(Guest writer: Damian Wolf)
Learning to code is not at all easy. You may find many websites that try to push people into coding by citing it as an easy trade to master. However, it is one of the hardest skills to gather and excel at. It is more of an experimentation than a guide that needs to be followed.
As a beginner, you may want to know what the journey holds, or what it’s like to progress from beginner to intermediate level. Learning experiences may vary from person to person, and you are completely free to choose your own path.
Here are 10 things you should know before you start programming. Knowing these points will give you a head start of what to expect, and how to approach programming.
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1. Get the basics right
When you start learning, the first thing you need to be sure of are the“basics”. It is the first step of becoming a coding ninja.
To get the basics right, you need to learn the core of computer science, just like any other trade you will come across. There are currently hundreds of online courses aimed at beginners. Clearly, the internet cares about beginners, and provide tons of information — a beginner’s heaven!
All you need to do is search through them, and start with one that the best fits your requirements. You can get started with any of the online places mentioned in this article of ours (below).
A proper understanding can give you an advantage early in the path of learning to code.
There are also courses available online that can help get you started like
- Introduction to Computer Science | Wikiversity
- Intro to Computer Science | Udacity
- CS50: Introduction to Computer Science | edX
- Free Introduction to Computer Science Online Course | ALISON
2. Build patience
The number one prerequisite for being successful as a programmer is building patience. Patience can let you take blows to your chin yet still be able to stand up – like a ninja! It makes you ready for disappointments.
Not to mention, patience can help you become a better problem-solver, and improve your understanding of computers.
Computer concepts are complex and require resilience, patience, and hard work to understand. Most of the time, beginners don’t have the right expectations when starting their programming journey. Yes, you don’t come with all the power at the beginning. Too much optimism is dangerous anyways.
Due to faulty expectations, too many beginners just give up, and move to another trade. To counter this, you should build patience, and always think of the end goal.
3. Set a goal & move towards it
Goal-setting can be a powerful, motivational booster on your path to learning to code. If you are planning, for example, to learn PHP, then set a goal to do a simple project by the end of the week. Once the goal is achieved, set another goal, and repeat the cycle. Yes, it is that easy!
There is no end to learning and improvement in programming, and that’s why it is a good idea to keep setting goals, and not to lose track of your primary goal.
So, as a learner, what goals you can aim for? Let’s quickly go through some sample goals:
- Create a dynamic website using any back-end programming languages, such as PHP, Ruby, Python, etc.
You can also choose to do any project of your liking. Who doesn’t have a unique taste after all? I bet you do!
The goal should be achievable, so don’t try to focus on building Facebook or creating a fully-featured game at this particular moment. Try to move slowly, and then aim for bigger and more complex projects as you progress further.
4. Do more projects
By doing more projects, you can understand not only your limitations, but also improve your analytical and problem-solving skills. After all, learning to code is not all about learning syntax, but about learning how to solve problems using the tools at your hand.
Programming also requires a creative outlook, and a plan to build something meaningful. For beginners, it is tough to get access to projects ideas.
You can sign up for GitHub, a place where you can store your code for easy access. You can try to find project ideas by going through other public repositories for the programming language you are learning.
5. Get into social coding
Learning to code is never a solo quest. If you are thinking of building the next big app without any help, then you are in the wrong trade.
Programming is a group activity, and if you want to survive, you need to get help from different social platforms catering to programmers just like you.
Check out GitHub, or any other social coding site to find a suitable community for yourself.
Each of the communities mentioned above has its own perks, and will help you improve your skills. For example, you can explore public project repositories on GitHub.
Another good example is Livecoding, where you can see other people code their projects live, giving you an idea of the challenges a programmer faces while working on a project.
6. Balance your learning
As a developer, there is no end to improvement, and the continued state of helplessness is just part of being a developer. New technology releases also don’t let developers relax, as they have to constantly upgrade their skills to meet the latest market requirement. As a beginner, you need to always be ready to learn new things.
The number of possibilities doesn’t help the cause either, as you can always find an experienced developer who is unsure of his/her skills because of the constant influx of new tools, technologies, and standards to follow.
So, what can you take away from this? It is okay to not know everything that is out there. Whatever it is that you know, that’s okay. As long as you never stop learning new things, you’ll never go wrong.
Ok, what’s next?
You started learning, and now you have crossed the beginners’ tunnel. Now, you might be thinking, “What’s next”? Is this the end? Or is there something that you can still achieve?
As we have already mentioned, programming is endless learning. You can continue your learning experience by following the next four tips.
1. Learn algorithms
After you have gained some experience doing projects, it is now time to move to algorithms. Algorithms constitute the core of computer science. It doesn’t matter if you are doing web development or game development, you are always using algorithms to achieve the end-result.
With increased proficiency in Algorithms, you can take your skills to new heights. Algorithmic thinking can also help you land your first job, as most job interviews are based on algorithms and problem-solving. Aim to solve at least one algorithm problem each day, and keep your problem-solving skills top-notch.
2. Take advantage of code documentation
Code documentations help you learn about the programming language or framework or library you are using. They are rich with information about that particular topic, and can help you learn faster!
The Importance of Documentation for Web Developers
As a beginner, you need not be intimidated by them as they are your best friend when it comes to learning. Get started slowly, and learn how to read code documentation. They can be intimidating at times, so always keep Google as your rescue boat.
3. Get used to tools
Just like any other trade, tools can help you do trivial things faster than usual. It doesn’t matter which programming language or framework you are learning, take advantage of the available toolset.
Tools can also help you automate most of the manual work, and enable you to focus on the main problem. For instance, you should get used to tools such as Git, Slack, code editors, Chrome DevTools, programming frameworks (both frontend and backend), and others.
4. Get a mentor
Programming can be a time-consuming task if you don’t have a mentor. With the help of the mentor, you can save not only your time, but also get value from the experiences your mentor possesses. A mentor can easily guide you through projects, and help you become a better programmer.
So if you are starting to learn programming, getting a mentor can help you hasten your learning process. You can get a mentor locally, or try out an online code mentorship program as well.
You have made the best decision of your life — to learn programming! One of the biggest thing you should focus on is to get into a hub, a circle or a social platform where you can find like-minded people.
With a real-life project, not only can you learn new things, but you can also learn to utilize your skills. Alternatively, you can look for job opportunities within your peer group, and maybe help them with their projects!
Already started? Share your experience with beginners, and help them take on the world of coding.
(This guest post is written by Damian Wolf for Hongkiat.com. Damian is an author and tech enthusiast with articles published in publications like DZone, InfoWorld, Tech.Co and more. He loves trying out new things: apps, software, trends and will gladly share his views.)