Things we wish we knew when we were learning to code

Learning to code can be tough — we get it! So we asked our own developers and community what lessons they wish they could go back and share with their younger selves when they were just getting started.

1. You’re already a developer

Often, it feels like if you just read one more book, take one more course, or complete one more project, you’ll cross an invisible line that will then qualify you as a “real developer.” Truth is, you’re already a developer! Whatever skill level you’re at, you’re already qualified to start making and building things. You’ll never be able to know everything, so embrace what you’ve got!

2. Work on things you like

This one seems obvious, but when you’re first learning to make and finish things, it’s important to work on projects that are personally interesting to you. Find something that solves a problem for yourself or your group of friends, not something you think you’re “supposed” to build. Working on uninteresting projects will likely kill your desire to continue learning.

3. It’s easier than you think — just don’t give up

(Credit: azadarooj)

It can seem like you’re trying to climb an insurmountable mountain when you’re learning a new language or concept. But if you stick with it, learning with daily or weekly practice, progress will come quickly. We love Free Code Camp’s #100DaysOfCode challenge, encouraging you to practice coding every day for 100 days as well as the One Hour Challenge from Pluralsight.

4. Build your network

Meetups are something developers of all skill levels should seek out — you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet. Case in point: The first batch of Ruby programmers hired to help build out Code School came from a Ruby meetup that Gregg Pollack, the founder of Code School, attended. With a variety of topics to learn and opportunities to speak, meetups are an awesome way to start interacting with the community, and there are likely dozens of programming and development meetups in your area.

5. Don’t always try to produce elegant and efficient code

(Credit: pcaldredbann)

When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get jealous of your mentors’ polished, production-ready code you see online. Set those expectations aside and just start building. As you grow your skills, you’ll be able to go back and revise code that may have been thrown together hastily. The most important thing you can do early on is to just build!

6. Learn Git sooner than later

As teams grow, knowing how to effectively collaborate with them is vital. Git and GitHub are two of the skills we tend to look for when hiring new developers at Code School. GitHub is used to manage both internal projects and for exploring projects made by other developers. Brush up on your Git knowledge to show that you know how to collaborate with other developers.

7. Work closely with other developers

Whether you work at a company or are learning late at night, try to surround yourself with like-minded people and other programmers. Simply being around other developers will help you learn more than you’ll be able to accomplish in a silo. Other developers can show you tricks of the trade, answer questions, and guide your learning path.

8. Learn patterns, not tools

(Credit: Sergio Cruz)

Common design patterns are used to solve problems that show up in all sorts of development projects. When you’re learning, try to focus on the how of solving problems, not just the tools you use to solve the problem. As you move between languages or frameworks, tools come and go, but you’ll find yourself using similar design patterns over and over.

9. You’re always going to be learning

There’s a good chance when you get your first job as a developer, you’re going to have to learn on the job. It’s important to get in the mindset of learning continually throughout your career, as you’ll likely always be tackling new challenges wherever your career takes you.


Do you have anything else you’d like to tell your younger self that would have made your programming journey a lot easier? Let us know below!

Code School is an online learning platform for existing and aspiring developers to learn technologies like HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, PHP, and more.