile devices
- Learn the basics of react.js
- Learn the basics of node.js
Setting up a timeline will be crucial especially if you wish to change careers. You need to be clear on when you’ll be ready to apply for developer positions. Otherwise, you might get a bit sluggish and without any state of urgency it could take up to several years to change professions, which is not ideal.
You’ll need to show to potential employers that coding is your passion, you can work hard, be disciplined and methodical in achieving your daily and weekly commitments. Coding is a craft and without major focus placed on self-improvement, it’d be hard for you to beat the competition and show that you have what it takes to learn on the go.
Build Your Knowledge Map, Piece by Piece
It’s no secret that learning how to code will take some time. You’ll keep discovering knowledge gaps that you’ll start to fill bit by bit, gaining confidence at the same time.
You might decide to watch an online tutorial and surely there might be some stuff you will probably find a bit confusing. You should then turn to Google or Stack Overflow forum to find a clear explanation of the concept. You might even stumble upon a book that touches upon a certain issue and learn about additional programming concepts in the meantime. This will, in turn, result in small blocks of knowledge that will build on each other.
You’ll start seeing the bigger picture and everything will fall into place, making a lot more sense. In case you’re out of ideas what to learn next, simply come up with 5 things you’d like to create with programming. Type the keywords into the Google search box and add ‘coding’ to get a list of results explaining how to achieve particular projects with coding.
Start with a good mindset and get involved in projects that will have a direct benefit in your life so that you stay motivated to finish what you’ve started. Start small from simple programming tasks and challenges. You will soon get hooked if you put your heart into it.
Practice Problem Solving Techniques Daily
Coders solve problems on a daily basis. You’ll need to develop problem solving techniques in order to become a better programmer as it’s way more important than learning ready-made formulas by heart. Don’t forget that you can always refer to someone else’s code for inspiration!
The best way of practising problem-solving is getting into the habit of solving various code challenges. Our favourite code challenge websites are Codewars, Codesignal, Coderbyte, GeeksforGeeks, LeetCode, HackerRank & Hackerearth.
You should set aside time for practising coding every single day. If you want to have more time for programming, check out our 22 time saving tips that can help you save up to 30 hours a week!
You’ll need to immerse yourself in the syntax you’re trying to master. Take someone else's code, break it and rebuild it. You will get a better sense of what each component does and how it all works together. You can even try to rearrange the lines to understand if there is any significance in the sequence of the code. You will soon discover the logic behind it and coding will become a lot more intuitive.
Don’t Rush - Go Back to the Theory & Keep Asking Questions
Programming concepts might not sink in the first time you’re reading about it, it takes time and there is no need to rush yourself while skipping certain elements or just scanning the content. It’s better to progress slowly but fully understand what particular attributes, variables and objects are used for. If some concepts are unclear, go back and read up on it, check it on youtube, search for it on Google, Stack Overflow forum or grab a book.
In addition, look for relevant meetups in your city that you could attend for free to have a chance to speak to more experienced developers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the more you ask the more you’ll know about programming itself or what the developer’s job actually entails.
Build Up an Impressive Portfolio of Eye-Catching Projects
If you’re seriously thinking about a career in Tech you need a GitHub account, it’s a must. Most prospective employers tend to hire those that are active on GitHub and can easily showcase their skills to others.
Look for open source projects that you could collaborate on. You can easily find an array of interesting projects by checking out Explore, browsing through the recommended section, connecting with other users and searching for repositories by topics or labels.
Anything you’re working on now which can show off your competencies will come in handy during job interviews so make sure to expand your portfolio with time. A bunch of eye-catching projects will considerably increase your chances of getting the job!
Spice Up Your Linkedin & Be Prepared to Network a lot!
Keep close tabs on any tech events happening in your city and sign up to as many as you can, especially if they are free of charge. You will need to practice your networking skills, talk to as many people as you can and connect on LinkedIn, you never know which connection might present you with a new opportunity.
You can even invite people for a coffee to chat about their roles, find out what requirements there are to be hired at their workplace etc. You’d be surprised how many of them would say yes. They were in the same position where you are at some point in their career and they would most probably be willing to answer any questions related to programming and their role. Reaching out to people might be daunting at first but it’s extremely rewarding.
You’ll also need to work on your LinkedIn profile. Spice it up by linking any current projects you’re working on and especially by linking your GitHub account. Connect with anyone you’ve worked for in the past if possible, even if it was just for a short period of time. The more connections you have on LinkedIn, the higher chance your profile will show up in headhunters’ search results.
Promote yourself as best as you can as this is your chance of changing careers and getting that first job in IT. And whatever you do, make sure you show your enthusiasm for coding to potential employers. Even if you don’t have a lot of professional experience if they can see you can learn on your own, are disciplined and love what you do, they could potentially open the doors to bigger and better things.
Keep Learning Obsessively in a Fun Way - Coding Games
It’s crucial that you keep up with the developments in your chosen programming language. Sign up to medium and keep reading, you’ll find a ton of good tips, updates on the latest tech and ‘how to’ articles related to your niche.
You could even learn a new syntax in a fun and interactive way. Why not grab a simple game app and practice coding while having fun at the same time? Check out CodinGame, CodeCombat, Untrusted, CodeHunt or CheckiO. Some games like CodinGame can teach you over 25 programming languages, pretty cool right!
You have to be prepared that as a coder you’ll constantly work on decreasing the skills gap as the technologies evolve at a staggering speed. You need to find passion in learning and acquiring new knowledge otherwise you might get burned out pretty quickly.
Make Sure You Do Everything to Keep Your Code Clean
Your code will tell a lot about you as a coder. Read up on good coding practices or grab a book ‘Clean Code’ by Robert C.Martin.
Write your code in a way that it’s easily readable to anyone who works on it. You shouldn’t include any unnecessary nested loops, twisty flows or continuous chunks of copy-pasted code.
Don’t litter your code with comments and get rid of commented-out code lines. Make it easy to manage and maintain, your future employers will be impressed!
Know The Software Development Fundamentals Inside Out
Take time to learn about functions, object-oriented programming & SQL. You’ll also need a good understanding of the operating system and a compiler which translates the instructions into a code that can be easily understood and executed by a computer.
You should also dig up some material on concepts like classes, variables, methods, objects, properties, IF statements, loops, control structures, common data structures and various tools.
It's Never Too Late to Learn to Code!
Learning to code might give you loads of benefits, from solving a particular issue you’re struggling with in your daily job to creating cool applications, games or slick and modern websites. Coders tend to enjoy good job stability as well as a work/life balance as some of them are able to work remotely or even go freelance.
Coding is creative, imaginative and it’s a powerful skill. By mastering programming you’ll be the one telling algorithms what to do, not the other way round. The Tech industry is booming, with lots of excellent opportunities in areas like AI, robotics, machine learning or cybersecurity. What’s more, coding skills are even required for non-tech jobs and developers are like unicorns, highly sought after on the job market!
Learning how to program will be challenging but highly satisfying and the best part is you don’t need a degree to start learning how algorithms work, you just need some time and willpower to achieve your clearly set-out goals.
Put your mind to it and check out a couple of Yoda’s wisdom quotes that can help you along the way. Above all don’t lose your enthusiasm :).
A bit overwhelmed? Not to worry, the first step that you can make is to take our free aptitude test to find out if programming is for you!