First and FourMost

My four most helpful tips for successfully learning to code…

I recently started my journey into becoming a Web Developer and thought I’d share the Four Most helpful tips that I’ve learned so far. But first, a little bit about where I started.

For a couple years I’ve wanted to change careers and learn to program. I’ve put in countless hours going the free, self-taught route with Codecademy, Khan Academy, and a few books. While this was beneficial to an extent I really needed some more structure and accountability. What better way to force yourself to be accountable than to pay for a bootcamp type course with your own, hard-earned, real money? So I took that step and signed up for Bloc. Bloc was the best option for me as it allowed me to keep my full time job while still learning to code in a fast-paced, hardworking environment being taught by real people I could talk to.

During these few years of learning to code, these are the four things I believe have helped the most…

  • Read high level overviews before diving into syntax
  • Set and stick to a rigid schedule
  • Test yourself
  • Find a mentor or coding buddy

High Level Overviews

Starting a new programming language or framework can be a daunting task. Looking at the code and syntax for the first time can be overwhelming and that’s understandable, considering it’s basically a foreign language. Knowing where to start is part of the problem. What I’ve been doing that has helped immensely has been to start by reading language summaries that take a step back and first explain what the code or framework does on a higher level. They take a look at what each element is used for and how it communicates with other elements.

A quick Google search of “(your language here) high level overview” should yield pages of results with blog posts, learning sites, and videos that’ll really help build high level comprehension.

Starting here before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) gives you a better understanding of what’s really going on. After that, all there is to learn is syntax. To me, learning in this order gives you best chance at success. Unfortunately, many of the online courses like Codecademy and Khan Academy start the user off jumping straight into writing code and solving mini checkpoints. While this may be seem fun and easy, it doesn’t teach understanding as much as it does syntax memorization.

Keep a Schedule

This one seems obvious, and it is, but it can be difficult to do and it makes a big difference. When I first started learning to code I created a Codecademy account and spent most of my free time there. I couldn’t put my laptop down. But then I did. I got back to it every now and then but it was fewer and further between.

The hardest thing to do when learning to code is starting up again after taking a break. Anyone who’s started the self-taught regimen has dealt with it before, you take a week off and then when you get back to it you’ve almost completely forgotten everything. The more time you spend with coding it gets easier but one way to avoid it completely is to set and stick to a strict schedule.

Self Testing

It’s almost like they knew what they were doing in High School and College. Testing is really the best way to figure out what you know and what you don’t. There are multiple ways to test yourself but, to me, the best way is to build a webpage from scratch. Don’t be afraid to struggle, the struggle is where you really learn to rack your brain and really think. When you solve a problem on your own that you’ve been struggling with, there’s no better feeling.

Another testing resource I use is Code Wars, a great way to solve some real world and not so real world problems with code.

Phone a Friend

While learning in a self taught environment can be rewarding and sometimes beneficial, finding a “mentor” can be a huge help. This “mentor” can be a friend that is already in the programming industry or, if your like me, can be chosen from a list of knowledgeable Bloc Mentor’s. There will undeniably be times where you get completely stuck to the point where you feel all is lost. There are some other resources like Stack Exchange but if you have someone available to you in the industry who can answer questions for you or help you get unstuck, that’s an excellent asset to have. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to reach out to my mentor to help me find answers that I couldn’t find myself.

I’ve definitely had my share of hiccups in sticking to these four tips. I’ve definitely taken a few days off and I probably don’t test myself as much as I should, but when I do stick to it I get into a groove where everything makes sense and I’m super productive, and that’s where I want to always be!

Check out my portfolio for some quick insights into some of my projects or to let me know if you’d like to collaborate!