Learn To Code

May 30, 2017 · 8 min read

and things don’t move, that's ok.

That feeling when you have a load of ideas to test, but you can’t code.

Learn to code. It’s a skill that will take you a long way. More so, if you are product designer. I have worked in design for more than 15 years— branding, marketing campaigns, print campaigns, web design (there’s no such thing now, it’s either front end or back end) and I could design with my eyes closed.

There were times when I was in discussion with the client and listening to what the brief was and I could see the design taking shape in my head. Even before the conversation was over, I had the design ready in my head — I knew exactly what the client needed and what I had to do.

This was before I turned my attention to user experience. That changed everything. I was no longer comfortable designing stuff in my head when someone was talking to me. I knew this was the wrong approach.

I was not interested in designing things anymore. I moved all my resources towards user experience and research.

What made me do this?

  1. Who is the user and who are we designing this for?
  2. Does this add any value to the user — This new button on the home page. What does it do. Who’s clicking on it and who’s not noticing?
  3. Figure out what the user’s job. What are they trying to get done.
  4. Whats failing. Why do we keep designing stuff thats failing?
  5. Who spoke to the users and when. What did they learn?

What was this leading to?

This led to understanding why a product fail — all that startups do to get that hockey stick curve and still fail. What do users do when they reach your product for the first time. How long before they leave it? And why did they leave? And then came the growth hacking wave.

This led to more reading and searching through endless list of blogs and getting those browser tabs look like the great wall of china (A separate story here — Broadband is down…)

After spending a few years working with clients ranging from bluechips (is this term relevant anymore) in the private sector to public sector giants, I found that that there are bigger problems to be solved in the enterprise and no wonder traditional bastions like fin-tech, law, energy, transport and healthcare are getting disrupted by the tech startups.

A constant urge to learn more and do more has brought in a flood of ideas and a reading overload. Not sure if this is a good sign.

Carefully looking through the past few years has revealed a hidden truth. The urge to do more and constantly skill up was meant to lead me to just one thing — make something, test it to see if it fails or sticks.

And thats something I could not do. Not because I did not have time. But I was not coding and know how to code. Design, UX, products, traction, growth etc — The missing link was code.

So many of us may find ourselves in similar situation. To find out how big was this problem I decided to run a test to see if there are others like me in a similar situation.

I set up a Meetup.com group — NonCoders: Learn to Code . The group has 50 members and over 220 people waiting to join. This says a lot about my own problem.

So where do we start?

There are a few places you can find help (or learn) — Some are free, some paid and some are expensive (you get the idea..)

  1. Makers Academy
  2. General Assembly
  3. Free Code Camp
  4. Bloc
  5. Iron Yard
  6. Thinkful
  7. We got coders
  8. Startup Institute
  9. App Academy
  10. Episodes
  11. Flatiron School
  12. IronHack
  13. Founders and coders
  14. Designation
  15. Dev League
  16. Actualize
  17. Full stack Academy
  18. The Software guild
  19. V School
  20. Code
  21. Grand Circus
  22. Udemy
  23. Udacity Nano degrees
  24. Coursera
  25. Starter League
  26. Tech Talent South
  27. Code Fellows
  28. Coder Foundry
  29. Galvanize
  30. Lighthouse Labs
  31. Dev Mountain
  32. Launch Academy
  33. RefactorU
  34. Hack Reactor
  35. Coding Dojo
  36. Dev Bootcamp
  37. CoderCamps
  38. Hack bright Academy
  39. Class Central
  40. TreeHouse
  41. Code Academy
  42. One Month
  43. Career Foundry
  44. Railsgirls.com

Low hanging fruits

I have tried a few myself from the list and found that coding is not easy (that’s an understatement), but it’s also not impossible. It’s just that we have deep rooted mindsets and habits that are the first barriers to learning/ changing something.

One of my early lessons was — choose the simplest thing to do first (in my case, HTML) and then build on top of it. CSS goes in next — Some may find it tricky (I’ve seen CSS files that can give a rabbit hole a chase for its money) but that’s the next obvious step.

Once you do a couple of personal projects you should be fairly comfortable using this more often. Coding needs discipline and dedication — It’s very easy to give up early on when you are on your own and don’t have someone to help you out when you hit a wall.

I found that working with a mentor who can challenge you and guide you to complete the steps, can be a good way to keep the momentum going. Especially true if you are on one of those online programs. Its a slippery slope and be part of a learning community who can lend a helping hand.

A few things to get you started

  • Find a mentor or friend who knows how to code This person will guide you during those dark days when your learning process stalls and you are about to lose all interest
  • Now is the time to code — there’s no better time. Cut down on those Netflix binge weekends. Cancel your cable membership.
  • Don’t just follow whats in the course / programme Challenge yourself. Try building those apps that were just an idea in your head, a few weeks ago. They may turn out to be crappy, but that’s how it works. Tinker, test, code and move on.
  • If you are a designer, participate in a few hackathons You will get first hand experience of how good programmers work. This could also lead to future collaborations and build your network of people who you can work with or ask for help when you are stuck.

And if you lost your breath going through that list, get motivation from…

More to come in this list….

What you could achieve

Make learning fun and set goals early on, and you will not have to get sidetracked when the coding gets tough.

Set and close those fundamentals right when learning to code and you will develop a self discipline thats easier to follow when you are a full time programmer (if that’s what you want to do).

Make realistic goals and try to tackle problems on your own before looking for help.

StackOverflow is a good place to find out what others are asking and see what good practices you should follow before asking for help. The amount of time that that you spend to try and reach the smaller goes will decide how you solve a bigger problem.

Here are a few things that will help you focus right now:

  • Dedicated, frequent and smaller learning goals — I can’t think of a reliable way to get you to change your learning habits. If you are at the bottom of the ladder, thats where you start. One step at a time. It won’t help if you skip a few steps, you will just end up doing the steps all over again and very soon lose interest in pursuing those small goals.
  • Repeat, revise and move forward — Having a periodic and systematic learning habit in place will help bolster a new learning habit and I strongly suggest you revise what you learn. Look at a few examples around you and try to think — How that can be done differently. If you hit roadblocks, take a few steps back and change your chain of thought. Maybe you missed something, ask for help but always try different ways of solving problem. Coding is easier if you can think like a programmer — Include all angles of thought, but go with the simplest and easiest one that can save time and effort.
  • Grow your skill set by doing and pair with others — 2 brains are better than one. Always. Talk to your mentor or other people who are also on the same learning level as you are. It would speed up a lot of things if you pair programme — also a partner who can challenge your ideas can help you develop your thinking and coding style in a big way. Most successful developers pair programme if they have to nail a bigger problem. It works for them and it surely will work for you.
  • Other methods in general — Take regular breaks when you are coding (as its the case with any other job you are doing). It’s an intense process and can be very tiring. Having a clear mind every so often can clear your thoughts and help you code / learn better. Go take a walk or have a coffee or read a few pages from a book that you just picked up. Then come back and have a go at that block of code. It helps.
  • Get some fun time with friends / family. Life is not a block of code. Have fun, meet friends, do something else (I like to cook on weekends for my son), revive a hobby that has not been given the attention all these years, etc.

Remember a few things before you start learning to code -

  • 8 of the top 25 jobs this year are tech positions, according to Glassdoor.
  • Programming jobs overall are growing 12% faster than the market average.
  • Half of all programming openings are in industries outside of technology — Finance, Manufacturing, Health Care
  • jobs that require coding skills pay up to $22,000 per year more, on average.
  • Burning Glass researchers found that most (89%) of coding jobs require a bachelor’s degree, as compared to 44% of all career-track jobs.

Full story here on FastCompany — http://bit.ly/2o6KTtL

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