So, it’s settled – programming is what you want to get into. Not Spanish, not accounting, not marketing. Maybe, you’d like it to be just a hobby for you for now. Maybe, you already dream of becoming a full-fledged developer down the road.
Regardless, if you just google “learn to code,” you’ll probably get overwhelmed with the amount of information thrown at you in the form of guides, learning materials, and blog posts. All of them make it seem that this task is more complicated than anything else you might’ve done in your life.
But that’s not exactly true. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are six simple tips to help you set out on the path toward becoming a real coder!
Make It Your Part-Time Job
Let’s be straightforward here: it’ll take a long while before all of your efforts bear fruit. How long, you might wonder? Well, it depends on the field of programming you want to ace. But on average, don’t expect to see any meaningful results before six months of part-time studying.
So, prepare for a long journey. Make sure you commit to it. And this is where this mindset – “learning is a part-time job” – will help you out. It means that you have to be disciplined and work towards becoming a developer every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes or an hour per day. No excuses!
Of course, just like with an actual part-time job, you’ll need to carve out enough time for it. So, if you’re a non-computer science student, you might want to reassess your academic workload.
To play it safe, you can always offload some of it to services like WritePaper.com to make time for learning on your own. Remember to set your priorities straight when you decide on that – and act accordingly, too.
Know Exactly What You Want
With that out of the way, let’s talk about your learning path. The thing is, it’ll be completely different depending on what you want to do with the knowledge you acquire eventually.
So, ask yourself these three questions:
- How do you want to use your new skills later on?
- What projects do you want to be engaged in? In what capacity?
- What are you passionate about the most when it comes to programming?
To give you an idea of what fields you can choose to specialize in, here are five main types of programming that exist at the moment:
- Web development. Some developers work on the front-end part of website development; others prefer to focus on the back-end part instead.
- Software development. This is an umbrella term for creating and maintaining a variety of applications, from Photoshop and CRMs to internal corporate apps.
- Data science. Data scientists use massive amounts of data to run simulations and do research.
- Database administration. This is all about storing, organizing, and making sense of corporate data.
- Mobile app development. You can choose to specialize in building native, cross-platform, or hybrid mobile apps.
Start with the Basics
First of all, it wouldn’t hurt to know the basics of computer science before you dive into this or that programming language. It’s the universal knowledge that you can use regardless of your specialization.
Here are five free online courses that will be a good starting point for you:
- CS50: Introduction to Computer Science by Harvard University (edX);
- Computer Science 101 by Stanford School of Engineering (Stanford Online);
- Introduction to Computer Science and Programming by MIT (MIT OpenCourseware);
- Introduction to Computer Science (Wikiversity);
- What is Programming? (Udacity).
Once you do that, pick a programming language – and keep grinding until you’re confident enough in using it. Only then should you switch to learning the next one on your list.
How do you make your choice? Well, just take a look at the projects you’re interested in – and google what technologies are required to execute them to perfection. For example, data scientists will need to master Python, while native mobile app developers better start with Kotlin (Android) or Swift (iOS).
Practice Every Single Day
While learning theory is important, practice is what you should prioritize in your journey. Think about it this way: knowing the definition of object and class are of no use if you don’t know how to apply them when you write the code.
So, set aside a bit of time every day to write at least a few lines of code. It doesn’t have to be great, nor does it have to be revolutionary in any way. Just build something, little by little, whether it’s an open-source project or your personal one.
Apart from those two ways to put the theory to practice, you can:
- Use websites like FreeCodeCamp and W3Schools to try your hand at spot-on exercises right after you cover the theory;
- Land freelancer gigs in your preferred field via platforms like Upwork and Fiverr;
- Or just look through the project description on these websites to give you an idea of what real-world projects are like.
Tinker with the Code
Curiosity is what drives developers of any kind. So, don’t forget to put on your “curious” pants every time you get back to learning how to code.
When you learn about a new function or variable type, always take that extra step when you practice – tinker with the code. In this context, tinkering means asking yourself, “What would happen if I do X?,” testing it, and understanding how it impacts the execution of the program.
Tinkering is a crucial skill to have for two reasons:
- It’ll be easier to learn what does what in the code. You can read about a function dozens of times without the information staying in your long-term memory. But if you make the discovery yourself, it will.
- It’ll show you that there are multiple ways to write the same algorithm. Usually, only the input and the output are pre-determined. How you get from point A to point B is up to you.
Don’t Overlook the Tools
When you just begin your journey to become a developer, you’re focused only on mastering the programming languages, frameworks, and libraries. But there are many devices that help to progress in the developer profession. So, if you plan to land a job as a coder later, you need to know your way around:
- Git. This is the de-facto standard tool for collaborating in software development. You probably know about the most well-known platform that uses this technology, GitHub – but there are others, too.
- Project management tools. One way or another, you’ll have to work in a team, and tools like Jira are where all task distribution happens. Apart from Jira, take some time to explore its counterparts: Asana, Trello, and Basecamp.
- Code editors. Some IDEs are just not that user-friendly. This is why you should get familiar with multi-purpose code editors, like Notepad++, Komodo Edit, and RJ TextEd.
The best way to start doing something is by starting to do it. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Don’t put this off because it seems “too big” or because you don’t have the exact curriculum you want to follow figured out yt. Instead, just settle on one online resource and learn from it daily, little by little.
Don’t feel too bad if you realize this or that programming language or field doesn’t work for you, either. That can happen, but you won’t know until you’ve tried it. And in case this happens to you, there’s no shame in switching what you study – or abandoning coding altogether.