I’ve Been Coding for One Year — This Is What I’ve Learned

Reflections on 365 days of being a programmer

Joel P. Mugalu
Apr 12 · 5 min read
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Photo by Devon Divine on Unsplash

So, yes, it’s official, I’ve been coding for one year now. I must say, this has been one of the most challenging years of my life. I’ve hit my head on the wall countless times, learned and accomplished a lot in the past year.

In this article, I am going to share seven tips based on the challenges I’ve faced and the things I’ve learned along the way.

Disclaimer: This is not going to be one of those “I wake up at 4 a.m. every day, switched careers in three to six months while coding at least 12 hours a day” articles. Sorry if you’re disappointed.

I am going to take a rather realistic approach and a totally honest one, where I tell you how it felt at certain times and what it was like for me. With this approach, you’ll probably relate to me and get a taste of what programming is like.

A Little Background

I am Joel, an 18-year old learning web development using JavaScript. I started learning to code on my own since I was 17.

My journey started at freeCodeCamp and I am glad I started there. freeCodeCamp is a wonderful website thanks to Quincy Larson. It is quite unbelievable that someone can create all that content, as wonderful as it is, for free. Good people still exist.

Now that you know a little bit about me, let’s get to why you actually clicked to read this article. You might want to read the whole article as I’ve kept the best for last.

Focus on Learning and Not Covering Material

As I said, my journey started at freeCodeCamp. If you don’t know what freeCodeCamp is, it’s a free challenge-based website aimed at teaching full-stack web development.

In the beginning, it was very exciting. I wanted to start building things in the shortest time possible. Although this was good motivation, it began to shadow my learning.

I started to focus more on finishing one challenge after another. I then realized that I was just passing challenges and not learning. This was good enough in the initial stages.

Learning never stops, especially in the world of programming. Technologies evolve and new ones keep coming. Training yourself to be studious is a skill that you’ll surely need on your journey as a programmer.

“Self education I believe is the only kind of education there is.” — Isaac Asimov

It’s Not a Walk in the Park

Coding is not an easy task, that I promise. It’s mentally demanding. It requires critical thinking, patience, and it can be very frustrating. Often times, it gets frustrating when a line of code doesn’t run.

A lot of times, I felt like hitting my head against the wall. Only to find the problem was a misplaced semi-colon or a misspelling. Other times, my head boiled for hours only to find out the problem’s alternative was way easier.

But this is the beauty of it, words cannot express the joy you get seeing your code work. You need to experience that yourself. Often times, the best thing to do at moments like this is to walk away. Take a break. Do something else then return when you feel you’re ready.

Your Passion Is Your Motivation

Many times, you are going to feel like giving up. You will fail many times and you will lose motivation. There are times when I solved a challenge then, after some time, I failed to solve the same challenge again.

Many times, you will feel like you are not learning anything and wasting time. Other times, you will fail to apply something you thought you understood. My point is you are going to fail.

It’s at times like these that your passion will rescue you. If you are passionate about what you’re doing then you’ll keep on pushing. Remember nothing good comes easy.

If you want to build that app or that website that you’ve always wanted, you will need to go through this phase. Remember why you started coding in the first place and that’ll keep you going.

Motivation will keep you going but passion will get you there.

“Do it with passion, or not at all.” — Rosa Nochette

Google Is Your Best Friend

You’ll want to solve every challenge that comes your way, but you will not. When you get stuck and you feel you’ve tried all you could, seek help.

Do not try to be the lone hacker. Learn to Google other people’s solutions to that problem you can’t overcome. There is a 99% chance that someone else asked that very question you have.

So, don’t feel afraid to ask for help. Remember the best way to solve complex problems quickly is to not solve them at all.

Make Sure You Learn All the Fundamentals

As you continue to learn to code, a lot of things will excite you. You will feel like jumping into learning new concepts immediately. Things like frameworks and libraries will especially excite you but do not rush.

It is very important to learn the fundamentals. Get a road map. I love this roadmap by Kamranahmedse. Don’t skip things like data structures and algorithms however much you might not see the need for them right now.

Remember, frameworks come and go but fundamentals remain.

“As to methods, there may be a million but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods ignoring principles is sure to have trouble” — Harrington Emerson

Practice, Practice, Practice

This was by far my greatest challenge. I spent a considerable amount of time stuck in what is otherwise known as tutorial hell.

Tutorials are good and are a solid way of learning. But knowledge consumed and not used is like a beautifully designed car that has no fuel. However beautiful the car is…it only serves its purpose if it moves.

Similarly, however informative or well-presented a tutorial is, it won’t help you if you don’t use the knowledge.

So, build, build, and practice, it’s the best way to learn. Also, feel free to share your progress with others. You can blog or use social media. Either way is very effective. The developer community is very supportive.


So, what’s the takeaway from all this?

Coding is very fun and learning will never stop, not any time soon. It’s been one year but I feel like I’ve only touched the fringes of everything there is.

Enjoy this journey, you’ll only have one. Learn, catch up with other developers, and share what you learn.

It has been very interesting for me and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Thanks so much for reading this article up to this word. I wish you all the best in your coding journey.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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