6 Things I Wish I knew Before I Started Programming

Olivia Roche
May 12 · 6 min read

Getting started on your coding journey can be very overwhelming at times as there are so many directions you can take. Whether you want to build a website, an app or even a game, there are so many languages to choose from. Here’s 6 things I wish I knew before I started programming which may help you out on beginning your coding journey.

1. There Is No Secret

Lets just make that clear, learning to code is not something that can happen over night and is not something only a certain percent of the population are magically good at. Learning to code is a very long and hard process which requires constant learning no matter what level you’re at.

There is no way around it and there’s no secret to becoming a successful programmer. It’s a lot of hard work and practise mixed with a love and will to constantly want to learn and improve your skills. That’s it! If you always want to grow and are willing to put in the time and effort, you will become a successful developer.

2. Find Out What You Want To Create

As I mentioned, there are so many areas of interest and different languages to choose from when it comes to learning to code and I’ll tell you now, it’s impossible to learn them all. So it is crucial that you find out what it is that you want to create and take that direction.

This will help you to narrow down the skills required for your area of interest and what languages or frameworks you need to learn in order to start creating. It will also help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed and trying to learn too much at once. If you have less to learn and just focus on one set of tools, one language or one framework in particular, you will become comfortable with knowing more than just the basics and you can then move on to other areas and learn to use other tools.

For me, my interest in learning to code came from wanting to create websites and coming from a chemistry background, I had no clue where to start. After a bit of research I came across freeCodeCamp which provided me with the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript and allowed me to begin building websites and other interactive projects. It also provided me with structure and a curriculum of what I needed to focus on to improve my skills. I am also lucky enough to have friends in the field who were able to give me advice and guidance on where I should spend a lot of my time.

3. Work From The Ground Up

As I mentioned, learning to code is a long and hard process which requires constant learning and practise no matter how advanced you become. You can jump in with the best tips and tricks but it’s still going to involve a lot of trial and error before you begin to understand concepts and find out how you learn best.

One thing that is very important and I’ve learned this through my own experience of failing and having to try again, is make sure that you understand the basics. Don’t get me wrong, learning to code can also be a very enjoyable experience and it’s great being able to come up with an idea and watch it come to life on your computer screen. But, without the basics, learning to code can be a very unforgiving and you’ll end up getting very frustrated, very quickly.

So when you do start learning a new language or framework, make sure you understand the basics before jumping into the more advanced concepts or moving on to other languages. Don’t worry how long it takes and don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Remember, we all learn at our own pace and it’s better to spend the time you need perfecting the basics than jumping ahead and not fully understanding what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Learning to code is more about learning how to solve problems than it is learning how to write code.

4. Learn How To Use Google

Whether you’re a code newbie or a coding ninja, google is your friend. It doesn’t matter how proficient you become at writing code, you’re always going to run into bugs and problems.

The main thing is how you learn to fix those problems and usually a simple google search will help you find a solution. That is, if you know how to google the problem you’re having. This comes back to knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you don’t understand the problem, you won’t know what to search for and you won’t know what solution you need. Learning how to use google correctly is a major key in learning how to code.

Being able to recognise an error, whether it’s from your code or someone else’s and knowing what solution you’re looking to find is half the battle when using google to help solve your errors.

5. Just Start Building

This is probably the best piece of advice I can give to anyone who is learning to code and like me, has been stuck in a vicious cycle of watching tutorials, enrolling in courses and learning the same material over and over again. Just start building. Stop jumping from course to course, stop watching tutorials, stop feeling like you don’t have the skills needed and just start building. Build something, anything. It doesn’t matter what you code as long as you just start. Your confidence in writing code will skyrocket and you’ll get better at reading and writing code and understanding concepts quicker. All you have to do is build the habit and just start creating.

6. Connect, Connect, Connect

Getting involved in the tech community is just as important as learning to write code. Connecting with other people in the community means you have people to share ideas with and go to for advice when you’re trying to solve a problem or interested in certain areas of tech. When I first started teaching myself to code I set up an Instagram account called @theCodingGinger to document my progress and hold myself accountable. This lead me to getting involved in the online tech community where I’ve met people from all over the world on the same journey as me. All who are willing to help others if needed. I’ve also played a part in helping people to become inspired and begin their own journey of learning to code. Which, to me, is huge! I never expected an instagram account to have that much reach and effect on people.

Meetups are another great way to meet people in the tech community and grow your network. I’ve become a familiar face at the local tech meetups here in Waterford, the Waterford Tech Meetup which take place every month. I’ve met people who are in college studying computer science, people who are developers in companies such as Red Hat, nearForm, DoneDeal, and Voxgig and heard talks from people who work at Microsoft.

I used to be very hesitant telling people that I was teaching myself to code using free online resources as I didn’t see it as anything special but the feedback I’ve gotten from people at meetups has been incredible. The best thing about meetups is no one makes you feel insecure about not going the third level education route, everyone is just interested in talking tech, what you’re learning and how you’re learning it.

So find a tech meetup in your local area and get involved to grow your network.

Enjoy The Journey

This extra point isn’t really something that I wish I knew before I started programming but more something I need to remind myself of regularly. Coding involves a lot of hours, days, months and years of non-stop learning and practise. It can take a tremendous amount of time to feel confident enough in your skills and years to become an expert in your area. But, it’s a very enjoyable and rewarding field that allows you to create and share amazing ideas with the world through the use of a laptop and an internet connection.

That’s all the advice I have for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it and hope you gained something from it or share it to someone who will.

Olivia Roche

Written by

Aspiring developer. Documenting my coding journey which is brought to you by loud music and countless cups of coffee. Follow along on instagram @theCodingGinger

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