There are plenty of misconceptions and myths surrounding the art of programming. Many people view it as a job reserved only for the exceptionally gifted; they see the process as methodical and the rewards as glorious. Some believe it’s a career path solely for geeks or those who are mathematically inclined, and they think it’s a job that doesn’t tolerate mistakes.
In this post, we’re going to debug, explore, and fix these misconceptions about being a programmer. Our aim is to perhaps serve as a source of relief for those who are wondering if programming is the right career path for them.
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1. I Must Master Mathematics to Learn Programming Languages
Many people are confused about the relationship between mathematics and programming, often seeking a straightforward answer of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. In reality, the answer leans more towards “it depends, but mostly not.” As programmers, we spend the majority of our time writing code, not mathematical formulas, and your proficiency in math does not directly correlate with your programming skills.
Don’t misunderstand me, though; basic algebra is still necessary. However, it’s just that – basic. And it’s only algebra. Furthermore, there are libraries and plugins available that you can integrate directly into your code to assist with mathematical and algorithmic problems.
If you’re aiming to create projects that require advanced mathematical calculations, physics, or computer graphics, you will need to have a solid understanding of mathematics. But don’t worry; there are already plenty of physics and graphics solutions in the industry to help you.
2. I Must Be a Genius (With An IQ of 160)
It doesn’t matter whether your IQ is 160 or 90; programming isn’t tied to biological factors but rather to your interest and determination. If you’ve taken tests to determine your IQ score, understand that this number does little to reveal what you enjoy doing or how far you can go based solely on a test score.
I may not be a MENSA member, but I have four years of programming experience. I can program simply because I’m not afraid to fail repeatedly and learn from my mistakes. This process of trial and error is essentially how most programmers learn.
To put a threshold on this concept, anyone who knows how to communicate can learn programming. At its core, programming is a “language” with its own grammar and vocabulary. Its existence is solely to enable you to communicate with a machine to accomplish a specific purpose or action, much like how we communicate with other humans. It’s really that straightforward.
3. I Have to Go to University to Learn to Code
Some believe that to maximize your coding prowess, you need a true master to guide your path. Often, this master is envisioned as a university professor, considered the pinnacle of educational hierarchy. However, in today’s digital age, thanks to the Internet, you can learn how to program from kind and enthusiastic programmers without any involvement from university lecturers.
You can choose a beginner course on interactive learning websites like Codecademy, or explore tutorial sites like Envato Tuts that offer clear explanations in both text and video formats. Need a direct answer to a problem? Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange are your go-to resources. Google searches can also help you make the right connections, and let’s not forget that there are plenty of development resources available online as well.
We’re not dismissing the value of universities. A professor or lecturer can certainly enhance your understanding of theories and concepts such as Object-Oriented Programming, and there are several critical advantages to formal education that you should consider.
However, regardless of the path you choose, it’s essential to cultivate your self-learning ability. Unlike most industries, programming is constantly evolving at a rapid pace, and only you can determine whether you can keep up with it.
4. I Must Be An Adult to Learn Programming Languages?
Parents, don’t let your child’s age deter them from learning programming languages. This isn’t just my personal opinion. Organizations like Code.org are petitioning to make programming a mandatory school subject, enabling children to develop analytical thinking skills from an early age.
However, it’s essential to recognize that the learning models for children and adults differ. Children often benefit from a more visual approach, as their visual perception is more developed. Tools like Scratch and Alice are perfect for engaging children in visual programming, offering a far more engaging experience than outdated programming books.
If your child prefers an interactive environment (and who doesn’t?), platforms like Khan Academy provide an excellent community for learning. Parents can further support their children by staying involved in their progress, offering explanations, tips, resources, and the essential parental encouragement that fosters active learning.
5. I Must Learn Only The Best Language
“The Best” Programming Language? This notion can be misleading, as the term “best” is subjective and varies according to individual needs and goals. The ideal language for you to learn depends on your specific purpose, whether for work, study, or personal projects. In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all “best” programming language; it’s all about what you want to achieve with its.
For beginners, there are some excellent programming languages to consider. Python, for instance, is a popular starting point due to its simplicity, readability, and flexibility.
Java is another beginner-friendly option, with the added benefit of extensive documentation and a robust community of supporters. If you prefer, you can even dive into C# like I did. Ultimately, the choice of language should be based on factors such as speed, unique features, compatibility, and maintainability.
The path you take is up to you, and there’s no wrong answer as long as it aligns with your goals and interests.
6. It Only Takes Weeks to Learn and Master a Programming Language
Don’t fall for this misconception. It’s disheartening to see many aspiring young individuals dive into a programming language for a brief period, only to discover that they can’t create an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) within weeks. Frustrated, they pull the plug, label themselves as ‘untalented,’ and abandon their dreams of becoming game programmers.
In reality, you might be able to grasp the basics of programming in a matter of weeks, but mastering the craft takes years. Similar to drawing, programming demands passion and patience.
Many of the projects you undertake initially may seem insignificant or fruitless. However, if you persist and take one step at a time, you’ll find your way. Embracing failure as a learning opportunity is essential to becoming a skilled programmer. Every time you stumble, you should feel encouraged, for failure is the pathway to progress.
7. I Should Memorize All Syntaxes and Avoid Help
The common belief is that if you program without external guidance, you’ll memorize everything and become a true pro who can build anything from scratch. However, the reality is that you don’t need to worry about memorizing syntax. You’ll be writing the same code thousands of times before you’re ready to create a framework yourself.
Google, IDEs, and frameworks weren’t created out of boredom; they were specifically designed to help you learn programming faster. The best practice is to use an IDE with syntax recommendations and consult Google whenever you run into trouble.
Embracing frameworks helps you understand what a programming language can do and the limits to which it can be pushed. Once you’ve progressed enough, experiment with specific programming features. Explore, create something exciting (figuratively speaking), and have fun experimenting.
8. I Just Can’t Write That Much Code
I was one of those people who felt overwhelmed when I first viewed the source code of a web page. Seeing 4000 lines of code can be intimidating. However, while HTML is not a programming language, its content reflects what most code files generally contain. If you look closely, you’ll find that they are mostly composed of repetitive statements, methods, and loops.
In essence, programmers often use the same concepts learned in beginner and intermediate courses to create both simple and complex solutions. Once you become accustomed to it, you’ll find that writing 10,000 lines of code feels like child’s play. It can even become addictive very quickly!
9. I Am a Woman. I Can’t Code.
Navigating this sensitive topic with care, I want to make it clear that I greatly admire women programmers. The women in my class consistently outperformed us in both math and science subjects, and my experience in the programming field has only reinforced this belief.
Women have always been prominent in the world of programming, and to illustrate this point, here’s a brief list of some influential female programmers:
- Ada Lovelace: Recognized as the world’s first programmer.
- Grace Murray Hopper: Developed the first compiler for a programming language.
- Adele Goldstine: Played a key role in creating the world’s first electronic digital computer.
- Jean E. Sammet: Developed the FORMAC programming language, a variation of FORTRAN.
- Marissa Mayer: Was one of the earliest programmers at Google.
These examples serve to debunk the misconception that women can’t code. On the contrary, women have been, and continue to be, leaders and innovators in the field of programming.
The impact of women in the field of programming is undeniable. However, just as most men may not be drawn to the perfume industry, the lower ratio of women to men in programming could be attributed to various factors. These may include social and economic pressures, as well as differing perspectives and interests in life.
10. I Can Only Start Making Money Once I have Mastered Programming
Take a glimpse at most job vacancies for programmers, and you’ll see demands for several years of experience and proficiency in numerous programming languages. However, reality is not that harsh. You can find a programming job that matches your level of experience; you just can’t sit idle and wait.
If a direct application doesn’t yield results, an internship can be a valuable way to gain work experience and vie for a chance at permanent employment. Above all, your work portfolio, filled with impressive showcases of your abilities, is what interviewers will want to examine. Building a reputation helps, so consider starting an open-source project today.
Freelancing is also an excellent starting point, as most clients in this space tend to be more forgiving (just beware of difficult clients). Either way, there’s always room for discussion, and everyone has to start somewhere. The key is to take action and make a move.
Welcome to the World of Programming!
Programming, like any other industry, requires hard work and determination to succeed. With all doubts cleared, it’s time to take your first step. Start your first programming lesson today!