So you’ve decided to learn to code Stop right there before you go any further… and give us a virtual high five! Coding is a lot of fun, and the tech industry is crying out for capable computer programmers. So much so that supply is not meeting demand. That trend is set to continue for the immediate future, which is good news for you; it means if you get your act together, work hard and persist in improving your skills, you’re well placed to land a pretty sweet developer job with an even sweeter paycheck.
Before you dive in at the deep end however, there are a few things you should know. Don’t even think about writing a single line of code until you’ve done these five things. Trust us, we’ll know if you don’t (and so will any employer who knows what they’re doing)…
#1: Choose ANY Language
So many new coders stress themselves out about what language to learn. Should you go with an industry changing new kid on the block like Swift, or an ubiquitous stalwart like Java? High level or low level? Object oriented or functional? The truth is… it’s not important. Learning ANY programming language will give you a point of reference for learning ANY OTHER programming language. It makes no difference which one you start off with. What’s important is developing a solid knowledge of the fundamentals of computer programming.
#2: Find a Friend
If you think coding is all about sitting in a dark room in front of a wall of screens with your fingers flying over the keyboard, you’re wrong. Along with having the right technical skills (and a few other things), the key to programming success is communication. Nobody builds super complex programs that work single handedly. It involves collaboration and support from other programmers – sometimes even a whole team of them.
With that in mind, you should make an effort to befriend others who are learning or have already learned to code. That means more brainpower and more code-writing than you can achieve alone. And that in turn means you’ll develop better networking and teamwork abilities; which is pretty much the secret to landing a programming job. Plus, it’s always good to have a mentor when you’re starting out.
#3: Get on GitHub
Simply put, GitHub is an invaluable resource that all programmers use, all the time. It’s a version control repository and internet hosting service, and it’s where you’ll find open source code for pretty much anything you could possibly want to build. It’s where to go to share and publish code, and it also has a host of innovative and unique features.
It’s also where all the cool code kids hang out, and is a fantastic way to get involved in coding projects, meet like-minded programmers, find a mentor and even get your own project up and running with the help of others. It’s easy to get started, and there are users of all levels on there so you won’t feel like the outsider. Get involved!
#4: Learn Algorithms
The essence of computer programming is problem solving. Improving your problem solving skills before you learn to code will help you pick up the fundamentals faster than anyone. One way to do this while also getting a feel for programming concepts is by solving algorithms. Regardless of whether you want to become a web designer, a game developer or anything in between, you’ll be using algorithms to achieve the end result.
Algorithmic thinking is also tested in many coding job interviews, so there are plenty of reasons to give it a go. There are endless algorithm online courses to choose from at all entry levels, or you can try Code Wars or HackerRank for a more fun way to learn.
#5: Keep it Simple
… But do challenge yourself. Don’t worry about becoming an expert coder in a matter of weeks. Like everything else in the world, it takes time and practice to get good. Put all your energy into getting the basics right, learning the core of computer science, and having fun! However, you should still be working towards set goals… goals that sit just a little bit further beyond what you can easily do.
Remember the road to becoming a proficient programmer is not straight. You’ll have times when every piece of the puzzle falls effortlessly into place, and you’ll have times when everything goes wrong and you want to throw your computer out the window. So take it step by step. Don’t shy away from something that seems too big for your boots, but always take time to register your skill level first.
And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!