What's The Best Way To Learn The Coding Basics?

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I’m a self taught developer, as you will probably know by now as I don’t ever shut up about it or allow people to not know that about me, in fact I built a whole website purely dedicated to talking about it. 

Web development and coding are a unique skill as a large contingent of people who can code are self taught, approximately 69% in fact, and no I didn’t make that up as a joke, stop laughing, you are an adult (probably). 

I drew and still draw a lot of inspiration from others who taught themselves how to code, so I figured I would write a blog on what advice I would give to someone starting out teaching themselves how to code, or advice I would give to myself if I somehow invented a time machine despite being 27 and with no discernible skills in quantum physics.

Ask for more help with your coding journey

I am pretty bad at asking for help just generally, so it’s no surprise that with my coding journey, I tried to do too much by myself. 

I never did collaborative projects or worked with anyone for around a year whilst learning to code, deciding that I wanted to learn as much as I could before sharing my passion with anyone else. I recognise this as a mistake now. From collaborating with a bunch of different people in the space, be it designers, other devs, data analysts and even founders of companies, I have learned at such a faster rate when I bounce ideas off other people, accept my limitations and ask others for their help and guidance.

Seek mentorship from senior developers earlier

Similar to the above point, I wish I had looked for mentorship opportunities earlier. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really really awesome people, who have given me a) incredible feedback and guidance and b) some incredible opportunities that I just wouldn’t have got if I hadn’t reached out. But I resisted sharing this passion for quite a while, and I think that I would have learned much more efficiently if I had sought out those who had been down the same path and had great success doing so, earlier in my journey. The direction I got was the main thing, just a quick five minute sit down could help me direct my efforts to the most impactful learning, and I’ve seen massive leaps in my ability and confidence since establishing relationships with mentors.

Don’t get comfortable with the coding languages and habits you develop

When I learned HTML and CSS, I decided I didn’t really need to learn JavaScript. Then I bit the bullet and learned JavaScript and fell in love with it and realised how dumb I was before. But by that point, I decided I didn’t need to learn React. Until I did and realised how amazing it is. And repeat the cycle for Express, Node.js, headless CMSs and all the other wonderful technologies I now understand (somewhat). 

I wrote about this in my previous blog about coding, but being self taught can lead to a feeling of intimidation as there is no real end to the learning, it’s endless, and you can’t ever really stop. It’s only when I started looking at that fact really positively that I was able to face the next challenges head on, and become much more rounded in my skill set.

Advocate for yourself more

I thought coding would be my silver bullet in life, and that opportunities would just fall into my lap, but that isn’t really how the world works. Whilst no one is telling you to be this self assured “alpha” version of yourself (well some people are, but ignore them at all costs), you do have to be open to putting yourself forward for opportunities and learning experiences as a self taught dev, because otherwise they aren’t going to happen on their own.

This is very easy to say as a straight white dude, and tech is notoriously harder for women and minorities to break into, I appreciate that. I think that’s where it is really important for communities to be built, there’s amazing work being done by organisations to help people seize opportunities they may not have typically had access to previously, which I’m going to write about in an upcoming blog, following on from my piece on diversity in tech.

Build more development projects publicly 

I have built a lot of stuff over my coding journey, some bad, some awful, and some okay-ish if you squint really hard and don’t look directly at it. However, I never really shared any of it to begin with, because I was embarrassed or didn’t think it was good enough. In fact, I’ve never publicly promoted the forum app I built specifically for this site, so I am making a resolution now to share this in the next few weeks. I wish I had also written more about my journey and shared more about my personal journey rather than monkeys playing pong with their mind, come on I know you want to click that link, just give it a click.

However, it was likely you (like me) didn’t start learning a skill for it to just exist in silo, so building public applications is a must for a self-taught dev. It’s the reason I started this site, so that I had something to show for my efforts, and I’ve made conscious changes to it as my skills develop and mature.

Let people see what you can do! Getting feedback, both positive and constructive, has helped me keep learning and keep my passion alive, so make sure you aren’t hiding things you build from people!

That’s the main pieces of advice from me! I’m not even a full time employed dev yet but I wanted to share this post as I have been thinking a lot about what I would have changed in my learning process, and the process in general! 

I sincerely hope you have a great day, unless you’re the person who laughed at me when a paper bag hit me in the face this weekend!

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