Learn to Code: 13 Tips that Could Save You Years of Effort
When you’re new to coding, it can be hard to know where to start, and it’s easy to get sucked down paths that could waste a whole lot of your time and money.
- Forget university programs. Unless it’s from Stanford or MIT, your degree will mean a lot less than having some apps to show off. In fact, most university programs struggle to keep up with changing technology. A degree will buy you a few thousand dollars more for the first 1–3 years. After that it makes exactly zero difference. Unless you like flushing time and money down the toilet…
- Score a quick win right now. Confidence holds coding students back more than anything else. Get a boost by starting with something easy. Code.org has Star Wars and Minecraft hour of code curriculum designed for kids. Even if you’re an adult, it’s a great way to prove to yourself that you can do it.
- Learn by example. One of the best ways to score major breakthroughs is to watch somebody else code, and pick up on how they think about problems. Find a study buddy and try some pair programming. I recently started a new show called “Shotgun with Eric Elliott” — a video screencast show that lets you ride shotgun while I build real apps. I talk you through what I’m thinking with every step, and drop a lot of knowledge for you to pick up along the way. I’m journaling each episode on this blog.
- Try a Bootcamp. If you can afford to attend school full time, forget university programs (see point 1). Try a bootcamp, instead. Bootcamps are great if you need to feel really invested (commonly $10k — $25k), and you need to be accountable to somebody other than yourself. I’ve hired bootcamp grads who had zero experience before the bootcamp. They did a great job with a little guidance from the experienced team members. Beware of bootcamps that only offer 3-month (12-week) programs. You need at least twice as much study & practice to be job-ready.
- Find a Strong Mentor. Graduating from a bootcamp or online course is just step one in your learning journey. At the pace this industry changes, you’ll never stop learning. You should always have a strong mentor to learn from. You don’t have to know them in-person in order to learn from them. It can be somebody you follow online.
- Find a Meetup or Study Group. Meetups are a great way to find mentors, study buddies, and new friends, regardless of your current skill level. And there’s often free pizza involved. Check out Meetup.com.
- Mix it up. Video lessons are great, but you need to practice to learn. Exercises are great, but typically only drill very specific concepts and leave out great coding wisdom you could learn from a video guide. In-person is great, but tends to lack structure. Books are great, but most readers don’t get enough practice from books. Whatever you’re doing, mix it up once in a while. Try to learn from more than one medium.
- Build a Portfolio. No matter how you learn, if you want to code for a career, you’ll want to start building a portfolio of your projects. Open a GitHub account and post your projects there so that potential employers can see your work. Check out the GitHub Guides to get started.
He spends most of his time in the San Francisco Bay Area with the most beautiful woman in the world.
EDIT / PS:
If you can find a good university program and it will cost you little or no money, by all means, take advantage of that. My anti-university rant is mostly about universities in the US who will happily eat up hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition money that you will never earn back on the job.